Australian electric vehicle drivers have been left confounded by the decision of US EV charging network provider ChargePoint to quietly shut down its Australian operations, leaving many charge units around the country operational but closed to remote support.
Although many of the sites are still able to be used to charge electric vehicles, several Australian EV drivers have been caught out by the change when trying to access an EV charger that has stopped working.
One driver in Western Australia, documenting their response from their own call to ChargePoint support, on the Plugshare app which helps drivers “check in” when using an EV charger, said they were told Australian network provider Chargefox would be taking over the site. But this is not the case.
“Called ChargePoint, got redirect to the US, they said ChargePoint Australia pulled out and all ChargePoint chargers will eventually be taken over by Chargefox They can’t do anything to fix the issues on any ChargePoint chargers as they have no access to them anymore,” wrote the driver named “Goldgenie”.
Other drivers on Plugshare have also reported being redirected to the US, but because the US company would no longer manage them, no follow up management contract had yet been arranged.
More have since reported that while some units still work, they cannot be accessed via the smartphone app, while others say that although the site no longer appears on the app as it has been decommissioned, they can still access them using ChargePoint RFID card.
One such dates as far back as May 2019. “Is a little confusing that station has been decommissioned by ChargePoint but swipe card still works,” said a driver called “TJGeel” at the Club Armstrong site in Mount Duneed, Victoria.
When contacted using the Australian ChargePoint support number, the call was redirected to the US where a spokesperson told The Driven that: “ChargePoint [Australia] was taken over by a franchise company,” and that although customers who have a ChargePoint card can physically activate a station, ChargePoint in the US can no longer remotely activate or access them.
Tim Washington, co-founder of Chargefox and founder of EV charging solutions company JET Charge confirmed with The Driven that there is no agreement in place for Chargefox to take over the Australian Chargepoint units.
Tony Gilding, owner of the Macadamia Castle site on the north coast of NSW, and host to both Tesla and ChargePoint infrastructure, said in a note by email that it is “sad ChargePoint didn’t choose to stay in Australia after our significant investment in their hardware, but their departure has allowed some fine Australian based innovative charging companies to prosper.”
A letter obtained by The Driven that was sent to ChargePoint Australia site owners in November 2019 confirms that “the distribution agreement between ChargePoint Inc. (USA) and ChargePoint Pty Ltd (Australia) will come to an end in May 2020”.
It says that customers with expired software licenses from February 1, 2020, and who did not express interest in renewing plans, would have their sites decommissioned from the network and placed into a ‘just charge” mode.
“A decommissioned or “just charge” station, while disconnected from the ChargePoint Network, can still charge an electric vehicle. The station’s holsters will be able to unlock using any standard RFID card, such as the ChargePoint RFID card or a credit card, however will not be able to unlock using the ChargePoint App,” wrote Chargepoint in the email.
“Furthermore, a “just charge” station will no longer have the functionality offered by the network services, such as station management, usage monitoring, reporting and analytics – amongst other features.”
“Beyond May 2023, ChargePoint Inc will no longer maintain a presence in Australia,” writes Chargepoint.
The reasons for this are believed to be at least partly due to the lack of policy around vehicle emissions to clean up Australia’s transport emissions.
It is understood that new management at ChargePoint’s US headquarters are focused on US, EU and UK markets where the mass uptake of electric vehicles is supported by government policy.
There are currently approximately 100 ChargePoint units in Australia with the majority centred around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which consist of a variety of AC destination chargers and DC 50kW fast chargers.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.