Electric Revs recently interviewed Electrify America’s Chief Operating Officer, Brendan Jones, at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 27.
Prior to joining Electrify America in 2016, Jones served as the Vice President of OEM Strategy & Development for EVgo. He also spent 21 years at Nissan, the last six as the executive responsible for building out electric vehicle sales and infrastructure.
Electrify America’s 30-month plan for Cycle 2 of their full 10-year investment settlement begins on July of 2019 and extends through until the end of 2021. Their California plan was just approved by the state Air Resources Board (CARB). Their national plan will be submitted soon for approval by the EPA.
The discussion is edited for clarity and length.
ER: When will Electrify America’s national plan proposal for Cycle 2 (everywhere except California) become public?
Jones: Sixty days [from Nov. 27] is probably the timeframe. We are currently working with EPA on timeframes. We’re trying to get ahead [by filing before the deadlines].
We [previously] operated in a delay mode because we got Cycle 1 approval from the EPA in the beginning of May  and then we got approval from CARB at the end of July. That gave us significant delays from when the actual Cycle 1 time clock started on January 1st [and ending in June 2019 after 30 months].
ER: Electrify America will have a smartphone app coming out?
Jones: Yes. It’s a basic charging app. It will allow consumers to interact with the stations and chargers — start a charge. It will be coming in the latter half of the first quarter of 2019 [by the end of March]. That will also come with an announcement about subscription services and subscription-based pricing.
ER: Is ApplePay enabled yet at the stations?
Jones: ApplePay is not enabled yet but we are working on supporting multiple smartphone pay systems. It’s a goal of ours to get there because we have credit card readers on every charger so we want universal access. It was by design to work with universal access first [credit cards] and then work on the other stuff secondarily.
ER: As you are rolling this stuff out it’s all new — new equipment and new installation situations… What kinds of problems have you had to deal with and what have you learned along the way?
Jones: I’m going to answer this the long way. I started buying chargers in 2011. We actually built our own charger in Japan that we manufactured ourselves when I worked at Nissan. I have worked with chargers from Eaton, Blink, Signet, ABB, Efacec, BTC…. All chargers have problems, especially with the different interfaces to the user interface screens. You have both software and hardware that you have to run through. The communication protocols with the vehicles have to support the multiple different automaker platforms simultaneously.
Speaking as an industry now, we’re better today then when I first started [in 2011] when we had lots of problems that couldn’t be easily resolved. Most of the problems we have today in the software and hardware can be resolved. Our “root cause” analysis is much better than it was five, six, seven years ago. But, these are complex pieces of machinery so there are always going to be problems.
The resolution time is what is going to set us apart from the competition.
ER: Have you seen any problems with specific vehicles.
Jones: We uncover problems here and there. I can’t say if problems with one car resonates more than any other. The moment we discover a problem we have a heavy degree of collaboration with the OEM. We have a test center where we bring in cars for testing.
ER: How much scalability is baked into the new sites that are being built? For example, are you over-sizing transformers so you can easily bring in more charging spaces in the future?
Jones: We are future-proofing where needed and where allowed. You have some site host constraints that don’t allow for that. When it’s possible we add to the site host contract that we can have additional chargers and add capacity later. We do sometimes upsize the transformer to make sure we can later add additional power modules to increase power. We are doing this on “metro” sites where we started with 50 kW dispensers. We’re now moving to install all metro sites at 150 kW though because it just makes more sense.
ER: How confident are you guys that you got the [liquid-cooled] cable lengths right on these charging dispensers? It’s kind of tight.
Jones: We keep evaluating. In situations where we think we don’t have it right, we’ve already replaced some cables. We’ll continue to evaluate that to make sure we have it right. We designed for optimal height so the cable doesn’t touch the car and doesn’t touch the ground.
ER: Are the [liquid-cooled] cables more delicate [than conventional charging cables]?
Jones: They are robust still in terms of their outer exterior. The dirt [handling dirty cables] and cables touching the car is something customers really objected to.
ER: This was very useful.