How important is fast-charging to sell electric cars? Poll results

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Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

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Those unfamiliar with electric cars often don't know that several different types of battery charging exist.

Overnight recharging at home can be done either with 120-volt household current or, for longer-range cars, with a 240-volt charging station installed by the car owner.

Then there's DC fast charging, which generally provides an 80-percent recharge of the battery in roughly half an hour.

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The Tesla Supercharger network is the clear model for fast-charging stations on major highways that permit long-distance travel in battery-electric cars.

Supercharger sites now make it possible to drive a Tesla Model S or Model X coast to coast in just slightly more time than a similar trip in a gasoline or diesel car.

So how important is fast charging to the selection of a plug-in electric car?

We asked our Twitter followers that question, and the results were fairly definitive.

A total of 85 percent of the survey respondents said the availability of fast charging was "quite important" (56 percent) or "the most important factor" (29 percent) in the selection of an electric car.

It was "a factor," but "not [a] major one" for another 13 percent of participants.

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And a scant 2 percent said fast-charging availability was "not very important."

The challenge for electric-car makers then becomes explaining to first-time buyers and shoppers what fast charging is, how it differs from slower charging methods, and how to find it (smartphone apps, mostly).

Or, in some cases, why there are three different fast-charging standards (CHAdeMO, CCS, and Supercharger).

Tesla Motors Supercharger network in North America - map as of January 2017

Tesla Motors Supercharger network in North America - map as of January 2017

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And why sites that offer the first two are from a variety of outlets, often require membership in a variety of different networks, may or may not cost money, and are far from universal.

While the earliest U.S. fast-charging sites are now roughly five years old, the networks remain very much a work in progress, with little effective nationwide roaming and wide gaps in less dense parts of the country.

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It is to be hoped those factors abate over the next few years, no doubt helped by the $2 billion that VW Group has pledged to spend on public charging infrastructure—most of which will likely be fast charging.

Because, as our poll underscores decisively, fast charging is crucial to the success of plug-in electric cars.

Get the message, automakers?

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