California board blasts EV charger company, then approves its $200-million plan anyway

In foreground, a charging station. In middle a blue car. In the background, more charging stations.
Electrify America promises to do better as its $200-million state spending plan is approved.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

After ripping into Electrify America’s latest public EV charger spending plan for its perceived inadequacies, members of the California Air Resources Board approved it unanimously.

“I want to get the money out,” board member Davina Hurt said.

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The air board oversees an $800-million court settlement that requires German carmaker Volkswagen to pay for a fast charger system in California — the effective penalty for VW’s decision to install software in its cars that falsified emissions testing results and hid the fact that its vehicles were spewing more pollution than state law allows.

Thursday’s vote approved the final $200-million tranche, and a plan for spending it.

Already, $600 million has been doled out to pay for 1,093 chargers and EV education and marketing programs.

The emphasis at the meeting was getting chargers deployed, reducing long waiting times at charging stations as EV sales grow. However, it was acknowledged, nonworking chargers are partly responsible for waiting times that can stretch into hours.


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Electrify America, the company created by VW, has admitted to problems with charger reliability, as have state-subsidized companies ChargePoint, EVgo, Blink and others.

The board met Thursday, and right away members started talking tough.

“What we see here today is a lack of specificity in the maintenance plan,” said member Eric Guerra. “I would hate that today becomes a rubber stamp for a maintenance plan that says ‘trust us.’ ”

The maintenance plans lacks “teeth,” Hurt agreed.

Air board member John Balmes said he’s “frustrated” with unreliable Electrify America chargers. On a recent attempt, “I had trouble connecting.” He said it took “40 minutes for [a Kia EV6], a fast-charging car.”

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Liane Randolph, the board’s chair, said even Electrify America’s newest stations are undependable. At the recently opened Kettleman City station along Interstate 5, she said, “three chargers were out for several days.”

Some members blasted what they said was Electrify America’s lack of transparency on fulfilling its commitment to install 35% of its chargers in disadvantaged communities.

Member Diane Takvorian said she “questions the validity” of the company’s statistics. Member Dean Florez said “this may be our last hearing on this thing. How do we know you’ll come through on the 35%?”


Working furiously in the Sacramento hearing room while board members talked, the air board staff came up with amended plan language. The staff, according to the air board’s top executive, Steven Cliff, will work with Electrify America to come up with reliability and maintenance data and to clarify where in disadvantaged communities chargers are being located.

Electrify America’s chief executive vowed to reach a level of 97% reliable for all its chargers. (State and federal officials are still working out a definition for “97% reliable.”)

Toward the end of the meeting, board member John Eisenhut asked the staff for lessons learned.

Air board staffer Jennifer Gress said the first lesson is “it’s really difficult to predict the future.” For example, she said, early on “we didn’t anticipate the need for maintenance and upgrades.”