Electrify America’s New Indoor Charging Hub Is So Good, It Deserves To Be The Future

Recently, I drove from Breckenridge back to San Francisco over two days. At the start of the month, I did the same drive but in the other direction. The weather and traffic were variable, as was the quality of the innumerable podcasts I listened to. But there was one constant: I cursed Electrify America the whole way.

To be clear, Electrify America chargers got me where I needed to go. I never once wasn’t able to charge and, while one charger broke the chip on my credit card (I will never know how), I didn’t experience the mass outages or broken chargers Electrify America is infamous for. Even though there were only four fast chargers every 150 miles or so—an unnerving fact even if you have the utmost confidence in “the system”—I didn’t have to wait and didn’t get stranded.

Get Fully Charged

Charging your electric car is becoming less boring

Long waiting times at charging stations and a lackluster charging experience are thorns in EV adoption. But automakers and charging companies have shown the intention of changing this. Say hello to super fast 350-kW DC chargers and stations packed with amenities.

However, I quickly became weary of Walmart parking lots, getting soaked in the rain, and the inconvenience of parking at the far end of huge parking lots where the chargers were. At one point near Tahoe, I was caught in a snowstorm. Other times while charging, I worked from my Rivian R1T, hot-spotting off my phone and placing my laptop on the center console. I would have much preferred a table.

Simply put, charging kinda sucks—even when it’s fast.

Almost as if in response to my pain and suffering, I received an email from Electrify America informing me about its flagship charging station in San Francisco. It was set to open the following day, on February 9, 2024. The charger is located at 928 Harrison Street in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood and is Electrify America’s indoor flagship charging station, the first of its kind.

Some amenities at this location:

  • 20 Hyper-fast chargers capable of speeds up to 350 kilowatts
  • Two temperature-controlled customer lounge areas
  • Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi
  • Two restrooms with baby changing stations
  • 24/7 on-site security

I drafted this article right from this brand-new charging center about two weeks ago and it feels like the future. And here’s why it’s a great accomplishment.

20 Fast Chargers Under One Roof

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Electrify America’s newly opened indoor DC fast-charging station in San Francisco. Image: Carter Gibson.

The building itself is clean, and simple, and is appropriately located in the SoMa neighborhood. It’s positioned next to the highway, surrounded by auto shops and gas stations. In a way, its location by contrast makes this building feel positively utopian by comparison.

Inside, the amount of EV diversity struck me—there were Teslas, Rivians, Volkswagen ID.4s, BMW i4s, Polestar 2s, and more. Most non-Tesla chargers only have two to four fast charging dispensers, but with as many as 20 350-kilowatt chargers, you see a nice selection of neat and interesting vehicles—a joy and privilege for an EV nerd like me. As a nature-loving person, I felt great inside a space with so many cars that weren’t emitting fumes from their exhaust.

I live in San Francisco because I want to live in the future first. While an indoor charging space isn’t as radical as being driven around by a Waymo, the space was exciting. In my experience, there aren’t as many areas where you’d find yourself surrounded by an entire suite of modern electric cars. The absence of fossil fuels, and the quiet, electrical hum of the chargers felt futuristic.

With so many hyper-fast DC chargers in one location, the thoughts of potential safety risks didn’t elude me. But there was probably no reason for me to worry. I’ve had similar thoughts every time I’ve pumped gas.

Lounges And Other Amenities

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Seating area and vending machines at EA’s new flagship facility. Image: Carter Gibson.

The windows on the second level allow you to glance at some of the infrastructure. The chargers themselves are neat and cool, but quite ubiquitous. The most interesting part was the two lounges that offered seating while folks waited for their cars to juice up. The lounges were nice, sleek, and comfortable. They’re also heated/air-conditioned, akin to a Priority Pass lounge at a modern airport. It’s not exactly a Polaris experience, but it gets the job done.

There are snacks and beverages from vending machines, too. Although the catered coffee appeared to be only for employees. But again, it doesn’t matter when you’re standing in what appears to be the best, most state-of-the-art charging center on Earth. (I also didn’t ask if I could have the catered coffee out of fear of denial.)

The lounges also provide free WiFi which was, surprisingly, excellent. I had a work meeting from there as my Rivian charged. I didn’t experience any lag. Although, the WiFi password was difficult and I entered it incorrectly four times.

 

Given the location in downtown SoMa, you’re probably saying something like, “Wow, cool lounge, can’t wait until it gets vandalized and destroyed and everything sucks.” Well, Electrify America seems to have thought of that and has installed security 24/7.

There is also a weird feeling of class divide here. EVs are expensive and this luxurious charging experience isn’t exactly accessible for everyone. Its location speaks for itself. While it’s true that there are many charging options for EVs, it feels a little strange to be here looking out onto Harrison Street—not that such a feeling is unique to this particular spot in San Francisco.

The guard was attentive and nice—security was indeed present. Based on some of the commotion passing by outside, I bet he’s earning that paycheck and Electrify America won’t regret this cost.

Must-Have For Big Cities

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Charging my Rivian R1T at EA’s new flagship facility. Image: Carter Gibson.

That said, I was able to chat with some employees. A senior site operations manager indicated that larger charging centers like this were important because of the housing density in cities like San Francisco. Most people can’t charge at home and charging in the city can often be tense and stressful.

If you’ve ever gone to that Safeway near Japantown to charge, you know just how much people fight for spots. It sucks. So a large center with 20 chargers located next to an interstate with lounges and all the amenities? It’s bliss in comparison.

That’s why the long story about what is essentially a converted auto garage with plugs and a sofa in it. This infrastructure feels like it moves the industry forward and improves the charging experience in a meaningful way.

It’s a neat proof-of-concept and the second happiest I’ve ever been charging. (The first, if you’re wondering, was every time I charged at the Rivian Adventure Network in Truckee for free in their first year of operation.)

This center is a thoughtful contribution that recognizes that charging takes time and that you don’t always want to go into Walmart. It doesn’t try to hide that, yeah, sometimes you just have to wait. Instead, it recognizes the opportunity to make that unavoidable experience infinitely better. This is the happiest I’ve ever been to give Electrify America my money, something that normally fills me with lowkey self-resentment. That’s a big win if you ask me. 

Carter is a freelance writer within the EV and online community management spaces when he’s not doing strategy and operations at Google full-time. He resides in San Francisco with his husband, Great Dane, and Weimaraner. 

This story originally appeared on his Medium blog and has been republished here with his permission.