When you’re planning a long US journey in an EV, you need charging station maps that are dependable and informative to help you find stops along your route. You want the security of knowing that you can locate a charger readily and depend on accuracy of information about its availability and function.
What’s out there in 2023 for charging station maps? How can you gauge ease of use? What makes one charging station map better than another?
Crème de la Crème Charger Mapping Techniques
What factors distinguish good charging station maps from mediocre or even faulty ones? Having a high quality map charging station map means:
- The route planning is clear and easy.
- Its purpose should be easy to interpret and understand.
- A scale, legend, and title are key components.
- The information provided should be easily discernable and effective.
- Color contrast helps create distinct visuals.
- It shows data in a very effective and organized way.
- Its sources/metadata should be accurate.
- The map should incorporate appealing symbols to demonstrate clear points of reference.
- Symbols should not be overcrowded, even when suggesting a large geographic range.
- Even with multiple criteria, simple style in EV charging stations mapping works best.
What’s ahead for charging maps? The best charging station maps in the near future will all feature:
- A “plan a trip” section, especially for longer routes that require several charging operations, will be a norm that provides the option to make reservations in advance.
- You’ll input the particularities of the vehicle for that specific trip, in terms of battery status and extra weight, to ensure a greater computation accuracy.
- A “charging stations near me” button will be prominent.
- A “filter” section of the app will allow default stations corresponding options to be set by the user.
- Full details of targeted charging stations will be shown: address, distance to the location, and available connectors.
- Directions to the station can be clicked.
- Buttons will initiate the charging process or the ability to make a reservation.
- Information will appear concerning the charging status and the total number of credits that will be withdrawn from your wallet.
- A message to other users will designate the busy status until the charging is complete.
The Best Charging Maps: 2023
To test out various charging station maps, I used the popular Orlando, Florida, site as a target location. The maps below are listed in a hierarchy from most to least appealing.
ChargeHub: Several important elements were immediately evident: Level 1 Station, Level 2 Station, DCFC (Level 3), Tesla Station, Available, Busy, Offline. A pulldown Filter offered type of Connector: Nema 520 and 1450, CHAdeMO, J1772 and Combo, Tesla), with the ability to Select All or just a particular type (“Tesla”). A toolbar at the top offered several other features like Guides, Store, Mobile App, etc. The road map was easy to follow, with cities and towns noted but no areas of interest, which could have competed with locating chargers.
Google Maps: After I entered in my Orlando intended destination, I needed to add the keywords “EV chargers” to find possibilities. Once that was done, I found the road map to be color-coded clearly with gray and blue geographic features that contrasted with the chargers. The left frame gave the following information for each charger: name, review, website, directions, address, hours of operation, type of connector, and phone number. An updated version of Google Maps for Android and iPhone started rolling out with the option to search for EV stations with fast chargers in November. For anyone who already uses Google Maps, this is a comfortable app to use to locate chargers. A cautionary note is included on the Google Maps Help page: “Only for Google Maps built into your car.”
Alternative Fuels Data Center: Generated by the US Department of Energy, this app zoomed in immediately to street level and indicated available chargers in what was identified as a populated grid. About 8 charging options appeared. Each was noted in sequence from A through J in the display window, and this sequencing system corresponded to information about each in the left window: identifying title, location, and level of charger. A small icon in the top right offered the ability to “Map a Route.” By clicking on on charging option, a window popped up with additional information: type of connector, directions, phone number, public/private, last known date of charger verification. This was a different mapping approach to others I reviewed, but it offered specificity that would be important on the road. (The Data Center also offers a Station Counts by State, if you’re interested. CleanTechnica issued a comparable study in 2021.)
ChargePoint: A blue and green palate of road and charging features is the first impression upon opening up this app. A global view of the entire Orlando region is able to be seen. A left frame offers some limited identifying information for each charging location: name, address, availability. Click through features include: price, popular time, charging speed, vehicle connectors, and customize connectors. It had a good charging design, especially if one is tech savvy enough to recognize to click to discern additional information. Of course, as its name suggests, the chargers identified are limited to ChargePoint.
PlugShare: While I would be glad to see the numbers of available chargers listed if I decided to use this road map, the buttons to find additional information are small and rather hidden in the bottom right corner. If I were in a rush to find “Traffic,” for example, I’d be frustrated. Brown areas of interests are too similar to the brown map itself and could use a distinguishing color.
EVgo: After I entered in my intended destination, a pulldown menu listed the possible chargers; the road map indicated at this point 3 numerically noted chargers. Within the pulldown, the following criteria were listed: types and numbers of particular connectors. With the recent EVgo headlines, I thought this map would be much more robust.
Electrify America: For all its hype, I thought this app would offer a whole lot more information. Only one charger in a mall came up in my search. It wouldn’t meet my road travel needs.
The widespread adoption of electromobility constitutes one of the measures designed to reduce air pollution caused by traditional fossil fuels. Yet charging maps need to facilitate an easy decision-making process. Right now, in the early stages of mass EV adoption, too many charging station maps are lacking. What elements combine to make a bad map?
- Symbology is hard to understand.
- No one single message is demonstrated.
- Color contrast is too extreme or too similar.
- Topography is hard to view.
- Overall messiness makes the app confusing.
These and other factors are adding to the frustration of EV drivers through uncertainty of finding an available charging point on their route. To address this issue, researchers have proposed a solution that bypasses the limitations of the “reserve now” function of the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) standard, enabling drivers to make charging reservations for the upcoming days, especially when planning a longer trip.
To make this viable, the researchers have created an algorithm that generates reservation intervals based on the charging station’s reservation and transaction history. Testing has yielded promising results, with no overlapping reservations and the occupation of several stations without queues, assuring, thus, a proper distribution of the available energy resources, while increasing end-user satisfaction.
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