Car talk

Our First Time

Millenium Falcon completed its first DC fast charge Saturday. It was not fun. EA and VW software in series made for an annoying first charge.

Dave, Missy, and Rocky flew to Aylette, VA for James River Greyhounds 2022 picnic. These are always great events produced by the charity to raise funds to support capital maintenance and operations. Fun, food, people, greyhounds, lots of greyhounds. Sadly, we didn’t take a photo of the car park on the way in. The crowd was huge.

Anyway, it was Millennium Falcon’s first road trip that was long enough to require an en-route charge. An opportunity for a newbie experience, one that should have gone smoothly but didn’t because VW had not finished plug and charge. So some EA app screen fiddling was required. Unsurprisingly, there were gaps in the instructions and stupidity in UI design choices. More after the break.


  1. 2022-10-16 Original


  1. Accurate Electrify America Session Setup Instructions

Use a Phone App in Full Southern Sun

Because VW has not finished the ISO/IEC standard plug and charge protocol implementation, it is necessary to use the Electrify America App to identify the site, charger, and charger connection to be used for the charging session. Even if you have the EA App set up. Even if you have an EA App credential in the iPhone Wallet.

When you roll in, you have to open the EA App, find the charging site, select the charging site on the map. When the site has actually been selected, the map icon will change from a pin (EA stylized pin) to an availability advisory button. Once this change has happened the text pane below the map changes from a list of nearby charge sites to a list of dispensers at the current site.

Then you have to scroll down to the stall list, select your stall (there’s a number on the charger), and select your connection. Those at the Richmond site we visited have 2, one for left side and one for right side as cables are too short to cross over.

Except, in full sun the phone screen washes out. That was first futility. The onscreen information could not be read when we first arrived at 1645. Any phone operations had to be performed in the shade or in CarPlay. You can avoid this by using the in-vehicle Android Auto or Apple CarPlay display.

Second, Session Setup Instructions are Wrong

The EA how to charge video is flat out wrong. The instructions on the dispenser are flat out wrong. The dispenser asks you to connect the car first. Connecting the charger to the car begins a 45 second timeout in which to complete customer identification procedures. That timeout will get you every time so a different procedure is required than that in the EA literature, videos, and on-device instructions.

In our case, we tripped the timeout. The charger would not charge the vehicle. The vehicle would not talk to the charger. And the cable wouldn’t unlock. So we couldn’t get disengaged to have a second go.

This took a call to EA support. And 25 minutes of delightful music on hold. Once connected we were told of the secret key fob dance that would convince the ID.4 to unlatch the charge connector.

Had I known the secret unlocking handshake, the wrong EA instructions would have me in hell. And a first charge always requires assistance because UI design is bad and instructions are wrong. EA spends about 20 minutes assisting each first time charge session user. During high travel periods, their support staff is saturated.

High Call Rates Indicate Bad Design?

You’d think. After 2 years, EA and VW would figure out that high call rates indicated a bad UI/UX (user interface and user experience) design. One that is costing EA money because it takes about 20 minutes to get a new customer through all of the gaffs in the UI design, errors in EA-produced tutorials and help screens, etc. Apparently they are slow on the uptake or they contracted out app development and have no organic talent to maintain mission critical software or make correct instructional videos..

YouTube to the Rescue

Two road tripping camping retirees have put together a very un-sexy but accurate, Sargent Friday, just the facts video that demonstrates how to use the EA app to arrive at a charging station and initiate a session. It is a very different procedure than the one EA shows. It is complete. It is accurate. Well when I viewed it, it was. Software 3 is coming so it may be OBE before long. Lets hope so. VW has made a great car that is suffering for this.

The presenters stress that sessions setup should be completed without leaving the vehicle until the tap to pay step. It is hot and nasty, rainy and nasty, and EA put black rubber curb blocks on black tarmac as a trip hazard. The charge cable leads you right into them. Don’t EA lawyers ever use EA chargers?

So stay in the vehicle and do all the app preliminaries using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay with the EA App. The video shows all the steps and screen changes in sequence. Watching it is highly recommended.

Once you have arrived things go generally as follows. This being software, EA and VW are free to “enhance” it at any point so you may be in for a surprise.

  1. Before you set out on the voyage leg to the charge site, open the EA App, find the charge site, and send directions from the EA app to the phone’s navigation app. This will set up the navigator for the voyage leg to the charging location. It will also select the charging location on the EA App map saving a lot of futile finger poking.
  2. Start Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on the vehicle binnacle display and select the navigation app. Follow the route to the charge site.
  3. After arriving, select a stall and park with the charge port end of your vehicle nearest the charger, switch from the navigation app back to the EA App on the vehicle display.
  4. On the EA App, confirm that the charge site is selected (available chargers number appears). You may need to fiddle some to get an icon change from a pin to x/n available indication.
  5. Once you have the site icon change, scroll the text pane below the map to the charging stall you are in and select it. If there is a choice of left or right cables, make it.
  6. Once choices are complete, dismount and tap your mobile to the near field antenna panel on the charger. The app and charger will exchange credentials. Watch out for that curb block. You can’t see it as it is flat black.
  7. After a bit, the charger will show customer and session info. Once you have this screen, connect the charger to the car.
  8. Car and charger will chat about charge session details and car charging capabilities.
  9. Once car and charger have communicated, operate the slide to start device on the EA App. In about a minute, the session will begin.
  10. Once charging has started, keep the app open and an eye on it as EA is known to interrupt sessions just because … and the session will need to be restarted.

Some Things EA Can Improve

  • The rubber curb blocks are a trip hazard. White ones would be much more visible.
  • The App should be able to use GPS coordinates from location services to correctly pick the charge site where the vehicle is located. It would be simple to ask the user to confirm that the app got it right.
  • Would the app work better in landscape mode? Stacking the map and the list makes it harder to use both. Having them side by side may fix this issue.
  • Build accurate instructions into the app and make it possible to review them before setting out. Maybe tab UI for introduction to charging, select charge site, and start session. Untangle this stuff.
  • Follow a state transition model in handshaking with the charger so app and charger stay in sync.
  • Is it possible to identify the customer by the credential exchange over the near field? This would eliminate the need to select the charger and port in the app.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.