What are the warning warnings about public charging stations?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular as more consumers look for sustainable transportation options. A robust public charging infrastructure is critical to increased EV adoption. However, there are some risks associated with public charging that EV owners should be aware of.

Risk of Malfunctioning Equipment

Like any complex piece of technology, EV charging stations can malfunction. Issues like power outages, damaged connectors, software glitches, and more can make a charger unavailable or unusable. This may leave drivers stranded if they are counting on that station to charge their vehicle. Prior to using a public station, inspect connectors and screens for any signs of damage or error messages. Consider having a backup charging option in mind in case your desired station ends up being out of order.

Charging Station Etiquette

Lack of etiquette by some users can make public charging stations frustrating for others. For example, some EV owners may park their vehicle in a charging spot but not actually plug in. This makes the station unavailable for other users. Even worse, some users will unplug another vehicle before it has finished charging to use the station themselves. Be considerate of other drivers by only parking in a charging spot when charging, and never disconnecting another car before it has completed charging.

Risk of Vandalism

There have been reports of vandalism at public EV charging stations in some areas. Unfortunately, as with any public infrastructure, some people may intentionally damage charging equipment. Cuts to power cables, graffiti on stations, and physical destruction of chargers have all been documented. Always inspect a station for any signs of vandalism before using it. Avoid using damaged equipment, and report any vandalism you encounter to the charging network operator.

Charging Network Limitations

Not all charging networks are created equal in terms of size and reliability. Some providers have more extensive coverage than others. And different networks may experience differing levels of downtime when a charger malfunctions or loses connectivity. Check coverage maps to make sure your intended charging network has stations along your planned route. Understand that more limited networks may come with risks of uneven reliability.

Limited Security at Some Stations

Security measures vary greatly among public EV charging locations. Some are located in busy, public areas or have surveillance cameras. But others may be in isolated, low-visibility locations. Size up security at a charging area, especially at night. Park in well-lit spots and be aware of your surroundings. Consider charging in busier areas and avoiding deserted charging stations when possible.

Risk of Being Stranded

Depending on the capacity of your EV’s battery, running out of charge away from home can leave you stranded. Always check your battery level before setting out and keep an emergency buffer. Understand max driving range on a single charge. Plan routes with charging stops in mind. Apps can help locate charging stations on a route. But have backup options in case stations are unavailable. Getting stranded with a dead EV battery is more than just an inconvenience.

Potential Costs and Payment Issues

Public EV charging is not free. Charging station providers set their own rates. Costs vary significantly based on charging speed, location, demand-based pricing at some stations, and membership fees if using a network. Make sure to understand the potential cost implications before using a station. Also be prepared for payment issues like credit card readers not working, apps malfunctioning, etc. Keep backup payment methods available when possible.

Risk of Tripping Hazards

Charging cable management is important. Loose cables can become tripping hazards at public EV stations, especially when it is dark. Coiling and securing cables after use helps. But always watch your step when approaching or leaving a charging spot. Stumbling over cables can cause serious injuries. Proper footwear is recommended when using public charging stations.

Potential For Long Waits

Depending on location and time of day, public EV charging stations may have long waits. Competition for chargers will increase as more EVs hit the road. Patience will be required when stations are crowded. Avoid critically low batteries and give yourself time flexibility if possible when planning use of public charging stops.

Risk of Overstaying Your Welcome

Most public EV charging stations have limits on the length of stay permitted in a charging spot. Overstaying can result in fees or even towing. Monitor your charge status and move your vehicle promptly when charging is complete. Signage at stations indicates time limits or fees. Avoid overstaying your welcome – other drivers need access too.

Exposure to Extreme Weather

Many public charging stations are located in outdoor surface lots and garages. Use of public charging may require exposure to extreme heat, cold, rain, snow and other weather conditions. Dress appropriately for the weather and limit outdoor exposure as much as possible to avoid risks like frostbite or heat stroke.

Potential For Electrical Malfunctions

High voltage EV charging systems incorporate safety mechanisms to mitigate risk. But improper maintenance or damage always poses some risk for electrical issues. Watch for problems like sparks, burning smells, or abnormal noises which may indicate electrical malfunction. Alert the station owner immediately to any potential safety hazards observed.

Risk of Theft or Damage to Vehicle

Parking in public areas always carries some risk of theft or damage to a vehicle. Certain charging stations may be in isolated locations. Learn about crime rates in the area of any public charging location. Park in well-lit spots and do not leave valuables visible. Make use of built-in security features like auto-locking doors to help deter crime.

Lack of Customer Service Support

While some EV charging networks have 24/7 live customer service, others may offer very limited support. Know what resources are available should any issues arise before opting to use a public charging station. Have the station owner’s contact information saved. Make use of resources like apps and automated helplines to get assistance if needed.

Potential For Trip Inconvenience

Finding a compatible public charging station along your route at just the right time to meet your charging needs can make trip planning more complex. Apps and tools can help but are not foolproof. Understand that public charging inherently involves some unpredictability compared to home charging. Allow time buffers and be prepared to adjust trip plans if needed.

Lack of Restrooms or Other Conveniences

Many public charging locations such as curbside spots do not offer restrooms or other conveniences nearby. Charging stops may simply involve standing by your vehicle. Identify convenient charging locations that align with your trip route, or be prepared for potential lack of facilities.

Risk of Incompatible Connectors

There are a few different connector types used for EV charging currently. Most public stations offer both J1772 and CCS/Combo connectors for flexibility. But some older stations may only have outdated connectors your EV cannot use. Verify connector compatibility before relying on a given charging station mid-trip.

Unpredictable Charge Times

The time required to charge an EV battery can vary widely based on factors like battery capacity, charger power output, temperature, and charging needs. Public chargers may not always deliver max rated power. Avoid counting on rapid charges at a specific time. Build in buffer time in case charging takes longer than expected at public stations.

Potential For Congestion at Stations

As EV adoption grows, prime public charging locations may experience significant congestion and lines at peak times. Using public charging may start to resemble waiting at a crowded gas station. Be prepared for potential congestion – choose stations carefully and use apps to identify locations with availability.

Risk of Charger Unavailability

There is no guarantee a public EV charging station will be available and functioning at all times. Stations can be occupied, malfunctioning, or offline for various reasons. Have backup options in mind if needed rather than depending on a single location. Check apps and networks for real-time station status updates when possible.

Safety Considerations for Children

Using public EV charging stations with young children presents some safety considerations. Keep children under close supervision in parking areas due to risks like moving vehicles. Ensure cables and connectors are out of reach of children when charging. Talk to children about potential safety hazards and set ground rules for behavior at charging stations.

Potential For User Errors

Lack of experience with public EV charging could lead some users to make mistakes. Improperly stopping charging, disconnecting another vehicle, using an incompatible charger, forgetting to lock the vehicle, and more. Take time to learn proper public charging etiquette and processes. Ask for assistance if unsure about any aspect of using a public station.

Inconsistent Reliability of Cell Service

Many public charging stations are operated through apps and require online connectivity. However, cell signals can be inconsistent across charging locations. Determine if the station has WiFi available as a backup if cell service is limited. Pre-download apps and save locations offline when possible.


Public EV charging provides great accessibility and convenience. But some risks and challenges do exist. Being aware of the potential pitfalls involved allows EV owners to take steps to avoid issues. With sound preparation and proper precautions, public charging can be safe, affordable and hassle-free in most circumstances.

As public charging infrastructure continues to expand, many of these challenges will be mitigated over time. Technology enhancements, expanding capacity, improving security features and more will make public charging easier. But for now, educate yourself on the possible risks to make public charging work smoothly for your EV needs.