A latest study conducted by data and analytics firm, JD Power, has found that electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) owners are happier when they get access to free public fast chargers. This is perhaps why Tesla’s Destination and Supercharger charging infrastructures have ranked the highest for customer satisfaction in their respective segments.

The automaker’s Destination network, which is a Level 2 public AC charging station, scored 689 points out of 1,000. This puts it ahead of second place Volta (674 points) and ChargePoint (third place with 660 points). Similarly, Tesla Supercharger (Level 3) ranked the highest among DC fast chargers with a score of 733 points.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with EV app developer PlugShare, examined consumer attitudes, behaviours and satisfaction. About 6,647 BEV and PHEV owners participated in the study that spanned from January through June 2021. Drivers who visited the charging location but did not charge their vehicles were also asked why they decided not to charge.

Overall satisfaction was measured across 10 factors – ease of charging, speed of charging, cost of charging, ease of payment, ease of finding a charger, convenience of the charging spot, things to do while charging, how safe they feel at the location, availability of chargers, and cleanliness of the location.

Now, in the US, charging speeds are classified into three levels. Level 1 uses the basic 120V home charger with outputs ranging from 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW, while Level 2 is commonly referred to 240V dedicated AC wallbox chargers that put out between 4 kW to 18 kW. Level 3 is DC fast charging, offering anywhere from 50 kW to 250 kW. The study found that most BEV and PHEV owners understood how AC and DC chargers work, and were generally satisfied with the ease of using public chargers.

The study also found charging costs to be a big issue for many EV owners, so those with access to free DC fast chargers naturally showed a higher level of satisfaction compared to paying users (706 vs 673 points). The dip for slower Level 2 chargers was more pronounced, as satisfaction with free charging was 668 but declined to 586 when payment was required.

Some automakers offer free charging as an incentive for consumers to make the switch to EVs, and this seemed to be significantly advantageous in the public charging experience. However, when it comes to the availability of public charging stations, the results varied according to geographic regions.

The West North Central and East North Central regions have higher-than-average charger availability, while the West South Central and Mid Atlantic regions dip below average. The Mountain and Pacific regions were the lowest performing regions for charger availability. As for complaints, the two biggest ones were broken chargers (58%) and having to wait for others to finish charging (14%).

JD Power senior director of global automotive, Brent Gruber said: “Public charging infrastructure is a key component in the overall adoption of electric vehicles by the broad population. Unfortunately, the availability of public charging is the least satisfying aspect of owning an EV.”

“Owners are reasonably happy in situations where public charging is free, doesn’t require a wait and the location offers other things to do – but that represents a best-case scenario. The industry needs to make significant investment in public charging to assure a level of convenience and satisfaction that will lure potentially skeptical consumers to EVs.”

“Building a better infrastructure starts with more collaboration among automakers, charge point operators, site locations, utilities and government at all levels. Each type of charger has its place in the EV public charging ecosystem – whether it is Level 2 for local drives or fast charging while on road trips. One thing is clear: the more chargers that can be deployed, the better,” he continued.

GALLERY: Tesla Destination

GALLERY: Tesla Supercharger