General Motors is partnering with 7 electric car charging networks to make sure the people who buy its EVs will be able to find a place to plug them in no matter where they go. An updated GM owners app will show available charging locations from Blink, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots, and SemaConnect. The Ultium Charge 360 plan is designed to simplify the access, payment and customer service components of charging an electric vehicle at home and on the road, says TechCrunch. [Notice that Electrify America is not one of the participating companies.]
Speaking to the press this week, Travis Hester, GM’s chief EV officer, said “GM agrees with the customer need for a robust charging experience that makes the transition to an EV seamless and helps drive mass adoption. As we launch 30 EVs globally by the end of 2025, Ultium Charge 360 simplifies and improves the at-home charging experience and the public charging experience — whether it’s community-based or road-trip charging. We know how critical the charging infrastructure is to our customers and how it plays a hugely significant role in EV adoption and experienced EV owners know that this is much more complicated than just a simple network quantity issue.”
Using the GM mobile app, EV drivers will be able to see real-time information about nearly 60,000 charging locations across the US including where they are located and whether they are in use. The first GM and EVgo sites are now live in Washington, California and Florida. GM said each site is capable of delivering up to 350 kilowatts and averages four chargers per site. GM and EVgo are on track to have about 500 fast-charging stalls live by the end of 2021, according to the company. In addition, in collaboration with Qmerit, GM will cover the cost for the standard installation of a Level 2 charger for eligible customers who purchase or lease a 2022 Bolt EUV or Bolt EV.
One thing the GM announcement did not talk about is whether the Ultium 360 platform will support Plug and Charge technology. Plug and Charge allows a vehicle to communicate with the charging infrastructure and take care of billing seamlessly in the background. Alex Keros, the lead architect for EV infrastructure at GM, told TechCrunch the company wasn’t making any announcements around Plug and Charge, but did say the company knows “that enabling that seamless experience is going to be an important part of that customer experience.” It sounds like Plug and Charge is on the way, but not quite here yet.
According to Forbes, Ford has partnered with Electrify America and GreenLots to make charging available to its electric vehicle customers and it includes Plug and Charge capability, at least on the EA network. But customers report the system is often plagued by bugs that make the charging experience more dramatic than it should be.
Range Anxiety Is No Mystery
Why do people spend so much time worrying about where to recharge their electric car? Let’s do a little role reversal experiment. Imagine you are driving around in your much loved Belchfire 5000. The needle on your gas gauge is getting very close to E, you are in a strange neighborhood, there are no gas stations around, and you are a long way from home. Uh oh. Holy anxiety, Batman!
Remember that fear of the unknown is often worse than the unknown itself. Many people have never driven an electric car and have no idea how to charge one. They don’t understand the convenience of plugging in each night and waking up to a battery that has ample charge for their typical driving needs. But cars aren’t just used for around town driving. Sometimes we need to wander far away from our local community. How will we find a charger? How long will it take to charge when we find one? And how much will it cost?
Any professional salesperson will tell you that people who have questions seldom become buyers. The salesperson’s job is to flush out those questions and provide answers that reassure the customers. That’s when sales get made (and commissions earned). Kudos to GM for recognizing the need to allay the fears of prospective EV customers. Otherwise they can build all the electric vehicles they want but few will want to buy them.
Why Do Some People Go Back To Conventional Cars?
Researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis did a survey recently of EV drivers in California and found about 20% went back to driving a conventional car. That statistic may shock you, especially if you are a regular reader of CleanTechnica. But there is an explanation. The rate among Tesla owners is virtually nil. The rate among Fiat 500e drivers is high. Translation? People don’t want to drive a crappy car. Remember the former CEO of FCA begged people not to buy the 500e. Elon Musk has been asking other manufacturers to make “compelling electric cars.” Those early Fiats failed the test with predictable results.
We will know the EV revolution has truly arrived when onboard apps show the location of available chargers, recommend where to stop in order to reach a destination, and bill the cost directly to an online account so all we have to do is plug in, charge up, and get back on the road. That day is coming. Maybe someday, all electric cars will use the same plug. Naaahh, that’s too much to hope for.