By Louis Debatte-Monroy, Head of Product Marketing for TomTom Enterprise and Developers
Almost 2 million Electric Vehicles (EVs) were sold worldwide in 2018, bringing the total to 5 million. EVs are becoming increasingly affordable, and they’re expected to match combustion-powered vehicle pricing in the next six years, even without subsidies or incentives.
Now that drivers are considering the switch to electric, some common questions arise: is EV range sufficient to get to my destination? Is the charging infrastructure developed enough?
In most of the US and Europe, the answer is yes. Research from MIT shows that the range of EVs available today is sufficient to cover 87% of average user trips. And charging infrastructure keeps evolving quickly, supported by many government programs worldwide.
Although conditions seem optimal for EV adoption to take off, currently the adoption rate remains relatively low.
One of the main reasons for this is the psychological barrier of range anxiety — the fear of being stranded on the roadside when the EV battery runs out, with no way of charging up nearby. Electric vehicle-specific routing and easy access to charging infrastructure are two of the many ways location technology can help app developers alleviate range anxiety for drivers, and increase adoption of EVs around the world.
How Developers Can Help Electric Vehicle Drivers
Adoption of EVs creates both a routing challenge for drivers and an opportunity for developers: current mapping applications don’t always answer these EV-specific needs and worries. Consequently, there’s a massive opportunity for developers.
To build a reliable route planner that fits EV drivers’ needs, developers must use location technology that can calculate routes taking into account the charging behavior and other parameters of the electric vehicle, traffic, and proximity to nearby charging stations.
One of the most common things an EV driver wants to know is whether there are any charging stations nearby or on their way that are compatible with the driver’s vehicle and not currently in use.
Daily Routing and Reachable Range
For most EV drivers, location app usage revolves around daily routing, which does not require more than one charge. When planning typical trips, EV drivers focus on traveling within their vehicle’s reachable range, finding energy-saving routes to maximize battery life, and occasionally finding available recharging locations.
EV drivers usually charge at home or at work and are comfortable using their car for short trips. They’re much more reluctant to take their EV on a long journey unless they can plan it carefully.
The TomTom features within the TomTom Routing API enable EV drivers to take the most energy efficient routes or show them how far they can go on a charge.
Long Distance EV Routing
One area where EV drivers face significant challenges is planning longer trips — further than their EV can travel on a single charge. Planning such trips is tricky — drivers don’t want to stop more often than necessary, but also don’t want to end up stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery.
Range anxiety comes into play: Can I reach my destination if I go with an EV? Where should I stop to charge, and for how long? Which compatible and available EV charging stations can I reach from my current location?
By considering the characteristics of the driver’s vehicle, the availability of compatible charging stations en route, and the energy requirements of all potential routes, new applications can take the worry out of long-range EV journeys. Even better, these apps could tell users about restaurants and amenities near the charging stations they stop at, so they can make the best use of their time while the EV is charging.
What Developers Need to Build Apps for EV Drivers
Creating such applications tuned to the needs of EV drivers requires lots of data — not just the charging station locations, but also the availability of chargers updated dynamically in real time. The limited number of charging connectors at a location coupled with the length of time the charging point is in use makes this information critical. The driver wants to know whether they can charge the EV right now.
Keeping this information up-to-date requires periodic updates of source data and the ability to incorporate estimated time of arrival (ETA) into the calculation. Other information, such as operating hours and plug types, is also necessary. Beyond this, you’ll also need to understand how road characteristics such as steep uphill grades and traffic conditions can impact electric vehicle range.
It is difficult and expensive to acquire and maintain this kind of information on a global scale. It is even more challenging to use this data and develop algorithms that support EV driver-specific needs and use cases. While there are many start-ups and larger companies working in the field of electric mobility, to do it effectively, developers need access to data and tools to make their effort reach the expected effectiveness levels.
Building Apps for EV Drivers with TomTom
The TomTom Developer Toolkit for Electric Mobility provides the services developers need to take advantage of the opportunity created by the explosion in EV popularity. It contains 2 new APIs: the Long Distance EV Routing API and the EV Charging Stations Availability API, which, when combined with other TomTom’s location APIs, make it quick, fun, and easy for developers to create apps for EV drivers.
EV drivers present new and unique challenges for mapping application developers. They also offer a huge opportunity. It’s not every day that a new and rapidly-growing market appears that is hungry for new apps where location is key.
But worry no more — let TomTom handle the hard parts of building for EV drivers so that you can focus on what’s most important: delivering apps that EV drivers will love and use every day!
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