EV smart charger obsolescence is a ticking time bomb

In five years, your smart charger might be dumb
EV charger obsolescence-min
  • Smart home chargers won’t get software updates forever
  • When updates end, chargers could go dumb, or not work at all
  • At present, there is no minimum length requirement for software updates
  • Vendors can use short warranty lengths as a get out
  • We are asking the Government to standardise a five-year software update cycle

What happens when EV smart chargers no longer get software updates?

We are going on record to raise concerns that EV smart chargers bought today will not be supported by manufacturers in the future, rendering them unusable and dumb.

Technology obsolescence will affect everyone who buys a smart home charger, with new connectivity and compatibility standards inevitable.

No more firmware updates

Just like Apple and Samsung stop supporting old smartphones after a while, so too will smart charger manufacturers. When this happens, you may run into problems that cannot be resolved, forcing you to upgrade to a new EV home charger.

While no appliance is designed to last a lifetime, we fear many EV charger brands will stop supporting old hardware after only a few years.

Technological obsolescene

Technological obsolescence is a natural cycle across all manner of technology products. However, when something is ‘smart’, it means it relies on software.

When smart chargers stop receiving software updates, they are going to be living on borrowed time. Eventually, you will get an EV that won’t work with it or a smartphone that won’t use the app properly.

The fact is that EV home chargers are not long-term home appliances – they have life cycles up to five years, demonstrated by the current industry-best five-year warranty.

After five years or even three years, what happens? Will the manufacturer continue developing new firmware for an outdated smart charger, or will they launch new, superior products that earn them money when you upgrade?

You can bet your car that they will choose the latter option.

Planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is common in technology, where manufacturers intentionally design products to be obsolete after a certain amount of time to keep the product life cycle going. For example, in 2020 Apple was fined for slowing down iPhones.

“Planned obsolescence” is a dirty phrase to consumers, but businesses rely on it to turn a profit. Without obsolescence, we would be happy with what we have for longer, and that is bad for business.

With EV smart chargers, charger manufacturers use planned obsolescence and they do it in a few ways:

  • New product launches: New models make old models outdated. Old models no longer have the best technology or design.
  • Time-rated hardware: The electronics inside the charger are only designed to last for the duration of the warranty period. After this, repairs are not recommended.
  • Software obsolescence: Software/firmware will only be supported for so long. Usually, this is only for a year or two after product discontinuation, or for the duration of the warranty period.

All three of these tactics are proven to generate sales of new hardware.

Unfortunately, EV charger obsolescence is inevitable. However, EV charger brands can at least support them for as long as possible.

We are asking the Government to standardise a five-year software update cycle

Five years is the minimum we think a smart EV charger should be updated. This is the same timeframe Google updates its Pixel smartphones.

If we assume EV home chargers have a lifecycle of four years (the average car lease length in the UK is four years), five years of software updates is a reasonable request so that people aren’t forced into upgrades early.

We are asking the Government to set an industry standard for over-the-air software updates so that drivers are not left with dumb, unusable chargers.

At present, there is only a requirement for technology manufacturers to support products while they are on sale, and for 12-months from the date of purchase.

Our fear is smart EV chargers will become obsolete rapidly, fuelling premature upgrade cycles that increase waste and reduce the positive environmental impact zero-emission vehicles have.

If you are concerned about EV charger obsolescence, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jakk Ogden
Jakk is the founder and chief editor of Top Charger. He drives a Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro Performance, and despite having a lead right foot, he consistently gets over 200-miles of range.