By Yael Rivkind, Head of Partnerships for Otonomo
What stops consumers from buying battery-powered EVs? Price, range and access to efficient charging stations, in that order. That’s according to McKinsey’s 2016 Electric Vehicle (EV) consumer survey of potential buyers in China, Germany, and the United States. But since then technology has moved faster than expected, reducing prices while also increasing range.
As prices come down, range anxiety, the fear that the car battery will run out before reaching the destination, is fading. One indication is AAA’s decision to shut down its emergency mobile electric vehicle charging service, which was launched in 2011 to help stranded EV owners. After rolling out this pilot service in six major U.S. cities over five years, AAA concluded EV owners have become aware of their range capabilities, and seldom call for help.
However, EV adoption still has constraints, mainly because of charging solutions. Now, instead of range anxiety, the automotive industry should be focusing on experience anxiety.
Getting the EV experience right from A to B
With digitalization transforming every industry today, new standards are being set and customers’ expectations are rapidly changing. Consumers shift service providers faster now and demand more from them. Understanding consumer needs is one of the greatest challenges facing the evolving EV market. Providers must have the right business model in place, and create a seamless experience across the supply chain.
That experience begins even before making the decision to buy an EV. This makes education and “consumer awareness” vitally important. Information has been inconsistent and consumers lack knowledge about the availability and viability of the technology. Governments, local authorities, OEMs, utilities and charging points operators need to ensure that communications across all channels are accurate and visible. The public needs a better understanding of what electric vehicles are, the benefits they offer, the models available, the options for charging and the incentives to EV ownership.
But even if consumers purchase EVs at the expected rates, which Bloomberg NEF Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019 report estimate will rise to 10 million in 2025 and 28 million in 2030 (approximately a third of vehicles sold), the lack of charging infrastructure has the potential to be a limiting factor for the uptake of EVs. This gap of knowledge of usability can be dubbed “Experience Anxiety.”
Experience anxiety prevents EV adoption
Experience anxiety plays a critical role when it comes to the fear of the hassle of public charging. As of now, public charging points are far from user-friendly. This is especially relevant for existing or potential EV owners who live in apartment buildings and would rely on these services much more than private homeowners, who can charge at home.
Leaders in the industry have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for EV drivers to find and access public charging stations. Customers should be able to use all chargers on the network without requiring registering to each one separately. Public stations must be convenient to make long charging sessions productive and positive experiences. Since cars cross boarders, the same interoperable charging standards need to be in place throughout all countries.
A good example of a company reinventing the entire user experience is NIO. The Chinese electric car startup is designing the “car of the future” completely around the ownership experience, aiming to shape a joyful lifestyle for their users. Like Tesla, NIO sells directly to customers at its locations, rather than through third-party dealerships. In November 2017 they opened the first NIO House in Beijing for their users and friends, a cross between a co-working space, a cafe, a daycare center, and an event venue. This concept underpins the company’s desire to add value to its customers’ lifestyle by making owning and charging a relaxing experience.
An industry problem, and solution
Increased vehicle connectivity and data sharing can lead to smart charging solutions based on real customer behavior and vehicle status, without requiring drivers to manually inform industry players on their current state of charge (SOC) and remaining distance. Enabling direct communication from EVs to the infrastructure supporting them can optimize distribution of public charging stations, boost innovation and development of products and charging services that will create truly rewarding EV experiences. Therefore, this process also has to involve OEMs.
To increase EV adoption we have to remove the fear today and collaborate across industries to deliver these experiences to consumers.