EV Connect CEO, Jordan Ramer, has led finance, business, and product strategy at companies in clean energy, transportation, and efficiency.
EVs currently make up less than 2% of all car and truck sales in the U.S., but automakers such as Toyota, Ford, GM and others are investing tens of billions of dollars into new EV models projected to hit dealer lots by 2025. By 2030 (registration required), studies indicate that as many as one-third of all cars on the road will use electricity as fuel. Concurrent to these market forces, transportation electrification policies, carbon and emissions mandates and public sector investments provide critical tailwinds for the proliferation of EVs.
While the move to a greener future with EVs is underway, we are all still in the midst of a steep learning curve. As the number of EVs continues to grow, so too must the number of charging stations, the amount of energy needed to sustain those charging stations and the ability to manage many new complexities. At the same time, businesses in the EV sector cannot lose sight of delivering an excellent EV driver experience, which is critical to driving the broad adoption of EVs. A high-quality driver experience means that drivers can charge quickly, conveniently and reliably, and delivering this experience is contingent on coordination between many entities. It’s a lot to keep track of!
The road to transportation electrification has been bumpy for some EV drivers. In a recent survey, 1 in 5 electric vehicle drivers stated they were ready to switch back to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. The most often cited reason for this sentiment was a high level of dissatisfaction with the inconvenience of charging.
Not only is the quality of the EV charging experience still less than ideal for too many drivers, but the number of available charging stations also is not keeping up with the number of EVs on the road. As EV adoption and sales ramp up, the charging experience must keep up with the charging management technology evolution. For example, this means that drivers should have access to the charging level information to match their vehicles. Providing transparent and predictable charging times and clarity on pricing could increase satisfaction, but these things depend significantly on sophisticated software that can manage many disparate and dynamic data types.
Before someone’s EV’s battery is empty, a charging app could locate functioning charging stations nearby that are available for use. When more charging operators install more charging stations, drivers benefit from the interoperability that requires competitors to collaborate. This interoperability means that more charging stations are available to more drivers more frequently, and interoperability agreements are invaluable to growing happy EV drivers.
Furthermore, EV charging smartphone apps could provide visibility into all the information required to complete a charge. One example is GM’s new mobile app in which drivers can find a charger near them, pay for charging sessions and access customer service. Additional features that can improve the EV charging experience include information about payment options, charging rates, pricing and more. (Full disclosure, my company is a part of this GM project agreement, along with six others.)
To provide this kind of deep insight into EV charging and allow for the integration of new data sets in the future, platforms must be built to be flexible enough to anticipate the addition of new data paths, new models for data exchange and new modes of data analytics. Simply put, because data can increase transparency, improve strategy, grow the profitability of the EV charging business and maintain driver satisfaction, I believe it is the backbone of the electric vehicle ecosystem.
The transition to EVs at a mass scale requires an ambitious rethinking of the entire vehicle fueling value chain. The petrochemical fueling mindset and infrastructure will not work for EV charging. The many bits of information moving in the background must do so smartly and quickly. Consider a dining experience during peak hours; the back of the house can be frenetic, but the front of the house should be an easy and delightful experience for guests. EV charging needs to be implemented similarly.
EV software companies face the challenge of keeping up with advances in technology and continually anticipating and innovating toward a future-proofed charging infrastructure. Concurrently, EV network operators (and their staff) must be trained on smart management techniques. To satisfy the ultimate customer (the EV driver), EV software must alleviate drivers’ challenges, requiring a great degree of collaboration between all parties involved. To shift away from a market that is still fragmented, roaming agreements through advanced software and among competitors can rapidly increase charging options for today’s EV drivers and tomorrow’s EV adopters.
The consumer experience happens at the charging station (hardware) and is the most visible aspect of EV charging. The majority of the EV charging ecosystem that makes the at-the-pump experience great is all about software and the data services it delivers. Companies in the EV space must remember that big data, rich analytics, data compatibility and connectivity are central to improved EV driver happiness — today and in the long run.