Are you getting ready for an EV? Thousands of motorists have either gone electric already or are considering converting thanks to the benefits available. For everything to run smoothly, however, you’re going to need an app or two…
As we’ve said before at The Car Expert, there’s no stopping the charge of the electric vehicle (EV). A combination of government policy on fossil-fuel vehicles in the future, huge leaps in EV technology from car makers and an increasing desire for a cleaner environment have all combined to accelerate the march of the plug-in car.
There are more than 600,000 electrified cars on the UK’s roads, half of them pure electric, battery-powered vehicles and the others hybrids, sharing the power duties between a petrol (or diesel) engine and an electric motor.
And manufacturers and specialist vehicle providers say the swing towards electric vehicles shows no sign of stopping. Salary sacrifice experts Tusker say that in 2019, just 13% of its salary sacrifice vehicles were EVs, while two years later that figure has climbed to 73%.
And as each month and year goes by, those figures will soar as we head towards the planned ban on the production of fossil-fuel vehicles by 2030.
Many motorists have actively embraced the technology and are already (not) smoking around in a plug-in vehicle, while most people who are currently driving a fossil-fuelled vehicle are likely to me making the jump with their next new car.
With that demand for EVs comes another need – the one for mobile apps that help owners with the running, maintaining and charging of their car. Most EV owners will have at least the use of the car manufacturer’s app that allows them to communicate with their new car, plus one from an energy supplier. So what is available and how do they work?
1. Manufacturer app
Many new cars – electric, hybrid or fossil-fuel – now come with an app to download on to your smartphone and then use to control aspects and features of the vehicle.
They allow you to do things such as lock and unlock the doors or boot remotely, switch on the climate control or heated seats before you enter the car, and check for service information, fuel levels or charging range, and software updates.
You can even use the app to locate your car if you can’t remember exactly where you parked it!
2. Charging provider app
In addition to what the car can provide you with its app, the owner of an EV will also need a charging provider app, or two (well, several, actually).
Many of these are supplied by traditional names from the oil-based fuel industry, such as BP (called BP Pulse), and Shell (Recharge) along with car maker joint ventures such as Ionity (VW, BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes), plus the solo effort from the best-known EV manufacturer, Tesla.
These apps will show you when your car is charging, how much electricity is going in, what it’s costing and how long before the car is sufficiently charged for your onward journey. You can also turn the charger on and off using the app and it will help you to track your energy spending.
Many of the charging provider apps will show when the charge points are in use, how much their members can save by signing up with them, or the status of the points if they happen to be out of use. While downloading several apps might seem a little annoying, there are benefits to having the information at your finger tips.
3. Charge point search app
Even if you have a home charging point, there is only so far that you can go before you need to recharge your electric car, and there are several mobile apps that can help you do this.
The best know is probably Zap-Map, which claims to have 95% of the UK’s public charging points listed on its mapping, as well as others like Pod Point and Ecotricity. They will all help you plan your journey and organise payment along the way.
Traditional street map and navigation apps such as Google Maps and TomTom can also help you to find charging stations while on your travels. Tesla’s navigation system will plot into the route charging points from its own network of stations, and add those stops into the total journey time.
Home from home
If you’re serious about owning an EV, it’s worth considering installing a home charging point, and many suppliers will offer incentives to help you install one, in return for you signing up to their network and downloading their app. BP Pulse, for example, does this in return for a subsidy on the cost of the home charging equipment.
The electricity supplied for your car is still coming from your home electricity supplier when you’re charging there, but the benefit for a provider like BP Pulse is, of course, that it points you towards the supplier’s own charging stations when you’re out and about.
The charging provider apps give you the ability to programme your charger, so you can set it to charge your car overnight when your electricity might be cheapest, thereby saving you money on charging during peak hours.
Some car manufacturers are linking up with electric charging point suppliers in a similar manner and more of these tie-ins are expected in the coming years.
It won’t suit everyone – such as people without off-road parking – but, if there is the facility to install and use a home charger, for most people this will make running an electric car completely viable.
Even if you can’t power up at home there are many ways to get charged locally. More staff are finding their workplaces fitted with charge points while increasing numbers of supermarkets are getting fitted out for EVs, along with hotels, restaurants, gyms, cinemas and shopping centres. Many of these free to use, as an incentive for EV customers to frequent these businesses.
According to Tusker, there are more than 16,000 charging locations across the UK with a total number of 26,000 charging devices available.
Range anxiety banished
Tusker said earlier this year that the vast majority of households only do about 100 miles a week in their car and will do a journey of above 100 miles just once a month. As most EVs can now easily achieve this range on one charge – and most do considerably more – there should not be any concerns about vehicle range on a week-to-week basis.
Motorists who don’t charge at home can sign up for a supplier subscription, which gives discounts on electricity usage, but you can always choose to charge ad hoc if it suits you. Some EV owners who only drive short distances locally, and whose car is capable of 100-150 miles on a single charge, can find this is a suitable way to run their car.
It’s usually a more expensive way to charge an EV and be aware that not all charging points work successfully with contactless cards if you decide to ‘Pay As You Go’ so it may be necessary to charge via the app on your phone.
So, whatever brand and model of EV you are planning to run, with the right app in place from a wide choice available, you’ll get the most from your car.