Third-party EV chargers are getting better, J.D. Power finds, which is a real problem for Tesla

Tesla’s Supercharger network is almost universally regarded as the best in the U.S., but few have talked about how central it is to buyers’ perceptions of the company and their willingness to purchase one of its vehicles. J.D. Power’s recent research showed that while Tesla buyers are overwhelmingly tied to the Supercharger experience, overall satisfaction is dropping. It also found that other companies are making up ground at a rapid clip, which could threaten more than charging revenues.

The most significant gains in customer satisfaction and other metrics came from non-Tesla charging networks like EVGo, Electrify America, and others. At the same time, the study found that Tesla buyers are uniquely invested in its charging technology, to the point that the top five vehicles in J.D. Power’s question about how charging impacted a vehicle purchase decision were all Teslas. At the same time, satisfaction with Superchargers dipped.

While it’d be easy to point the finger at Tesla’s recent Supercharger team layoffs, it’s unlikely that such a recent event would have an outsized impact on Q1 2024 data. A more likely explanation is that the other charging companies finally decided to invest in making their customer experience better in an attempt to chisel away at Tesla’s lead, though it’s hard to imagine that layoffs will help the automaker’s efforts going forward.

Some of the study’s results are bad news for Tesla, but the responses bode well for EV adoption. Overall satisfaction with public DC fast charging is on the rise, up 16 points from the end of last year to a score of 663 out of 1,000 possible points. That’s the largest quarter-over-quarter jump since J.D. Power started collecting data in 2021, with the improvement driven by charging speed and reliability.

The study found a 12 percent decline in the rate of outages and malfunctions between the end of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024, and EV owners responded positively about the ease of charging and availability of charging stations.

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