A large proportion of EV drivers are frustrated by the countless RFID cards and user-unfriendly smartphone apps often needed to access public EV charging. ‘Plug & Charge’ (ISO 15118) could soon change this, providing drivers with a simple, stress-free payment process and enabling them to quickly access public charging without needing to have numerous charging accounts. Parkopedia’s Head of EV, Adam Woolway, explains how Plug & Charge should make life easier for drivers and automakers alike.
Cars have changed from being solely hardware that drivers compare through technical features to high-tech products often judged by their software and in-vehicle technology. As a result, usability and features differentiate cars for many 21st-century drivers, with media systems and in-car apps, for instance, being more important than power and performance to a large proportion of motorists.
This is especially true for EVs, as locating suitable chargers and paying for these can be one of the most stressful parts of driving for many people. Range per charge and charging times are two key concerns for EV drivers, but having to rely on countless RFID cards and smartphone apps to top up is an additional worry for many potential EV buyers.
The inconvenience of RFID card reliance
More than a quarter of European EV drivers have to use five or more charging cards, according to a 2022 Shell survey, with 7% of drivers using more than 10. This creates a significant amount of complexity for drivers compared with running a traditional ICE vehicle. The proportion of drivers relying on multiple charge cards also continues to increase each year, instead of decreasing, with 36% of drivers across Europe now using 4+ charge cards - a significant jump on the 2021 figure of 15%.
Adding to the complexity level, EV drivers also need to deal with a variety of charge point types and payment methods, meaning that charging an EV away from home can be a stressful task. As a result, 25% of respondents to the survey “urgently” want Plug & Charge functionality, providing the ability to charge successfully at public chargers without membership, app or RFID card access needed. Furthermore, Plug & Charge is also desirable for governments, with the US administration pushing for Plug & Charge functionality across a newly planned nationwide network of 500,000 chargers. Funding is often conditional upon chargers being non-proprietary and accessible to all EV drivers, and this is the case with the US NEVI program and Germany, who have also made Plug & Charge functionality a prerequisite for receiving government funding.
Drivers seek simplicity and interoperability
The ability to charge without the need for countless RFID cards is important to a large proportion of drivers, with more than a third of drivers across Germany, France, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands saying that interoperability is a top-three priority.
Reinforcing European drivers’ appetite for ease of use, the Shell report found that even those who rely on just one card for charging do so for simplicity - not because that one card gives them access to all the charging they require. Furthermore, this is such an important factor to drivers that nearly two-thirds of respondents with one charge card would be willing to pay a premium for a universally interoperable card. Supporting this, 87% of drivers questioned in a 2020 Zap-Map survey supported the idea of being able to access all public charging points via a single source, while 96% of drivers felt that the option to make contactless payments would simplify the current charging process.
Motorists want automatic charging payments
The Shell report highlights how a large proportion of drivers would prefer card payments, while just as many would ideally like payment to be managed automatically by the vehicle, with the example given being through automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). Drivers in this scenario would not worry about always having the right charge cards to hand, as Plug & Charge functionality provides a viable alternative and can even bypass the need for automatic number plate recognition technology, too.
Plug & Charge enables drivers to plug in and top up their car without having to use an RFID card or phone app and goes a step further, by minimising the time they need to spend outside of the car. Drivers simply plug the charging cable in and can then activate charging and pay from the comfort of their car.
Compatible chargers recognise the car through the charging cable and are able to charge drivers’ accounts directly - saving them time and removing the hassle of needing to sign up for countless charge cards and remembering to carry these when driving.
The US joins the electric charge
Charging networks are growing rapidly across Europe and now in North America with the Biden administration aiming to create a national network of 500,000 chargers, spaced no more than 50 miles apart, across 75,000 miles of highways and interstates, Reuters reports. This plan forms part of the US government’s ambition of ensuring that at least 50% of new cars sold in the USA are electric by 2030.
Helping to ensure easy access - in geographical as well as charging and payment terms - charge points must be sited within a mile of state-designated “electric vehicle corridors”. This will result in the creation of a web of charge point routes, located across the USA’s busiest roads, including more than 3,000 miles of I90, which stretches from Boston to Seattle and routes from Maine to Florida and Washington state to California, enabling EV drivers in the US to travel around the country more efficiently.
Plug & Charge service simplifies the charging process
Plug & Charge involves a specific car being registered to an account (the ‘Mobility Operator’ account), with an associated payment method. Once this is set up, drivers can plug into a compatible charger and the charger can automatically access the authentication details through the car, making use of the ISO15118 international standards to ensure compatibility and data security.
The next development in convenient charging for EV drivers is multi-contract Plug & Charge, which will give drivers the option to retain a number of Mobility Operator accounts in their cars to benefit from loyalty perks, the best value or the most convenient charging networks available. Parkopedia is at the forefront of delivering multi-contract Plug & Charge and plans to make this available in the near future to give EV drivers and automakers the simplicity of Single Sign-On (SSO) across accounts and access to multiple charging accounts, with Parkopedia aggregating these services for drivers.
Thanks to this, drivers will be able to benefit from one consistent user journey, regardless of which provider they use, with Plug & Charge certification and SSO automatically set up for them. It also enables automakers to encourage adoption for drivers to use their in-car services without adding complexity that has previously resulted in negative impressions of a disconnected service.
‘Park and Charge’ service solves EV driver pain points by combining parking and charging data
Parkopedia’s Park and Charge service (not to be confused with ISO15118 Plug & Charge) builds upon this and gives drivers a much greater level of convenience. Park and Charge provides a seamless charging experience, addressing two of the biggest challenges facing EV drivers - finding and paying for parking and charging. Parkopedia has an extensive database of public charger locations and enriches this with the company’s Parking Data and In-Car Payment Platform.
Thanks to this, Parkopedia, as a pioneer of in-car digital parking services can offer a complete user experience for EV drivers, enabling them to easily find and pay for charging and to take advantage of the greater public charging compatibility enabled by Plug & Charge guidelines. Furthermore, Parkopedia reduces the in-house resource needed by OEMs to manage parking, charging and in-car commerce-related tasks for their drivers, acting as the sole interface for some of the most requested driver services.
With EVs still being relatively new to the mass market, automakers that fail to provide a simple and functional public charging process run the risk of giving their customers a negative charging experience, which could ultimately see them lose customers to other brands that better integrate in-car services. In summary, it is not good enough to simply manufacture and sell an EV; drivers expect new EVs to cope with their everyday journey demands, therefore supporting them to find and pay for charging that is convenient and effortless is essential, with Park and Charge addressing this.
Adam leads Parkopedia's EV business globally, covering EV charging data, payments and partnerships for the Park and Charge product.