As a pioneer of the electrified car, General Motors is well-aware of some of the most significant pain points in electric vehicle purchasing and ownership. Aside from the need to educate potential car buyers about what an EV is, ensuring a positive post-purchase experience might be even more critical.
A recent study showed that nearly 1-in-5 fully electric or plug-in-hybrid owners in California planned to go back to gasoline power for their next car. Of course, this means that 80% will buy another electrified vehicle, but we still have a ways to go.
The biggest issue for EV owners appears to be charging in public places. There are zillion different charging networks, including Blink, ChargePoint, EVGo, Electrify America, and that doesn’t even include carmaker-specific networks like Tesla’s Superchargers or the upcoming Rivian Adventure Network. On top of that, competing charging standards make finding the correct plug even trickier.
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Multiple third-party websites, like PlugShare, exist solely to help figure out which chargers will work with your car and where they are, sort of a Yelp for EV chargers. Reviews might help users know which chargers are behind locked gates, current pricing, and even whether chargers are straight-up broken.
To try to address some of these problems, General Motors is launching something called Ultium Charge 360. GM is trying to simplify the EV-ownership experience by rolling a number of major charging networks into its smartphone apps.
“Ultium Charge 360 simplifies and improves the at-home charging experience and the public charging experience – whether it’s community-based or road-trip charging,” says GM Chief EV Officer Travis Hester in a press release announcing the program.
GM electric car owners (like those buying the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV, or the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV and Cadillac Lyriq) will be able to use GM’s smartphone app to get real-time status information on chargers operated by Blink, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgp, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect. And, even more importantly, they’ll be able to pay at all those chargers through the app as well.
Currently, charging networks each have a separate app, which is a significant annoyance to EV owners. Imagine needing to download a different app for Exxon, BP or Chevron instead of just pulling up and swiping your credit card. It’s maddening.
GM is investing in new EV chargers at its factories and corporate facilities and installing additional public chargers at its dealerships. It will also cover the cost of installing a residential Level 2 charger for customers who purchase or lease a 2022 Bolt EV or EUV.
We’re a long way from EVs being the default when someone buys a car, but the industry is slowly making strides toward solving the chicken-and-egg problem of EV buyers needing places to charge while EV networks need people to use them.
Of course, Tesla side-stepped all this and built the Supercharger fast-charging network. In a way, this is the primary marketing outlay for Elon Musk’s EV company. Instead of investing in TV spots or billboards, each Supercharger is a glowing red advertisement for Tesla. It even automatically charges your credit card for the electricity you take, meaning you don’t need to do anything other than pull up and plug in. It’s seamless.
Whether the rest of the industry will follow in GM’s footsteps remains to be seen, but it’s a good start and should help alleviate customer discomfort with new EV purchases — if they can convince the dealers to get behind it. That’s a problem for another day.