Fact Check: Photo Shows Privately Constructed EV Charger In Australia, Botches Math On Efficiency – USA TODAY

The claim: An image shows widely distributed, inefficient EV charging stationElectric vehicle (EV) charging stations are proliferating in the United States. This month a coalition of electric companies announced plans to further increase EV charging infrastructure by building “fast charging ports that will allow the public to drive EVs with confidence along major U.S. travel corridors by the end of 2023,” according to an Edison Electric Institute press release.

But some are expressing doubts about the efficiency of electric cars, which is the focus of an image circulating on social media. 

“This is a picture of a electric car charging station Which are popping up everywhere,” read a Dec. 2 Facebook post.

The post was shared more than 700 times in five days, but it was also screenshotted and shared again, accumulating more than 6,000 interactions in one Twitter post and another 6,000 shares in a version reposted to Facebook.  

The post details the alleged specifications of the unit before concluding that it provides EV users with the equivalent of 5.6 miles per gallon of diesel.

But it’s wrong on multiple counts.

The posted image actually shows a diesel charging station that was created by a retired mechanical engineer for use in rural Australia. There are only three such units in existence, and they provide EV users with more than 50 mpg. 

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook and Twitter users who shared the post for comment.

EV charger is private project for use in rural areas that lack infrastructureThe claim that this unit is being implemented widely came from a Facebook user listing a New Jersey residence, but the unit is only used in a limited capacity – and on the other side of the world.

“There are only three of these units in Australia,” Jon Edwards, a retired mechanical engineer who created the charging unit, told USA TODAY in an email. “They are not popping up everywhere.”

Edwards said he got the idea to create a diesel-powered EV charging unit while driving his electric car across the Nullarbor in Australia, an expansive area with inadequate fast-charging EV infrastructure. 

“Once back at home in Perth, I built one,” he said 

He said the picture in the Facebook post shows the first unit he built set up at his home in Perth, Australia, in 2018. His BMW i3s is shown being charged. 

Edwards has since created two more units and converted all of them to be able to run on vegetable oil waste in addition to regular diesel. He said his original unit has been moved to a workshop space in Perth. Another unit is located in Jurien Bay, Australia and the third is to be set up in Caiguna, Australia. 

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The units are intended to “provide EV fast charging in remote off-grid locations with inadequate power supply,” said Edwards.

Australian charger much more efficient than post claimsIn addition to misrepresenting the scope of Edwards’ EV charger, the social media post provides incorrect specifications. It significantly understates miles per gallon of fuel provided by the unit. 

While the post describes the EV charger as providing 5.6 miles per gallon of diesel, Edwards said it actually provides more than 50 mpg.

The post says the unit has a 350KW generator, uses 12 gallons of diesel per hour, and requires three hours to charge the vehicle in the photo. The vehicle can then travel for 200 miles, the post claims.

Edwards said the unit in the photograph actually has a 60KW generator that uses less than 4 gallons of fuel per hour. He said it took about 45 minutes to charge the BMW i3s shown in the picture, which could then travel 125 miles.

The other two units Edwards made have slightly different specifications, including a larger generator. The largest of the three is an 88KW generator. However, Edwards said this does not affect fuel efficiency.  

The unit in the picture was tested by Edwards and members of the Tesla Owners Club Western Australia, who posted the results on their website in 2018. Edwards said projected values were recorded on the webpage, whereas the data he provided to USA TODAY are closer to actual values. 

The vegetable oil version was recently tested and has similar specifications to the traditional diesel version. 

“When the unit is running on waste vegetable oil, testing has shown it produces 90% of the energy for the equivalent volume of diesel,” said Edwards.

Edwards’ creation was covered by an Australian EV news and analysis website in 2018.    

While the picture in the social media post shows Edwards’ Australian invention, diesel-powered EV charging stations are available in the U.S.

For instance, Larson Electronics both leases and sells portable diesel EV charging units, Rob Bresnahan, a salesperson at Larson Electronics, told USA TODAY in an email. These are intended for areas with inadequate power or to help gas station owners gauge local interest in EV charging before investing in a permanent unit.

Bresnahan says the company has distributed less than 100 units in the U.S. Fuel efficiency estimates were not immediately available. However, the unit’s specifications indicate that it provides up to 250 miles of range per hour of charging. 

False claims about EV charging stations have previously proliferated on social media.  

PolitiFact debunked a Facebook post that wrongly claimed an EV charging system in Texas was diesel-powered and inefficient. This post’s caption was nearly identical to the post referencing the Australian charger, but included a different image. 

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USA TODAY also debunked an image said to show a diesel-powered generator charging an electric car. The image actually showed a battery-powered mobile charging unit used to provide roadside assistance to electric vehicles.

Our rating: FalseBased on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an image posted on social media shows a widely distributed, inefficient EV charging station. The charging units, which now can run on biofuel, provide more than 50 mpg– about 10 times the amount claimed in the post. And this particular model is not widespread as the post asserts, as it is one of just three created by an EV owner for rural areas in Australia.

Our fact-check sources:Jon Edwards, Dec. 7-10, Email exchange with USA TODAYAssociated Press, July 13, Electric vehicle charging company Electrify America to double number of EV chargersUSA TODAY, Oct 26, General Motors gives its U.S. dealers 40,000 EV charging outlets for public useReuters, Nov. 8, Australia bumps up investment in EV chargers, shuns sales targetsInfrastructure Australia, accessed Dec. 7, National highway electric vehicle fast chargingUSA TODAY, Dec 22, 2020, Fact check: Viral image falsely claims diesel generator is charging an electric carTesla Owners Club Western Australia, Dec. 11, 2018, EV charging with diesel powered ChargePod skid – a solution for locations with inadequate powerThe Driven, Dec 14, 2018, Using diesel to charge EVs in the outback is greener than you thinkThe Driven, Jan. 15, How biodiesel EV chargers could connect remote locationsChuffed.org, accessed Dec. 8, The Big Lap has gaps. Let’s plug this gap to unite the NationEdison Electric Institute, Dec. 7, Electric companies join together to form national electric highway coalitionPolitifact, July 20, Fact-check: No, this Round Rock car charging station isn’t diesel-poweredThomas Braunl, Dec. 9, Email exchange with USA TODAYRob Bresnahan, Dec. 8-9, Email exchange with USA TODAYLarson Electronics, accessed Dec. 10, Temporary Electric Vehicle Charging Station w/Diesel GeneratorThank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.