As long as there aren’t enough fast plugs in enough places, buyers and big automakers will stay away.
Rods and waders were already packed into the electric Jaguar I-Pace as it gorged a few more electrons from the wall of my New Jersey garage. A quick glance at a map of northeastern Pennsylvania revealed charging stations clinging to the Delaware River like so many spots on the brown trout I was hoping to catch.
A few days later, I pulled up to one of those chargers on the picturesque main street of Honesdale, only to realize it was a level 2 unit—one step above a standard outlet. It would take four hours before the car had enough juice to make the 100-mile trip home. Eleven miles down the road, it was the same story. And while that spot had a superfast Tesla charger, it was incompatible with the I-Pace. The nearest level 3 charger that would work was 58 miles away. So I gave up and settled in for a while.
Electric car-range anxiety revolves around a brutal equation: Remaining miles of battery life (as estimated by the car) minus miles to destination equals hope (or despair). Making matters worse, the answer varies from one minute to the next, depending on terrain and speed. Desperate battery-powered travelers can be easy to spot: They are often sweaty (no air conditioning), driving slowly and—when going uphill—instinctively leaning forward in their seats.
Failing to note the difference between a level 2 charger and a harder-to-find level 3 charger is often the mistake of an electric vehicle rookie. Had I realized the distinction, I would never have considered a car such as the I-Pace (it was a loaner), or any of the dozens of Tesla rivals set to debut in coming years. For the future of electric vehicles in America, that’s a really big problem.