The EV Charge Port Should Be In the Front

And please stop with the elaborate charge port doors

The Mercedes EQS is a technological triumph for the German automaker. It’s comfortable, luxurious, has 350 miles of range, and through and through is worthy of the automaker’s badge. It also requires me to back into a space to charge it. 

An electric car charges at a Motor Fuel Group station whilst petrol and diesel pumps are closed on the Esso forecourt

Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

There are only a few reasons to back a vehicle into a parking space. You’re the getaway driver of the nearby bank heist, you’re trying to impress your friends or family with your ability to drive in reverse between two white lines, or you forgot to pay a vehicle’s registration and now your tags are expired. Since most of us are not professional thieves with an uncontrollable need for speed and typically pay our bills on time, we rarely back into a parking space. That’s changed with EVs that, for reasons that escape me, have charge ports at the back of the vehicle. 

Surprise! Gas Stations and Charging Stations are Different

This is probably Tesla’s fault. The company has been building EVs with ports at the back since its inception. But frankly, at this point, many automakers have introduced vehicles with rear-mounted fueling ports that seem to have been designed by individuals who have either never tried backing into a parking space at a crowded mall or are trapped in a gas-powered vehicle mindset. 

When you get gas, it’s a pull-through situation. You’re only going to be there for a few minutes. Trying to figure out which side of the vehicle has the fueling port is really your biggest concern. (Fun tip, in your dash cluster, the icon of the fuel pump next to the fuel gauge has a tiny arrow that points to the side of the vehicle with the fuel cap. You’re welcome.) 

"The future should be cool, but sometimes form-over-function can lead to long-term issues."

Meanwhile, refueling an EV is a different beast. While we wait for solid-state batteries and quicker charging times, it's a park-and-wait situation. Sometimes in parking lots overflowing with other vehicles. 

The scenario plays out like this: You've finally found the charger, and now you have to figure out how to back into the space while others are trying to find their own little slice of asphalt to place their cars, trucks, and SUVs while shopping. No one wins during a forty-point turn dance. The driver of the vehicle backing in knows they're taking far too much time to pull into a space, and the drivers in the other vehicles are frustrated because they're being blocked by this person doing their best not to back into another vehicle or the charging station itself. 

Even if the driver has a penchant for looking over their shoulder or at the display in the center of their dash because a perfectly executed back-in is a thing of beauty, it still takes up more time and space to reverse into a space. Pulling in forward is not just easier, it's far, far quicker. 

The Trailer Problem

I will admit that I’ve seen a few pull-through charging stations modeled after a typical gas station. In fact, charging station companies will likely be building more of these in the future as electric trucks start taking to the road with trailers. If your EV pickup has a port in the back, you need to remove the trailer to charge. That’s not ideal. Even the trucks with ports in the front will have issues as they try to figure out what to do with their trailers.

So, yes, more pull-through stations are on their way, but they’ll likely be along major driving routes and filled with folks hauling motorcycles, jet skis, and campers.

Parking Lot Exile

Rear-mounted charging ports create an issue for the owners of these parking lots if they happen to use angled spaces. You know, the ones that are easier to pull in and out of because they’re situated at a 45-degree angle instead of a 90-degree angle.

Those parking garages and lots either have to change the layout of a few rows or put the charging stations way off in the corner where they won’t disrupt the flow of traffic. So you’re walking a quarter of a mile to the mall because some automakers decided that EVs should charge the same way gas cars refuel. 

Less Technology Please 

And while we’re on the subject of charging ports, let’s take it easy with the fancy charging port covers. A fuel cap cover is just a tiny door. That’s been fine for decades, and no one is building a mechanism that swings that tiny entrance to the gas gauge that opens sideways, disappears into the body, or does a jaunty little spin when you need to refill with petrol. It’s really meant to just woo your friends when you pull up for gas. 

I understand the desire to fancy up an EV with a dapper little electron drawbridge. Wooing some new buyers requires more than just the idea of making the planet a little bit better. So automakers have pulled out all the stops with fun little charging port door gimmicks that, in the long run, might be more trouble than they’re worth. The future should be cool, but sometimes form-over-function can lead to long-term issues. No one wants to be the person stuck, unable to charge their vehicle because the little door on their EV is malfunctioning. 

So, automakers? Slow down for a second. Look at the real world and how your EVs will be used. Most will be charged at home, while out shopping, or at work in crowded parking lots. Now think about your friend that’s the worst at driving. Imagine this person backing into a narrow space next to your new fancy vehicle. That front charging port makes a bit more sense now, doesn’t it? So just move the ports up front, and we’ll all be a bit happier knowing we won’t be on the hook to slowly reverse into a spot. 

Unless you’re the getaway driver of a bank heist, then by all means, back in.

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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