Anyone who’s tried to venture far enough away from home in an electric vehicle that’s not a Tesla probably has a few charging horror stories about stations that don’t work as advertised (if at all), due to failures of connectivity, hardware, software, or vandalism. Who makes the most reliable public EV charger? Well, if its track record north of our border carries over as it expands in the U.S., the answer could well be Quebec-based Flo. This company ranks number 1 in Canada, boasting 360,000 members that register over 1 million charges per month with access to 71,000 public chargers. Flo’s North American network boast an up-time rate of 98 percent, which is well reflected in its customers’ reported 92-plus percent rate of satisfaction. How does Flo do it? The company hosted an event for the Automotive Press Association to explain how it hopes to build the most reliable EV charger network in North America.
1) Vertical Integration
Flo builds its stations from parts sourced as close as possible to home (with an estimated 80-percent North American content that easily qualifies these chargers for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (“NEVI Formula”) to fund EV infrastructure. But beyond the manufacturing, Flo also does its own station monitoring, maintenance, and repair. Yes Flo employs its own trained maintenance/repair staff and operates its own user app and call center. Flo’s operational business plan is to sell stations to dealers, charging networks, etc. and then provide monitoring and maintenance as a service, with each technician trained to repair anything on any charger. Company President and CEO Louis Tremblay admits that this level of vertical integration is expensive, but it leaves customers with “only one neck to choke” if something goes wrong—which is apparently infrequently.
2) Robust Hardware & Software
This seems like a no-brainer, but Flo claims to overbuild many aspects of its charging stations. They’re outfitted with far more computing power than they require at the time of deployment, so they’re future-proofed for updates over the years. Their hybrid air and liquid cooling systems are outfitted with much larger fans than most use, but this lowers the noise level and guarantees against edge-case problems during record heat waves.
3) Design for Repairability
The Flo Ultra features large front and rear double doors for easy access, the components are all modular and upgradable, and mounted to an aluminum enclosure. While the hardware is all “hardened,” it’s also sized so nothing is too large for a single technician to lift out and replace (some competitor components require fork-lifts to move the biggest components).
4) More Extensive Sensor Suite
Some of the lower performing chargers offer limited remote monitoring that doesn’t extend much past being hailed and responding that they are online and basically functional, even when the screen has been destroyed or the charging cord vandalized. The Flo charging station sensors monitor all such functions and can report to the monitoring station when something goes wrong or if performance is degrading to suggest imminent trouble and allow for preemptive maintenance.
5) Vandalism Countermeasures
There’s only so much that can be done about vandalism, but Flo’s latest Ultra Series fast chargers are designed with bright lighting to dissuade some vandals. They’re also equipped with cameras and microphones—primarily to allow call centers to communicate with customers having issues, but these are also act as a deterrent to bad actors.
6) Designed to Fail Safe
Flo charging stations are programmed to remain functional, recording the data required to bill customers even in the event of a loss of communications. So just because there’s some local internet outage, the charging station can continue charging vehicles.
7) 98-Percent Guarantee
The Flo monitoring, customer call center, and maintenance/repair staff are all keenly aware that there’s money on the line if a charger goes down, because Flo is on the hook to reimburse lost revenue on any unit that falls short of that mark.
250,000 Chargers by 2028; 40,000 Branded GM Ultium
The goal is to have 250,000 Flo charging stations deployed in the U.S. by 2028, probably 80 percent of which will be home units. Flo will supply GM’s Dealer Community Charging Program with 40,000 public charging stations (the company’s Core+ Max and Core+ Level 2 chargers capable of delivering up to 19.2kW).
The program involves dealers identifying areas in their community that are underserved by the public charging infrastructure. Then GM buys the stations, the dealers pay for their installation, and Flo handles all the maintenance and customer interaction. The idea is to boost EV sales by building public confidence in the infrastructure and bolster sales of GM Ultium vehicles. These stations will join both the Flo network and GM’s Ultium Charge 360 network and will be available to all EV drivers.
Flo Ultra DC Fast Chargers
The latest Flo charging station design is configured with two chargers per unit, designed for pull-in or pull-through parking arrangements. Their lighted canopies convey the charging status with a ring of green (free) or blue (charging) light that can be seen from a distance. These canopies also include a patent-pending motorized assist to lighten the heavy-gauge cooled charging cord supporting it and helping reel it in. These were designed with ADA compliance in mind. The unit can dispense a maximum of 320 kW to a single vehicle, or 160 kW each with two vehicles plugged in.
Watch your local region for the appearance of Flo charging stations, and see if they qualify as the most reliable EV charger in your area.
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