You need to install two types of apps after you buy an electric car. First, an app to find charging stations. Once you arrive at these stations, you may be surprised to find that you will need another app to start charging.
Here are four of each type to consider as you decide which will help you keep your electric car on the road.
Applications for looking for charging sites
When you are switching to electric cars, you must change the way you refuel. If you do not live in an apartment building, your home will be your primary “charging station,” so to speak. It will likely supply the majority of the fuel you want.
But for extended trips or hectic days in town, you may need a fueling station (as long as electric cars don’t have charging limits). Taken together, they’re not as fertile as gas service plants, and they aren’t as easily visible from the roads.
Google Maps can now point your way to a charging station, but it doesn’t provide much detail. That’s why you want an app that helps you find the nearest charging stations, no matter what business serves them. These apps also give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive.
PlugShare shows the locations of charging stations around the world. As with all apps of this type, you can also find important details, such as which connectors the plants are supported by. Cars like the Nissan Leaf (our review of the Chevy Bolt) and Chevy Bolt use the same connector for Level 1 2 recharging (J-1772), but they maintain different standards for Level 3 fast charging (CHAdeMO and CCS, respectively). Meanwhile, all Tesla cars use the company’s own proprietary standard.
Of the apps available for this job, PlugShare is my favorite. The community is mature, so the stations often come with detailed location descriptions, photos and available amenities while charging, such as public Wi-Fi, restaurants and restrooms.
In my opinion, the ChargeHub experience looks a little sleeker than the interface of the PlugShare. The basic set of functions is the same, although the software is a smaller community. This means that there is less information available for each of the charging stations, as these sites are all dependent on user-generated content. The map is also limited to the U.S. and Canada.
ChargeHub has a store to help you find charging stations and accessories to help you drive your electric car and operate it at home. The app also incorporates blog postings to assist you in grasping your options. This is helpful even if you decide to buy products elsewhere.
Chargemap is a globally focused option based in France. The app highlights how many countries and networks it supports. Chargemap’s interface is polished and gives you many filter options. The application also works as a skip when navigating the Chargemap network throughout Europe.
On the other hand, you must create an account before you can even browse charging stations. The other options here don’t offer a login unless you want to interact, such as checking your location or leaving a comment.
Open the charge card
If you just want the facts, check out Open Charge Map. This app provides addresses, distance from your home, business contact information and number of charging ports all in a straightforward form.
Open Charge Map doesn’t have a pretty face, and it lacks the commentary and reviews you find in competing apps. But it can serve as an advantage if the other options seems a bit too familiar to social networks for your palate.
Apps for charging your car
Many fast chargers are part of the network. To use them, you often need to download an app and create an account rather than inserting a credit card.
The apps below are examples of networks you may encounter in the United States. Each allows you to find chargers on the same network, track their usage, and manage payments. Since not all of these companies are global, your options will be different if you live elsewhere.
ChargePoint supports a huge network; this is what I encounter most in my area. The app relies on NFC, so you push your phone to the charging station to the charging site to start charging. The app needs not be up to start the entire process.
The ChargePoint shows you how long you’ re charged, the energy your car has received, an estimate of miles accumulated and the cost (for stations that are not free). This app also allows you to manage your ChargePoint home charging station if you decide to buy one. It lets you see when your car is charging, start remote charging, and set timers.
EVgo currently has the largest charging network in the U.S., although I have yet to see any stations near where I live. User reviews show that it costs significantly more than the competition, and that is the reason for some of the low ratings.
As for the app itself, you have the ability to search for and see which charging stations are currently available for use. Unlike some other options, the app will not show you exactly how much of a charge your car has gotten. So you may not know what to expect when you get back to your car.
Greenlots provides charging infrastructure for electric cars all over the world. In my region, they prioritize Level 3 because the stations also support CHAdeMO and J1772-Combo standards.
Unfortunately, according to user feedback, the company no longer supports several of the stations in my metro area. Although one of stays active relatively close to downtown, it makes me wary when I see a greenlots charging stop mentioned in the application.
SemaConnect provides charging stations all over the United States, and this app helps you find them. It’s also your means of paying for a charge.
Unfortunately, the quality seems to have deteriorated over time. Reviews complain about the outdated, slow and glitchy interface.
I haven’t yet encountered a SemaConnect station, so I can’t offer direct experience. But given the widespread availability of a SemaConnect Station in many parts in the country, you may end up deploying this app no matter the Quality.
Want to learn more about electric cars?
The apps above provide important information for electric car drivers, but they don’t get into the weeds. If you really want to know your car’s battery status, you need to buy an OBDII key and download a diagnostic app like Leafspy. This app only supports the Nissan Leaf (first and second generation), but a Tesla version is in development.
Why the emphasis on batteries? Because electric cars are much cheaper to maintain than their gas-powered cousins. Replacing the lithium-ion battery forms the bulk of long-term maintenance costs, which is a good reason to switch to electric, even if gas prices are low. So by charging up, you’re not only helping to reduce emissions, but you’re also reducing debt.