You’ll need to install two types of apps after buying an electric car. First is an app to find charging stations. Once you arrive at these stations, you may be surprised to find that you’ll need another app in order to start charging.
Here are some of each type to consider as you decide which will help you keep your electric car on the road.
Apps for Finding Charging Stations
When you switch to an electric vehicle, you have to change the way you think of fueling up. Unless you live in an apartment building, your home will become your primary “gas station,” so to speak. It’s likely to provide most of the energy you need.
But for longer trips or more hectic days around town, you may need to find a charging station. These aren’t as common as gas stations, nor are they as easy to spot from the road.
Google Maps can point you in the direction of a charging station, but it doesn’t provide many details. That’s why you want an app that helps you find the nearest charging stations, regardless of which business maintains them. These apps also give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive.
PlugShare shows the location of charging stations in countries all over the world. You can filter PlugShare to show important details like what kind of plugs each station supports.
Cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Kia Niro EV both use the same plug for Level 1 and 2 charging (J-1772), but they support different standards for Level 3 fast charging (CHAdeMO and CCS respectively). Meanwhile, all Tesla vehicles in the US use the company’s own proprietary standard (but CCS in other parts of the world).
As a social network, the size and engagement of the community are everything. PlugShare’s community is mature, so stations often come with detailed location descriptions, photos, and available amenities while charging, such as public Wi-Fi, restaurants, and restrooms.
And if a charger is currently down, there’s a decent shot someone else has already encountered it on PlugShare and left a comment.
2. A Better Routeplanner
When you switch to an EV, you need to change the way you approach road trips. Charging stations aren’t yet as plentiful as gas stations. You may need to adjust your route in order to account for where those available chargers are. When you get to those chargers, you will also need to account for how long it will take to charge, which can vary based on both your charger and your vehicle.
A Better Routeplanner is the app for the job. ABRP will route out your trip, but it will also tell you where available chargers are along the way. You can tell the app which vehicle you’re driving, so it knows which chargers are compatible and how to give you accurate charge times.
You can even tell the app that you aren’t just driving a 2018 Chevy Bolt, but one with an upgraded battery. The number of parameters you can set is almost staggering, such as temperature and elevation, along with your starting charge and whether you’re willing to reduce your max speed to reach your destination.
Apps for Charging Up Your Car
Many fast chargers are part of a network. To use them, you often need to download an app and create an account rather than insert a credit card.
The apps below are a sample of the networks you are likely to encounter in the United States. Each lets you find chargers on the same network, track your usage, and manage payments. Since not all of these companies are global, your options will vary if you live elsewhere.
1. Electrify America
Electrify America is the network with the largest number of chargers along the interstate highway, and it provides the fastest charging speeds.
The network already has chargers capable of charging at over 300kW even though most electric vehicles can’t currently reach those speeds. If you buy an EV that can potentially restore 70% of its charge in under 20 minutes, you’re most likely to achieve that time if you stop at an Electrify America station.
Each Electrify America station accepts credit card payments, but there are perks to using the app. It can tell you where stations are located and inform you ahead of time if any chargers are currently out of order. There is also a membership program that can offer some savings for people who need to charge often.
EVgo currently has the largest DC fast charging network in the US. Speeds aren’t as quick as Electrify America stations, but you’re more likely to encounter EVgo chargers around town. With speeds of around 50kW+, stations can provide plenty of juice in under an hour. This is ideal if there’s a charger near a grocery store or restaurant. Even on a road trip, an EVgo station isn’t bad if you need to eat, and they’re a good backup if there aren’t any Electrify America stations en route.
As for the app itself, you have the ability to locate charging stations and see which are currently available for use. You can also see the charging speeds available at your chosen station. After all, some stations are able to offer speeds comparable to Electrify America. While charging, you can use the app to keep tabs on your vehicle’s current state of charge.
ChargePoint offers the largest level 2 charging network in North America. The app relies on NFC, so you tap your phone against a charging station to start charging. The app doesn’t need to be open to initiate the process.
ChargePoint shows how long your car has charged, how much power it’s received, an estimate of the miles gained, and the cost (for stations that aren’t free). This app is also how you control a ChargePoint home charging station, if you choose to buy one. It lets you see when your car is charging, remotely start a charge, and set timers.
As with other apps, ChargePoint will also help you find available chargers and their available speeds. A minority of ChargePoint stations do offer DC fast charging, so you can’t necessarily rule out having to pull this app out on a road trip.
Drive With Peace of Mind
The five apps above are great for any EV driver in the US to have in their pocket. With newer vehicles, range anxiety is much more of a rarity, but you still need to plan out longer trips before you hit the road.
Might you encounter other charging networks that push you to download other apps? Sure. Different parts of the country and the world have different charging networks, and many don’t allow you to swipe a credit card. Which ones you encounter, and which apps you will need, will vary depending on where you live.