Ford has been monitoring EV charging sites to make sure they're working correctly for drivers to use, according to an interview with Darren Palmer.

One example: Soon after the Mach-E launch, Ford noticed its EV had frequent charging failures at one brand of charging station used by one specific network. (Palmer declined to provide specifics.) Ford reached out to the network to troubleshoot and determined the stations needed a software update—which, the network said, was a problem. The stations didn’t have the capacity for over-the-air updates, so a technician had to visit each one, which took months. Worse, those particular stations were inherited from a predecessor network, so the company didn’t actually know where all of them were located.

Palmer’s team brainstormed. Using image-recognition software, they scanned all photos in the Plugshare app of that unnamed network’s hardware to identify the shape and markings of the faulty chargers in order to locate them all. Then Palmer called the network back: “You need to get them fixed, or we’re pulling them out of our app and our EVs’ navigation entirely,” he told them.

The unreliable charging stations were fixed. By last autumn, Palmer said, Ford had reduced the percentage of failed charge attempts by as much as 75 percent.

But Ford hasn’t stopped at merely scanning its vehicle data. Last year, it set up a team of what it calls Charge Angels: EV drivers who simply travel from site to site to test every charging station for proper operation. “It’s how you find that last small percentage,” Palmer said. “The online systems simply aren’t good enough, so let’s get on with it.”