Posted 07.4.2013 in Articles
Finding a charge station for an EV is usually really easy. Go out to your garage, pick up the coupler and plug it in. But for those infrequent occasions when you need to charge up during the day as you're out and about running errands, locating a charger takes more than just looking toward the nearest main intersection. Fortunately, there's an app for that.
There are a handful of EV charging station apps available and the market is split between commercial public charging networks and third party apps. Charging networks such as ChargePoint and Blink have their own apps with information available about their networks such as whether a charger is in use. Third party apps such as PlugShare and CarStations list stations on major networks and individual operators. How do the apps stack up against each other?
The ChargePoint app allows EV drivers to locate and see information about any electric vehicle charging station. ChargePoint lists thousands of public charging stations, giving drivers the options of an updated “list view” to see exactly how far a destination is, convenient payment options, and 24x7 driver support. A nice feature that ChargePoint offers is its ability to mark certain charing locations as a favorite. This allows users to see if a favorite charging station is already in use.
Two of the most useful tools that ChargePoint offers is its “trip mapping,” allowing for a user to plan a trip route and flag charging stations along the way, and the “charging status” which lets you remotely keep track of your charging status right from the app. To use all of the tools and resources ChargePoint offers, the company requires you register and pay for a membership. Without a membership, the user is limited to locating the closest charging stations.
The other major national charging network, Blink, allows its app users to locate all available Blink charges in North America. The app only displays chargers on the Blink network, but is one of the most detailed EV charging station location apps available. Blink Mobile's map interface shows how many available chargers at the top of each pin for the charging stations. The charging station information Blink Mobile displays include type of chargers, detailed charging costs, how many chargers total and open chargers are available, charging status, and the hours of operations for the charging station.
PlugShare takes a different tack. A third-party crowd-sourced information application, PlugShare's value-add is that it represents the community of EV owners, and even includes private residences and businesses that are available to fellow EV drivers who need a quick fill to get back home or to a another charge point. PlugShare lists over 15,000 stations in North America. The map includes chargers from all of the major charging networks; ChargePoint, Blink, GE WattStation, and SemaCharge. PlugShare's station info profiles are the best of the mobil apps, displaying a photo of the location of the charge station, a map of the charging station, types of plugs, access, cost, reviews, and the options to bookmark and set alerts for the specific charging station. A big plus for PlugShare is its interface with the Apple Maps app, automatically redirecting users to the Maps app for directions to the selected charger stations.
Another third party app, CarStations, also relies on crowd-sourced reports about station status and info, but doesn't include member residential listings.
Since not all apps list all stations, I have all four loaded on my iphone just in case.