Article written by André ten Bloemendal, Vice President Commercial Sales Europe, ChargePoint
Remember back, long before the era smart phones, when the height of technology was a Nokia 3310. Mobile phones were a modern marvel, putting the ability to contact the entire world in the palm of your hand, until you tried to explore that world.
Travelling abroad you found yourself in a situation where you would either be shut out of the mobile network completely, or you would run up astronomical bills making a 2-minute call to home, forcing you to go without or to buy a new sim card in every country you visited. Until recently, electric vehicle (EV) charging worked a little like mobile phones used to, asking EV drivers to sign up for additional accounts to charge on different networks or potentially pay additional costs—not fun for anyone.
There’s good news, however: the EV charging game is changing fast with new partnerships that improve the driver experience and create a clear path to mass adoption of EVs. Multiple agreements have recently been signed and are in the process of being so that let EV drivers charge on a number of other charging networks without creating multiple accounts. The concept is simple: charging companies should work together to expand access to charging for EV drivers enabling them to charge when they need to charge and where they need to do so, without incurring additional fees.
Why does this matter? Whilst ongoing developments in battery size, car efficiency and physical charging infrastructure have made huge strides in the past years, the ability to find a charger that is working, not in use and charges a reasonable fee is still an issue in the UK. There are an ever-expanding number of fast and super chargers across the country, but each network does not cover enough ground to make sure no EV driver ever gets stranded.
Just like with mobile phones, agreements such as these, between networks, simplifies the EV charging experience for drivers and expands access to charging to more people—a win-win that will help accelerate EV adoption. Without peer-to-peer agreements between networks, drivers would be stuck creating more accounts or a third party would be utilized, a clearinghouse, that would increase complexity and add additional costs for drivers and businesses. The creation of bilateral agreements not only makes the EV charging experience easier, but ensures that expanded access to charging doesn’t come with additional fees to drivers.
Across Europe, it is now so simple to charge that you can whip out your phone, load up your favourite network app, and you’re sure to find a station nearby you can use. You can tell if it’s available, how much charging will cost you and drive there with complete peace of mind. The best thing about this is that whilst it took decades for roaming to become this seamless and cost free in the mobile industry, with apps such as ChargePoint, you can travel through the whole of Europe and be confident of finding a charge.
Roaming not only simplifies the charging experience and takes away stress and cost for the driver, it also opens up stations to being used by more EVs, making them more attractive propositions for installation and decreasing their payback period. It eradicates the fear of hefty charging bills, and makes owning an EV in the UK breeze: more EV adopters and less air pollution.
Are we fully there yet? Whilst many operators are opening up, more need to work together and agree to share their stations networks. The main charging station operators in North America are already ahead of the game, enabling drivers to charge on each other’s networks in the US and Canada, meaning drivers can cross the continent hassle free.
European networks have also established multiple partnerships, but in the UK, uptake of roaming still needs improvement. Some of the major operators continue to operate in isolated networks that don’t talk to each other, making it difficult for UK drivers, and limiting the great potential of EVs as the vehicle of the future.
Luckily, the UK government’s announcement in February to invest £400m into improving charging infrastructure is a comfort to open network advocates. The investment will ensure the grid can sustain the predicted continual uptake of EV driving and aid in the commitment to making EV charging as accessible as plugging in all electronic devices, such as a mobile phone or a smart watch.
From here, drivers will discover many of the functionalities of EV charging including remote charging via smart devices, real-time energy usage checking and waitlist joining and notifications.
From automakers delivering more EV models, the phasing out of the sale of fuel cars to networks connecting directly to remove obstacles to charging – everyone must play their part for the full transition to electric mobility to become reality.
At ChargePoint we’re passionate about making charging easy – we were among the very first operators to establish roaming partnerships across North America and Europe, joining forces with competitors to accelerating EV adoption and always keeping the EV drivers at the heart of what we do.