In the second quarter of 2023, Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) sales soared by over 50% compared to the previous year. This remarkable growth is a step in the right direction for a more sustainable future. However, adoption could hit a roadblock if the EV charging infrastructure fails to keep pace with demand. A new JD Power study revealed that one in five EV drivers has experienced the frustration of a "non-charge" visit, leaving them without the power they needed. Even Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm encountered these challenges during her four-day cross-country road trip, which featured problems in planning stops, sparse charging locations, slow charging speeds, and, most importantly, unreliable charging.
In this article, we'll delve into the concept of EV charger uptime, exploring why it's challenging to get right, and what the industry is doing to improve it.
What is EV charger uptime?
EV charger uptime represents the percentage of time that an EV driver can arrive at a charging station, plug in their vehicle, and successfully charge it. Different organizations may define uptime slightly differently, but at its core, it measures the reliability of charging infrastructure.
How uptime is calculated
Uptime is typically calculated with the following formula:
μ = (Time – (Toutage – Texcluded )/Time) ✕ 100
Here's a breakdown of the key elements:
- μ represents the uptime percentage (either port, network, or platform uptime).
- Time may be represented in seconds, minutes, or hours (note that the unit must stay consistent).
- Toutage stands for the total outage time in the measurement period.
- Texcluded includes the total outage time due to external factors, such as electric utility service interruptions.
Some organizations assess uptime differently, looking at first-attempt charging success rates, or accounting for planned maintenance, vandalism, emergencies, and severe weather events. However, some networks choose not to provide uptime statistics due to the challenges of making fair comparisons.
Port uptime calculations also become tricky because of the way data is aggregated. If a company chooses to look at uptime across ports, rather than averaging uptime for each individual port, a very different figure will result. What’s more, open software networks like ChargeLab are subject to greater port uptime variability thanks to deviations in the way different hardware manufacturers interpret OCPP.
At ChargeLab, we favor a platform uptime calculation and maintain a 99.9% SLA. Ours is among the highest commitments in the industry
Why uptime is challenging to get right
Ensuring high uptime in the EV charging industry is far from simple and involves addressing various challenges:
Connectivity Issues: The leading cause of charger faults is the loss of connectivity. This can occur due to poor signal strength, network disruptions caused by factors like bad weather, or network congestion leading to dropped connections.
Hardware Issues: EV charging hardware varies in quality, and even top-tier models can experience problems. Components must withstand various conditions, such as extreme temperatures, and connectors need to work reliably. DC fast chargers, which transfer energy at a higher rate, often encounter more issues.
Software Issues: Many charging stations come with basic software that lacks essential maintenance alerts and troubleshooting tools. Proprietary software can also limit compatibility and support options. Additionally, managing power loads, especially in commercial deployments with three-phase and split-phase wiring, requires sophisticated software.
What the industry is doing about uptime
The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program mandates a 97% uptime requirement to receive funding, a crucial step towards improving reliability. That said, the FWHA agrees that tracking uptime will be tricky: “The FHWA also acknowledges that enforcement of the uptime requirement will be complex; however…The FHWA would prefer to immediately implement this important regulation, acknowledging that enforcement techniques will evolve over time.” EV charging companies will need to continue to step up to address reliability at scale.
While the NEVI standards are promising, progress is also happening on the ground today:
Public charging success in Puerto Rico
Our partner, Velocicharge, is getting uptime right. The Puerto Rican charging network uses leading ABB hardware with ChargeLab software. The company reports this combination delivers a 99.7% port uptime. Velocicharge sets a remarkable standard for customer-centric EV charging stations, ensuring reliability, security, and confidence within the EV community. Their attention to detail extends to every facet of their infrastructure, ensuring a seamless driver experience.
Velocicharge's commitment to excellence begins with convenience. Their EV charging spots are thoughtfully located and labeled, providing clear identification for users. Detailed instructions are readily available, simplifying the charging process, and in case of any concerns or questions, users can easily access phone support. In just one month, a Velocicharge deployment featuring a four-charger outlet mall, equipped with three ABB Terra DCFCs, successfully serviced over 770 charging sessions. This outstanding performance serves as compelling evidence for the long-term viability of Velocicharge's model.
Velocicharge's dedication to ease and reliability reinforces the network’s importance in the Puerto Rican EV community. Velocicharge is ready to run with its success by applying for NEVI funding, which the company sees as a pivotal opportunity for Puerto Rico.
At ChargeLab, we aim to match simple yet powerful software with industry-leading hardware. Our platform is designed to provide a scalable foundation to meet any need. We prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and accessibility—and minimize feature bloat and tech debt as a result. We also have a rigorous hardware testing and approval process that ensures field reliability under every condition. These choices make it possible for us to maintain our 99.9% platform SLA, and see field uptime >99%, as in the case of Velocicharge.
We believe Velocicharge’s success is repeatable. If you’re in the market for a software partner to go to market with, ChargeLab can help. We can recommend a top-notch hardware solution and provide a true software partnership.