Designing a premium experience for EV owners
People are ready to buy an Electric Vehicle (EV) based on the new developments in battery tech, but there are still technological barriers to EV adoption. Electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) crosses all barriers, whether you’ve positioned yourself as an EV manufacturer, charge point (CP) operator, or a company providing e-mobility services. You can make transitioning easier by being attentive to future requirements.
What you should consider:
- Ability to plug in/overall compatibility — Possibly except for fleet operators, every Charge Point operator will adopt the OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol), or the ISO 15118 standard. This will mean an improved EV user experience for every electric vehicle user because every CP will be available. This will provide the much-vaunted Seamless Plug-n-Charge, where the car self-identifies and provides its electric vehicle data in a completely secure fashion. The driver only needs to plug in and can then walk away. It will handle all the billing and accounting, with no further interaction on the client’s part.
- Accurate EV charge state reporting — Even though the majority of electric car owners never approach the limit of their range, it still factors in at 20% of overall satisfaction with their EV user experience when the estimates accurately reflect the practical range. Modern electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) tells us to only charge when necessary, extending battery life—and not to do it every time you park the car. Estimating software should “learn” the driver’s habits over time to enhance the accuracy of reporting. It should also support multifaceted information such as 400 miles with A/C; 625 miles without, to reflect the prevailing conditions. Smart apps must provide information at a glance, not buried three layers deep in menus. What’s more, range “up front” should inform if charging is necessary for a given trip.
- Stellar customer support — The electric vehicle experience will get easier and more efficient with time. Early adopters are genuine experts now, flying seamlessly through the system. Still, newer buyers of EVs are struggling with their EV experience. Just when they think they have it all figured out, they have to charge at a new location and all the protocols are different and confusing. Customer support must be available to answer customer questions and solve problems immediately. Dealing with an expired payment method, a misplaced charging key, or an unreadable QR-Code all have to be “easy fixes” for the customer. To ease the experience, many CP operators will charge the car for free while on the phone with the customer as they sort out the difficulty. The cost is trivial and reinforces customer loyalty.
These are just three of the tips we’ve put together in our piece on designing an excellent experience for EV car owners. Be sure to give it a read!
Designing a frictionless EV charging experience
Customers like “easy”; they like “simple”. Most importantly, they despise anything that is unnecessarily complex or “mysterious”. If you design apps, give them information that is relevant to them. Make sure your system can handle charging in different countries and different currencies. If you run a CP, have it well-lit, well-signed, and make sure it’s not confusing during a downpour at midnight. Simply, don’t overlook “the obvious”.
Make sure you offer a fast charging speed
Some EVs can only manage Level One charging so you’ll have to provide for that. Meanwhile, most CPs will focus on Level Two and Level Three chargers for the sheer efficiency of getting customers in and out quickly.
Level 1 offers slow charging of ~1.4 kW/hour, taking up to 40 hours (spread over several days) to reach full charge. Level 2 is a 240-volt charger that provides between 3 and 20 kW/hour (usually 6) providing 20-25 miles of range in just an hour.
Finally, Level 3 electric car chargers, aka DC chargers, can bring a battery up to 80% charge in just 30 minutes. They can manage up to 50 kW/h, though in some cases, just 20kW.
Enabling in-car payments
The future is the ISO 15118 payment standard, or OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol). The car securely self-identifies either through the electrical connection or by Bluetooth with the CP. Using such a connection gets the session underway quickly—just what a customer is looking for.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards are a popular solution that identifies the user to a specific network. Similarly, QR codes on charging stations can be used by smartphone owners, even if they don’t have an account. Just provide a payment method, and the session is ready to go.
Nearly every smartphone has NFC (Near Field Communication) that allows one to tap it on the terminal, just like an ATM card or credit card.
Provide plug and charge
For clients it should be easy to establish identity. E-roaming, when successfully executed, will become a “charge anywhere” experience. It should be unaffected by locale, or even country. Fleet operators could pay what amounts to a 20% increase in operational cost to them if a VAT credit is unavailable in some places. Coordination is essential.
CPOs stand to improve the utilization of their electric vehicle systems charging network when they integrate fully with others to provide a reliable experience for consumers. It’s all about consistency!
What the customer should see for a “charge outside of their network” is simply a line item on the monthly bill showing the time, place, and amount. They should not receive multiple bills from different providers, which can increase the chance of erroneous duplication of charges.
If you’re hungry for more tips, please take a look at our dedicated piece on improving the electric vehicle charging experience.
The key challenges for EV charging networks
The ability to charge is not lagging demand by much. EV owners must sometimes plan thoughtfully for longer trips but it is manageable. More government and private investment will make CPs accessible to rural or long-distance travelers, as well as urban dwellers.
Poor charging infrastructure
Setting up a charging network with installation costs from $2,500 for a slow charger to $35,800 for a fast charger is costly. This obliges a set of agreements between grid operators, charging manufacturers, and land owners.
Urban will be easiest to service, of course. Yet, rural is important as EVs gain more traction with the public. Charging availability is a major factor when owners are looking at buying electric cars, with some not confident in the way the network is set up. Rural areas are badly serviced when it comes to charging infrastructure. This space needs heavy investment to allow poorer communities access to EV charging. Installing midway chargers and overnight chargers will be a step in the right direction.
Power issues while charging
Long-commute business or holiday customers use rapid chargers at service stations for on-route charging. They need a reliably-fast charging speed which consumes a lot of power. Managing the grid at peak times is one of the major challenges for power companies; installing chargers complicates this headache.
Ideally, plugging in for 10-20 minutes whilst grabbing a coffee would have the highest efficiency and lowest impact on the grid. However, it’s the local infrastructure that dictates how much power can be delivered. Some modern EVs can charge at 300 kW but most chargers don’t utilize full speed for long to avoid overheating the battery. Limitations may be power delivery from the grid, or the charger itself overheating from running at peak power for too long.
The balance between rapid charge points vs. on-street units
Studies have shown that homeowners typically will charge overnight at their place of residence. However, not all homes have off-street parking and thus have no charger available. Apartment dwellers have a similar problem. Street chargers will be part of the solution.
The UK government has provided a £950 million fund to provide at least 6,000 high-powered charge stations across England’s motorways and major A-roads by 2035. Over 250 chargers have opened up in just 30 days to emphasize their commitment to current EV challenges.
Facing issues such as power delivery in remote areas, Richard Bruce of the U.K.’s Department for Transport (DfT) stated “[there] is an issue about getting enough juice into remote areas and if you need to open up the grid connection to it, that is quite expensive.”
Take a look at our article on EV challenges to find out what the remaining issues are.
Requirements for EV battery management systems
An electric vehicle battery pack is actually hundreds (or thousands) of individual cells wired together, in banks of series and parallel connections. This allows them to coordinate to produce the level of current and voltage required to operate an electric vehicle.
There are many variables that must be managed such as charge, discharge, temperature, cooling, balancing, status, and supplying power to external objects such as the electrical grid, or as an emergency backup for a home that loses power.
When it comes to EVs, battery management systems have six elements.
We discuss each of these elements in detail in our dedicated article on EV battery management systems.
Scaling the Worldwide EV ecosystem to meet the demand
Governments often steer the strategy for EV charging systems through control of available real estate, financing, and the ability to connect to the local power grid. The growth of the EV industry will require investment near the half trillion dollar mark from both government and private sources.
Managing CP deployment with thoughtful investments will save costs. Governments also need to promote the second-hand EV industry and battery recycling strategies.
Better real-estate access and regulatory support
Government requirements must be the priority since they have the final word in many areas related to EVs, such as permitted real estate for development, and local power availability. With proper design, the growing charging network can cope with increased pressures.
In the Global Infrastructure Initiative report, Giovanni Palazzo suggests that main highways and dense urban areas should be the focus of EV charging networks. Governments should see to it that rural areas are not overlooked.
Emphasizing second-hand EV vehicles
Governments should step in to encourage potential owners to buy used EVs. They should also support car sharing to reduce the demand for electric vehicle charging stations as the network is being built out. Grants or tax breaks could come in if used EVs are purchased, or if existing owners car-share. Work commuting, and/or renting their EVs out to others when not in use, will inherently reduce demand.
New more efficient vehicles are welcome, especially with upcoming battery designs. Sustaining older EVs supports the sustainable approach toward raw material extraction of lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
More private-public investment
President of the e-mobility division of ABB, Frank Mühlon, says that integrating an electric vehicle infrastructure strategy that meets demand will require an estimated $500 billion in public and private investment. Commercial transport that carries high loads and transports large numbers of passengers, for long distances, will be the major focus of this cash injection. More investment and commitments from private organizations and governments means the sooner the EV charging strategy can meet demand.
How to effectively handle billing & payments for EV stations
The system won’t work if governments, CP operators, and vehicle manufacturers do not cooperate. Each has a role in implementing the OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol), or the ISO 15118 standard. Obtaining consistency in pricing and information flow is essential.
Consumers want consistency
When it comes to EV charging pricing models, there isn’t much clarity. The same number of kWh could cost $7 in most of Nevada, but $14 in Las Vegas. It could cost €9 in Munich at midnight, €13 in Paris at noon, and £11 in London all day long. Customers understand that it can vary due to time, high peak usage, and off- or mid-peak rates. National regulations often limit what providers are capable of accomplishing.
By getting the right information to consumers drivers have a better grasp of costs. Rather than hoping they won’t be outraged when they open their monthly billing, they’re beginning to be able to confidently calculate the cost of ownership.
Differentiate pricing based on customer priority for the same location
Providing a standard rate for transient EV users is expected. Reduced tariffs for “members”, night rates, parking-without-charging rates, and even family or neighborhood charging plans are acceptable strategies.
You can offer private and public fleet rates, special rates just for employees, and so on. You might offer lower tariffs for apartment dwellers that don’t have access to “home charging” options. You might strike a deal with a nearby convention center for discount charging when their participants possess a QR code.
Ensuring cross-border authentication for payment
Crossing a border shouldn’t prevent an owner from charging their EV. It should be as simple as buying fuel for a traditional vehicle. Many people live in one province or state and work in a different one. Some even live and work in different countries. The EV charging providers need to cooperate to integrate the ability to obtain power seamlessly wherever the owner happens to be, without needing to fall back to a cash-only position.
To learn more about handling billing & payments for EV stations, check out our dedicated article on this subject.
Best EV Charging Apps
Below are some of the more note-worthy apps that help CPOs and EV drivers handle payment. They come particularly as a blessing, given that there’s still a long way ahead of making ISO 15118 an all-encompassing, standardized system.
Poweric is a customizable white-label solution that you can tailor to your company’s needs. This approach to development is possible thanks to the use of dedicated modules. Items like ‘charge point operator’ and ‘e-mobility service provider’ let you launch, manage, and grow your EV charging network as quickly as possible.
Adding microservices, OCPP protocol, and EV roaming, are easy—and suddenly you’ve got a customized, unique app that works for you. Sample microservices include:
- Monitoring the amount of energy you’ve sold (consumed) per station
- Receiving real-time technical and hardware issue alerts on your equipment.
All of this combined allows you to offer your network users the very best experience possible which will help you succeed in the long run.
EVEnergy is another example of an EV charging management software solution. It features separate modules for either EV owners or EV businesses. By coordinating electric vehicle data, EVEnergy takes a minimalistic approach to displaying everything. From total energy usage over various time scales to showing the impact of the driver’s behavior, including such things as predicted carbon emission and the amount of money they’ve saved.
Real-time costs of charging eliminate anxiety about actual costs. This is what EVEnergy is best known for. They have a unique program that rewards users when they smart-charge their car (using only the energy they need).
Another great way to approach developing the best EV charging app is to provide a loyalty reward program. It keeps people using your app, and it also encourages best practices like smart charging.
As the name suggests, this app enables you to locate hotels with EV charging stations or nearby charging stations local to your desired accommodation. You may search for a specific charger and the distance to a public charging station if one isn’t available on-site. If desired it can find restaurants nearby, too.
Electric vehicle systems are treading the path to a brighter, greener future
Governments should mandate rural development as part of any financial help for CP developers—that should be part of the cost of doing business. They should coordinate amongst countries to make sure the experience is as consistent as possible, and not impeded by borders.
EVs are inevitable. Makers of electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE, must coordinate their electric vehicle systems to provide their electric vehicle data in a useful way across the entire system. The best way to do that is with the OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol), aka ISO 15118 standard.
Manufacturers need to get on board providing secure communication and status reporting from car to CP intrinsically through charge cables or Bluetooth. CP developers must include the protocol in their entire system. App developers need to support all the available options until a reliable system is in place, and support peculiar out-of-network instances of non-typical charging.
Plugging in and seamlessly charging anywhere and knowing the cost before you start is essential to a good client experience. Expanding the system in thoughtful, logical steps is necessary, too, providing service to all but the most remote locations.