Technology

Electrify America shuts down its best EV chargers temporarily and no one notices

Electrify America charging stations

Volkswagen-funded Electrify America has temporarily shut down its high-power electric car charging stations after uncovering a problem with a charging cable provided by a third-party company. Most of the high-kilowatt network remains offline, but electric car owners aren’t expected to notice the disturbance unless the problem takes several months to resolve.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Electrify America is shutting down all of our stations that use the Huber+Suhner high-powered cables until we can confirm that they can be operated safely. We are confident that Huber+Suhner will investigate and resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” wrote Electrify America CEO Giovanni Palazzo in a statement published online. Volkswagen founded the company he runs to create a nationwide, multi-million-dollar network of charging stations not unlike Tesla’s Supercharger network.

Electrify America blamed the problem on the liquid-cooled cables that electric car owners use to plug their vehicle into a charging station. The firm called the problem “a potential safety issue,” but it didn’t reveal the cause or the effect of the problem. It noted that only stations built to dispense 150 or 350 kilowatts are down; the slower, 50-kilowatt stations remain operational. The L2 chargers and the CHAdeMO connectors aren’t affected by the issue, either.

Huber+Suhner shed light on the matter shortly after Electrify America’s announcement. It explained a cable used at a charging station in Germany short-circuited. No one was injured during the incident, and the cable was a first-generation prototype so problems weren’t inconceivable, but the company has asked customers to stop using its cables until it finds the root of the problem. It promises to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.

There’s a silver lining: As of January 2019, none of the electric cars sold in the United States are compatible with 150- or 350-kilowatt charging. The first models able to take advantage of super-fast charging speeds will be the 2020 Audi E-Tron, which is scheduled to arrive in American showrooms in the summer of 2019, and the Porsche Taycan, which hasn’t been fully unveiled yet and won’t land until later in the year. To add context, Tesla throttles the output of its Supercharger stations when it approaches 120 kilowatts. In simple terms, the higher the kilowatts, the faster the charge.

Electrify America isn’t the only company that has experienced problems with Huber+Suhner charging cables. The Verge reports Amsterdam-based Fastned shut down the 175-kilowatt chargers it operates in Holland and Germany after encountering cable-related problems.


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