Smart EV apps - a critical tool for electric vehicle growth

Smart EV apps are being developed to increase the sustainability of the charging process.

Jedlix, a subsidiary of Dutch renewable energy supplier Eneco, launched smart charging application #ichargesmart in mid-January for owners of Tesla electric vehicles (EVs).

The iOS and Android-compatible app claims to offer a direct link between EVs and the supply of renewable energy, which Eneco says increases the sustainability of the charging process. In essence, Jedlix controls the charging process through the car and as a result, there is no need to operate charging stations.

The software also reduces the costs of electric driving because the app determines the lowest rate during the charging period. (Tests show that savings on charging costs can be as high as 15%.)

The app also provides the possibility of smart home charging at no additional costs and it can help prevent congestion on the low-voltage grid, should this become relevant in the future, says Jorg van Heesbeen, Manager, Business Development at Jedlix. He adds: “Energy market integration and modelling of renewable energy supply, combined with an integration with the connected car are our market differentiators.”

Smart EV apps -missed opportunities

Market research company Frost & Sullivan's new report, ‘Leveraging Mobile Apps in the Electric Vehicle Market’, finds that the market for EV mobile apps is still at a nascent stage but that there are tremendous opportunities for innovation and development.

For instance, there is a lot of focus on public EV infrastructure while most charging is still done at home, says van Heesbeen, “I think in this domain there are still a lot of opportunities for smart apps.”  

The EV market offers ever increasing opportunities for mobile app development. For instance, app developers can focus on solutions to facilitate EV authentication and subsequent payment at the charging station.

As a result of their synergies, the future for mobile apps in the smart transportation market appears extremely promising. Already, the European market is witnessing a steady rise in the number of EV smartphone applications and charging infrastructure. This is expected to further expand with the European Union’s plans to set up more charging stations.

According to Frost & Sullivan's Information & Communication Technologies Research Analyst Shuba Ramkumar, the EV market is currently dominated by location-based apps which means that there is a huge opportunity to grow beyond these confines and provide value-added services such as authentication, payment and smart home controls.

Van Heesbeen says that an innovative smart EV app to Jedlix means creating a “scalable way to grow in users and corresponding connected EVs. The app should support new services in the future such as balancing.”  He adds that the app should have an effective user interface, which is essential for user growth.  

But what is standing in the way of creating smarter EV apps? Van Heesbeen blames it on “high development costs, market uncertainty on standardisation and scattered EV (infrastructure) in general.”

EV apps should engage the customer

Currently, most apps focus on EV charging infrastructure and while these are helpful, there should be more that offer value-added services complementing the use of EVs, suggests Ramkumar.

Mobile apps can be powerful tools that encourage EV drivers to support cleaner and more sustainable transportation. The mobile app needs to literally guide the driver to a clean energy-powered charging station - only then is the whole chain totally sustainable. While most EV drivers already support the goal to create a cleaner environment, these apps still need to make driving and charging more convenient so a meaningful level of engagement must be considered during the development phase of these apps.

As the adoption rate of EVs rises, there is likely to be a related increase in the number and types of mobile apps in the market. However, a major challenge for mobile app providers is to offer innovative and user-friendly services that distinguish them from the competition.

EV charging on the blockchain

Potentially the most innovative, both in terms of delivery and the underlying technology, is the blockchain based  Share&Charge, which enables users to easily share their private EV charging stations.

Ultimately, the aim is to extend this concept to bring value to operators of mobility services, to easily share or rent their mobility assets, including not only energy but also parking spots, and even the vehicles themselves, explains Slock.it founder and former Ethereum CCO, Stephan Tual in a recent blog post.

The mobile geolocation app, currently being piloted with Innogy in Germany, helps to identify and navigate the user to a given service, a charging pole.

Once at the pole (provided in a peer-to-peer fashion by another Share&Charge user), the consumer swipes the phone and makes use of the charging service, paying only for the energy they use. The operator of the pole is rewarded in tokens valued at €1 which can be used to consume other services on the platform, including gaining access to 3rd party offers or redeeming the tokens for cash.

As EV apps, mostly aimed at resolving range anxiety and public charging costs, begin to flood the app market, the door will open to innovation where apps will not only resolve problems but also generate a number of revenue sources.

 

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