EV Charging is Not Just About Quantity – Reliability Matters 

April 24, 2024

As the transportation sector sprints towards a more sustainable future, charging infrastructure bears the weight of powering America’s burgeoning interest in electric vehicles (EVs). As the private and public sectors collaboratively work towards meeting the White House’s goal of 50% of new cars being electric by 2030, there is also a need to meet the increasing number of charging points required, estimated to be 1.2 million public, and 28 million private. But not discussed enough is the fact that these chargers will not only need to be deployed, but they will also need to be reliable. 

Rising EV charging failure rates (currently at 20%) make drivers concerned about whether they’ll be able to charge at a station when needed most. For daily commuters, long family road trips, and delivery fleets, an unreliable charger can be catastrophic. The continued growth of EV adoption relies on drivers feeling confident in chargers that can withstand issues such as power outages, which themselves are becoming increasingly frequent. As more EV chargers are deployed, it’s essential to increase not only the quantity of chargers, but also their resiliency.  

One way this need for resiliency can be met is by equipping charging stations with an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system to provide electricity whenever grid power is unavailable – for example, during high grid demand or outages. During such events, the UPS system can kick in, providing immediate power for the charging station to ensure this critical service can continue being met. 

When installing UPS systems for chargers, there is an additional opportunity to ensure the system is as sustainable, safe, and resilient as possible. This can be done by looking into the battery chemistry relied upon to power the UPS system. For example, compared to lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, nickel-zinc (NiZn) backup battery chemistries enhance the resiliency of EV charging stations, as they can perform under varying weather conditions with their wide operating temperature range. Additionally, NiZn batteries boast an operating life up to three times longer than a lead-acid battery, and the failure of a single cell won’t stop these batteries from discharging. 

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When selecting a battery chemistry for an EV charger’s UPS system, some options can also eliminate the threat of thermal runaway, as safety is paramount when it comes to EVs. And of course, a successful system would have a small environmental footprint to align with the role EVs play in helping mitigate climate change. 

Beyond UPS systems, EV charger reliability can also be improved through programs that train the emerging EV infrastructure maintenance workforce more thoroughly. One such effort is the program organized by ChargerHelp! and SAE International’s Sustainable Mobility Solutions, which certifies Electric Vehicle Service Equipment Maintenance Technicians. This program will aid more than 3,000 trainees from underprivileged backgrounds, providing them access to quality union jobs while also expanding the trained EV charger maintenance workforce.  

It’s also encouraging to see the Department of Transportation’s efforts to standardize chargers, so that troubleshooting is easier regardless of the charger’s brand or type. These new standards ensure that chargers, no matter what their operating network, function in a consistent manner and offer a reliable EV charging experience – regardless of the driver’s car model or the state they’re charging in. 

The reliability of EV charging infrastructure is paramount to the widespread adoption and success of these vehicles. Ensuring a seamless charging experience requires not only well-engineered hardware and software systems but also a well-trained maintenance workforce and robust backup battery systems. EV charger deployment does not simply require charger installation. By making sure steps are taken to make these chargers safe, reliable, and sustainable, we make EV adoption more enticing, having a true impact on the clean energy transition. 

Previously published by PV Magazine

Tim Hysell, ZincFive CEO
Tim Hysell
Co-Founder & CEO, ZincFive
Tim has over three decades of entrepreneurial success in founding, owning, and directing profitable business operations in renewable energy, banking, manufacturing, and medical devices. His companies partnered with global giants such as Siemens, Phillips, and Hewlett-Packard. Prior to owning his own businesses, Tim worked for General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and Providence Health Systems. Tim is also a co-founder and board member of Pacific West Bank in Oregon.