Guilty as charged: Electrify America site delivers a slow flow to a Ford Mustang Mach-E
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While Ford is promoting its electric Mustang Mach-E, the company is also promoting its owners' access to an existing public charging system built by ChargePoint and Electrify America. Ford calls the network the largest in the country with around 13,500 stations and a total of 35,000 plugs.
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This is a welcome start, including a smartly designed “FordPass” phone app designed for easy, paid network access. But not every charging system is built the same, as my overwhelming, time-consuming experience with charging Mach-E shows.
First, unlike Tesla's huge supercharger network, only a tiny fraction of FordPass' alleged 35,000 plugs support DC fast charging. The vast majority of them stay at Level 2 240-volt chargers - great for overnight charging at home, but almost useless in my book for public refills unless you actually spend six or eight hours on interstate bathroom breaks or shopping at Whole Foods. Second, where many Tesla owners continue to receive one year of supercharging (and previously “unlimited” free charging) as a benefit and purchase incentive, Ford is only offering 250 kilowatts of free DC juice, which is enough for three to five top-ups.
I would have been thrilled to pay anything for a quick top-up when I took the Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD - with 60 miles remaining - to a Target store in Clifton, New Jersey on a miserable, rainy night in December. have pulled. It is one of nearly a dozen Electrify America (EA) stations in New Jersey, as Volkswagen's own EA is expanding a DC network with chargers ranging from 50 kilowatts to a powerful 350 kilowatts. I drove miles out of the way to check out one of EA's 150-kilowatt machines to see if the 'Stang SUV (with an official range of 270 miles) really plugs 47 mile range in just 10 minutes can bring. Ford claims a rear-wheel drive Mach-E with a range of 300 miles would juice even faster, adding 61 miles in 10 minutes.
The reality of this destination was so wildly distant that I might as well have gone inside to load shopping carts with homeware and snacks. As I drove up, I came across one of the most impressive (non-Tesla) charging arrays I've seen in America: six large Electrify America chargers stood guard with two arms each for a total of 12 DC sockets. (One was out of order so make these 10 outlets). Ads for Ewan MacGregor's latest motorcycle adventure were displayed on the user-friendly touchscreens. I plugged the heavy, bulky cord from the charger into the fender-mounted port on the Mach-E. The station immediately recognized a “Ford owner” with a FordPass, and the top-up started automatically without me having to bother with anything. My phone's FordPass app started tracking the charge. This is going to be great, I thought: a piece of cake, just like charging a Tesla.
If only. As I was working on my laptop in the driver's seat, I looked up after 10 minutes and found (both according to the app and on the Mach-E's driver display) that I only got nine miles from its 88 kWh, 376 cell cell Lithium-ion battery had added range - not nearly the 47 miles in 10 minutes that Ford advertises over these 150-kilowatt Supercharger-style stations.
As I hopped from the driver's seat, I saw that the charger screen insisted that it was delivering 74.2 kilowatts of power. That was only about half of the 150 kilowatt power advertised on the machine's poster, and I would have liked to have accepted it. The actual juice that flowed into the Ford was 20 kilowatts at best; A fraction of the expected rate and only about twice as fast as an 11 kilowatt level 2 charger. Ambient temperatures were in the 1940's and there is always some transmission loss from electrical resistance and heat (typically on the order of 10 to 20 percent ) but that was ridiculous.
I plugged in a different outlet. Then I moved the Mach-E to another charger further down the line. Next, I called EA Customer Service where an employee named Justine who works in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the former location of VW's North American headquarters couldn't be more helpful. Justine even restarted one of the chargers to see if we could quicken the glacier pace. But no dice, fuzzy or anything else. Justine couldn't really explain what was going on, but promised to bring the case to the technical department.
My reporter's curiosity was piqued. Eventually I put the Mach-E in five of the ten jobs, hopped back and forth from the driver's seat in a steady rain, and got more and more frustrated. Regardless of which plug I tried, the purported "quick charger" delivered the same low level current, adding about a mile of range for every minute of the plug. The convenience factor price of 43 cents per kWh was also stiff, more than three times the national average rate of 13.2 cents per kWh for household electricity. If I'd hung around long enough, adding 220 miles to the Ford's "tank" would have cost about $ 30, more than the price of unleaded gas in an SUV that slurps at 20 mpg.
Ultimately, I reduced my losses after more than 90 minutes (including time-consuming switch plugs), five power outlets, and a pathetic 76 miles range, barely enough to drive an hour on the freeway. I pulled out of Target with a 40 percent increased battery on the Ford and showed a range of 136 miles - plenty for my trip home to Brooklyn, but again nowhere near Ford's claim of a 10% charge to 80 in 45 minutes % to reach.
Of course, a driver's experience at a charger bank isn't an indictment of the entire network that Ford worked with rather than going the Tesla route and building your own. While I've had good experiences with both ChargePoint and EA chargers, I have come across a disturbing number of chargers that are out of order, unable to charge, or underperforming charge rates. In contrast, although I am hardly a normal user, I have never plugged in a Tesla compressor that did not work the first time every time.
As I wrote in my review, the Mustang Mach-E is an impressive electric vehicle that can hold its own against the Tesla Model Y in most competitive measures. However, Tesla's foresight and investment in its own proprietary network remains a critical competitive advantage, right up there where there is an advantage in terms of electrical efficiency and range.
While standing in the rain at Target and turning my thumbs, I had plenty of time to think about it - and to realize that Ford and the others still have some catching up to do.
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