“More chargers! More chargers!” That’s the chorus we hear on a daily basis. But those of us who make it our business to test existing public chargers might add another request: “More reliable chargers, please.” Public chargers are often out of order, and those that work often deliver less power than advertised, or require multiple attempts to initiate charging.
As it continues to roll out the new Mustang Mach-E, Ford is trying to make sure its customers have a satisfactory charging experience. The company’s FordPass app gives drivers access to over 16,000 charging stations belonging to various networks, and buyers also receive a certain amount of free fast-charging on the Electrify America network.
Ford’s latest infrastructure initiative sounds like a great idea—the automaker is sending out teams of “Charge Angels” around the country to identify defective infrastructure.
“Some [public chargers] are old and they don’t have the quality or reliability we want,” Ford’s General Manager of Battery Electric Vehicles Darren Palmer told Automotive News. “Over 99.5 percent of customers go to a charger and get a charge. We’re pleased about that. But a number less than that get a charge the first time they charge.”
Ford will use connected vehicle data and “angry social media posts” by EV drivers to locate problematic charging stations, and the Charge Angels will travel around in “specially instrumented” Mach-Es to test them and, presumably, try to get them fixed. “All they’ll do all day long is go and check them to see where they fail and why,” said Palmer.
In the rush to roll out chargers, maintenance is often an afterthought, and sometimes it’s not clear who’s responsible for fixing problems—the owner of a charging site or the network that operates it. Hopefully, pressure on the industry from a major automaker to improve reliability will help.