As part of reparations for what has been dubbed “Dieselgate,” Volkswagen agreed to several stipulations, including establishing Electrify America. Formed in late 2016, Electrify America states as its mission to be a catalyst for promoting Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) adoption by offering transformative, customer-centric infrastructure and energy management solutions.
- As a result of Dieselgate, Volkswagen set up Electrify America to promote and facilitate EV adoption.
- In anticipation of more electric vehicles coming online, Electrify America has created charging stations that can be expanded and also retrofitted to meet electric cars’ increasing charging capabilities.
- Although the infrastructure is in place to support EVs, the public still has misconceptions and fears about switching from gas-powered vehicles.
Electrify America installed a large bank of charging stations at the San Francisco Premium outlets, making it convenient and easy to refuel while you shop. (Photo: Electrify America)
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, we had the opportunity to sit down with Brendan Jones, Vice President and COO Electrify America to discuss the industry and how his company is implementing its mission.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your company?
A: It really is speed. We’re getting much better at installing chargers at a faster pace. The technology that we’re installing today is future-proof beyond what some of the platforms are today and that’s the way you want to do it. That way you don’t have to go back in and rip out the infrastructure and put new infrastructure in place and double up on the capital investment. Our top speed that we’re installing is 350 kilowatts.
Q: Since it takes about 20 minutes to get about 80 percent charge, and with more and more electric cars coming on the road, are you worried about lines backing up?
A: Queuing in the industry is something that everybody is concerned about. We’ve done a couple things different at Electrify America. The first thing we did to alleviate that is, we have what’s called dedicated power. We have a 10-dispenser station, and if you’ve got 10 cars there, each car gets the same level of power. We’ve also set up a system that if more vehicles go above 150 kW, we just need to go back out to our stations and add power modules, so we can charge them faster as well and get throughput. Our third leg of that is we have designed many of our stations to add chargers over time.
Electrify America created the humorous “Normal Now” campaign to show that electric vehicles aren’t a niche market but something that everyone can drive (Video: YouTube)
Q: It’s a common fear that by switching to an electric there will be issues with running out of charge and getting stuck somewhere.
A: Electrify America is focused on is the 20-percent charging. According to many surveys, you’ve got 80 percent of the charging taking place at home and then we’re servicing the 20 percent. In that 20 percent, you’re going to get to the point where most vehicles are coming in at a state of charge between 30-35, so they are off that charger pretty quick. Then they have workplace charging and home charging which takes advantage of that dwell time, so it’s not this direct equivalent to fueling up at a gas station, because they have charging available to them anywhere.
Q: The infrastructure is there now, but how do you cut through the misconceptions about charging to make people more aware?
To make charging up easy, Electrify America has an app to identify the closest station to your location. (Image: Electrify America)
A: As part of our efforts out there in the marketplace, we’re doing two different things. We have a “Normal Now” campaign and we have an educational and awareness campaign that is separate from that as well. Our job is to demonstrate that infrastructure is out there, it’s available. We’re rolling out now to 29 markets, so we’ll have over 800 stations installed by the end of 2021, which will focus on 3500 public chargers.
Q: What about people who live in an apartment and don’t have the capability for a home charger?
A: Our aim for people that live in multi-family dwellings like an apartment is to make it as convenient as possible. We have a Pass+ app that lets you know where the closest station is. It will automatically give you a discount on that charging so that it is affordable. We benchmark all these costs versus gasoline so we want to make that solution very easy for everybody as well.
[Note: This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.]