Ford has promised to make many, many electric vehicles, but so far they have not made any. That is going to change soon—including with a “Mustang-inspired crossover” which I’m not sure anyone asked for but whatever—and Ford is getting ready for it by forming a bunch of “partnerships” over how their customers can charge said yet-to-exist EVs.
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As the Detroit News outlines, Ford has identified four solutions:
- A partnership with Amazon to have a 240-volt charger installed at home, which the customer will have to pay for
- A Ford Mobile Charger which can use either a 240 or 120-volt outlet to get a charge, which the customer can presumably have someone else pay for
- A FordPass Charging Network which, as the Detroit News writes, “gives drivers access to 12,000 charging stations around the country. Ford plans to partner with charging station supplier Greenlots, Electrify America and other existing charging networks” which will only give customers “access” to the charging networks, but will not include the actual cost of charging, which the customer will have to pay for
- A FordPass app feature for identifying charging stations along a route where the car can be charged, which the customer will have to pay for
All of these are fine and good, but not revolutionary. The most noteworthy aspect is the customer still has to pay for everything; Ford will just tell you precisely what to pay for. And third party apps like Plugshare already help EV owners identify chargers along routes they can use.
This reads like Ford’s attempt to create a Tesla-esque charging infrastructure, but it misses what makes Tesla’s Supercharger network so great (in my humble opinion, that’s the company’s most underappreciated asset). Superchargers are fast, simple, easy to use, and typically in strategic locations like rest areas or shopping centers where it’s easy to kill 45 minutes or so while gaining a decent charge.
That’s very much not been the case in Jalopnik’s experience with other EV chargers, where we’ve all had varying issues with slow, confusing chargers outside some random hotel or parking garage or whatever. Which is to say, I get what Ford is trying to do here. If someone comes into a dealer and says the whole charging thing makes them nervous and/or confused, the salesperson has an answer that sounds good.
But it doesn’t do much to solve the actual issues with charging EVs: plug compatibility that’s far more confusing than it should be, randomly slow chargers that add less than 10 miles of range during your 45-minute shopping trip for seemingly inexplicable reasons, and having to decide which charging network you should belong to.
As the Department of Energy states on its website, slow charging is more or less standard with the SAE J1772 plug type (great name), but fast charging has not quite settled one one standard plug. Some vehicles have both common plug types—the J1772 and CHAdeMO, and seriously who comes up with these?—while others just have one. And there are a whole mess of third party charging station companies like EVGo, Electrify America, and ChargePoint just to name a few. The easiest—and sometimes only—way to use those stations is to have an account with the company that runs them.
Then, there’s Tesla, which has its own proprietary plug that works with all Tesla chargers and CHAdeMO using an optional adapter. But what makes Tesla’s charging network so popular is how the entire process of going to a charging station is integrated into the vehicle and user experience. As stated above, Tesla’s Superchargers tend to be in places where people wouldn’t mind killing some time on long trips. Plus, the charging speeds are predictable and consistently high.
I don’t think these problems with non-Tesla chargers are insurmountable. They’ve actually made a lot of progress towards in the last few years. Nor are they particularly compelling reasons in my mind to avoid EVs, especially for folks considering them as a city car where all the charging will be done at home.
But these issues do take some education and getting used to. And for a lot of people, that’s enough to make them steer clear and stick with what they know. Fortunately, there’s still time for all of this to improve before Ford EVs hit the market.