How mobile app data tracks EV growth and city readiness

How mobile app data tracks EV growth and city readiness

Editor's note: To learn more about how cities are preparing for EVs through data and mobile apps, be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild this fall, November 12-13, in San Francisco.

U.S. cities are well on their way preparing for electric vehicles. Data collected through PlugShare, a mobile app monitoring more than of 11,000 public and private charging stations, shows Portland, Oregon with the highest density of EV charging stations at 11.2 for every 100,000 residents in the city.

Given its green credentials as a city, Portland is a likely candidate, as might be the San Francisco Bay Area, but the growth of EV charging stations is "more than a coastal thing," said Armen Petrosian, CTO with Xatori, makers of the PlugShare app. He points to unlikely destinations of Dallas, Tuscon and Nashville, all ranking within the top ten for EV city readiness.

With more than 100,000 users, PlugShare is providing critical information for cities to understand where to place EV charging networks and drive EV adoption, said Petrosian.

"Data is the key to our business model in helping drivers, station providers and cities see a current glimpse of EV adoption," said Petrosion.

Indeed, an ever-growing number of data resources are tracking how well are cities are getting EV infrastructures in place.

For example, the EV Project, a program focused on 18 US markets, has amassed more than 34 million miles of electric vehicle behavioral and charging infrastructure data.

Managed by ECOtality, the project is funded by the Department of Energy and involves a wide range of carmakers, utilities, retailers, government entities and technology providers, to gather a detailed data dump in tracking more than 4,600 vehicles and monitoring 6,200 charging stations.

But, of course, it's not just charging stations within a geographic area that determines how well cities are prepared for EVs.

The recently released EV City Casebook shows how policy, financial incentives and consumer education programs are critical in boosting demand for EVs for cities.

By highlighting global case studies from 16 cities in nine countries, the casebook, compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Rocky Mountain Institute, the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative, and C40 Cities, details what's required for cities to "get ready" for electric vehicles.

But the value in PlugShare and other mobile apps is the ability to populate databases with near real-time tracking of charging infrastructure and help give EV drivers a more comprehensive connection with their vehicles.

Recently, Xatori released a GreenCharge app to monitor battery data, charging speed and allow drivers to see how many pounds of carbon dioxide emissions they have offset by driving an electric vehicle.

While OEMs and automakers offer plenty of their own apps, Petrosian says automakers are keeping tight tabs on how electric cars and their battery packs perform without allowing true transparency into the data available within vehicles.

"There's cleary benefit to see a state of charge of their vehicle, with potential capabilities for fleet management or working with utilities," said Petrosian. "We are working with automakers to show the value in a truly connected car and create great user experience."

Indeed, user experience is important for owners from a customer standpoint, says Thilo Koslowski, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. But he doesn't believe mobile apps will turn "EV skeptics into believers."

Most important for EV adoption is to gain trust of the information and any "application is only as good as the quality of data," said Koslowski.

Still, the PlugShare app, launched just a year ago with 500 EV stations, is gaining traction now touting 11,000 charging stations in the database. "We knew it was going to grow," said Forrest North, Xatori Founder and CEO, "but we didn’t envision it was going to grow that fast."

It'll be interesting to see how cities are able to best evaluate EV charging demand and develop business models best suited to attract more EV drivers as the popularity grows for mobile apps.