Fast Charger Networking Competition: EVGo vs Electrify America
Hi there! Glad this article is getting so much traffic! I recommend you check out my updated post with analysis of 3 networks, the new model of EVGo and with a full year of actual data here.
EV startups are currently sucking all the attention in the clean energy space! As part of the #cleantech SPAC-attack, EVGo is one of multiple electric vehicle charging station startups going public via a SPAC. EVGo, Volta and ChargePoint are the ones on the list that I actually have experience with (Electrify America is the US offspring of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal). EVGo’s recently announced SPAC merger and a trip that gave me the chance to experience both EVGo and Electrify America chargers (today!) seemed a good chance to write an article about significantly different experience using each network.
Fast Charging FTW
When I first got an EV, I had two close options for charging — EVGo and ChargePoint. The infrastructure is divided into networks and that results in the need for various accounts, apps, and cards…so in order to minimize the hassle, I wanted to pick the one that was most convenient. The difference was that EVGo offers fast chargers (up to about 7X the rate of ChargePoint chargers) and by having an EVGo account/card, I could (supposedly) also charge on ChargePoint chargers. So I signed up for EVGo, which I could find at a nearby Whole Foods. FWIW, I could not use my EVGo card at the nearby ChargePoint chargers…
EVGo and Electrify America are significant players in the fast-charging space. According to data from the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, those two networks combined account for over 40 percent of the DC fast chargers in the U.S. (Tesla has about 50%) and about 60 percent of the total fast-charging locations (vs about 20% for Tesla).
Different Business Models: Time vs Energy
I had an experience with EVGo charging on the first day I got the EV, and my experience wasn’t great. My disappointment with EVGo was that I wanted to charge fast and thought I could get around 50 kW of power (rating of the chargers, which would fill the entire car battery from empty in just over an hour). However, I received less than 60% of that rate of charging, while the charge per minute was the same. While a number of factors are at play in charging rate, since then, I hadn’t needed fast charging and didn’t feel like I could provide much insight from just one data point. But now I’ve got the experience of a road trip where I needed both to add some new data (see below).
EVGo and Electrify America differ in one major way — EVGo charges by the minute and Electrify America charges by the amount of energy delivered to your car. Personally, all I care about when charging is how much juice gets into the battery, so I appreciate the simplicity of the Electrify America approach. The EVGo model seems to lack any accountability for delivery of the value to the customer connected to a charger.
So What Does It Cost to Charge?
Oh this seemingly simple but very nuanced question. First, I’ll just admit that I still don’t fully understand how the charging works. Part of the decisions are made by the car and part by the charger. For example, when the battery is over 80% full, the charging rate slows down dramatically (by the car’s request). Charging companies, like EVGo, say they charge fastest when the battery is below 50% State of Charge. But who makes the calls the rest of the time? I suspect it is a mixture of both the charger and the car. For why this matters, see my earlier post about how EV charging works.
Electrify America vs EVGo Cost Breakdown
Given my need for a road trip with multiple charges, I signed up for Electrify America’s Pass+ membership for $4/mo (as an optimization learning lesson, I had my son do the calculation as to how much charging I needed to do for this to be breakeven and the answer was just the one I needed to do immediately!). This means (in CA), with Electrify America, I get:
- Up to 350 kW of charging (my car maxes out around ~50kw, so can’t take full advantage)
- At $0.31/kWh (my battery holds 60 kWh, so a max “fill” would be $18.60, which should get me over 200 miles).
The cost is in the same format we pay our electric bills (eg per kWh), and in fact, matches almost exactly the cost for me to charge at home (due to rather exorbitant PG&E rates). The difference from charging at home, though, is that this fast charger delivers 20–45X the amount of juice to the battery as my home plug for each hour charging, drastically shortening the charge time. Very convenient when traveling to get the speed to get a quick recharge, instead of waiting a day or two!
For EVGo, I signed up for the free plan initially. That means I get:
- Up to 50 kW (mixed results on this, as I did see 44 kW one session, but only 16 kW on my first) for
- $0.30/minute (hard to translate this to cost to fill the battery since the charge rate can vary drastically but the cost doesn’t).
For reference, the EVGo monthly fee is $8 (twice the EA plan) and only saves me $0.04/minute (vs saving $0.12/kWh at EA).
So What Does it Cost?!
I know…about as clear as mud while talking apples and oranges. After this trip, I now have charging under two different circumstances with nearly identical sessions at both networks so I do side by side comparison! And in two very similar charging sessions, there were big differences:
Session 1: Battery under 50% initially
- EVGo charging for 33 minutes got 20.33 kWh into the car at a cost of $9.90 (would have been $8.58 with membership)
- EA charging for 37 minutes got 20 kWh into the car at a cost of $6.20 (would have been $8.40 without membership)
Session 2: Battery at or over 50% initially
- EVGo charging for 34.5 minutes got 16.5 kWh into the car at a cost of $10.50(!)
- EA charging for 34.83 minutes got 16 kWh into the car at a cost of $4.96(!).
Breaking that down by my core metric — cost per kWh — EVGo is 57–100% higher!
A couple other cost items that deserve mentioning:
- Electrify America charges a steep rate if your car is full and still plugged in. At $0.40/minute, you can rack up a hefty charge that offsets any savings from the plan if you are away from the car when charging.
- EVGo membership does include 30 minutes of free charging, but I found that my first 2 months of having an EV, I didn’t need to use their network so refrained from paying the fee.
Other Differences Between EVGo and Electrify America Charging
While the cost basis is a huge one, I would point out a few other differences between the two services.
User Experience / Software
- Both services allow you to initiate a charging session via your mobile app, with no need to use credit card at the site. The Electrify America app offers a “tap” payment function, though I haven’t been able to make that work.
- For the data nerds like me, the Electrify America interface provides tons more information. Just check out the receipt that came, which includes time, energy delivered, max charging rate, and more.
- Both chargers were able to determine the State of Charge of the battery when connected, but only the Electrify America charger reflected this in the receipt.
- Both have fairly clunky touch screen experiences.
- Both companies use charging stations manufactured by ABB.
- The Electrify America chargers I have seen vary from ones saying they can provide up to 350kW to ones that provide 150kW or less. The EVGo chages are rated at 50KW consistently.
- Maintenance issues seem to be about equally common. Saw EVGo broken screen and stations out of service. Saw Electrify America stations that were out of service and others that had a network error.
- The Electrify America chargers have an extra-fat charging cord, which supposedly is a liquid cooling system to accommodate the higher charge rates.
- Notable difference here is that Electrify America’s app uses an “account wallet” concept that charges your card when you get below a particular balance. So, instead of paying for each session, as with EVGo, you have to keep a minimum balance in your account that refreshes at $10 at a time minimum.
- EVGo claims on its website “90 to 120 miles, 20–30 minutes” with its DC fast charging. I call rubbish. I have had two experiences of 30+ minutes and I got ~60 miles.
- EVGo also claims on its website “A full charge in roughly 30 minutes with our fast chargers”. This is total rubbish.
I imagine that in the future when I am traveling more, I will have greater need for additional fast charging network access and likely the EVGo paid membership will make sense too. But for now, it doesn’t make sense.
The business model pressures between EVGo (a startup, now publicly traded company) and Electrify America (established by a multinational company as a penalty), are likely significantly different. And I imagine that both have about the same odds of existing a few years in the future…but for now, I have to give a strong thumbs up with Electrify America over EVGo!