The one essential function in your electric car that OEMs do not want to give you
One of the major concerns I frequently hear when talking to drivers or potential buyers of electric vehicles is the concern about the car’s range. While range has been growing steadily in all tiers of the EV market, it’s still a topic of scrutiny – lower tier EVs still do not offer a range that is comparable to petrol-powered cars in the same tier.
In the past few months, I have had the chance to talk to dozens of EV drivers during several of our UX projects for OEM clients. What really struck me was how much more relaxed drivers of certain EVs had become when it came to the topic of range. While almost all displayed an extensive awareness of energy saving options while driving (such as simply deactivating the AC or driving in a truck’s windscreen), one specific missing feature was common among their concerns: The option to intelligently plan charging stops directly in their car’s infotainment systems.
With this system, charging stopovers can be automatically added to a planned route and charging times can even be optimized. This gives drivers of these cars the peace of mind that they were used to from their petrol-powered cars and contributes to keeping travel times as short as possible. Some of these systems also directly display availability and other status information of charging stations, which ensures an EV driver would not be stranded for some time if their only charger option in range is not operational or permanently occupied.
While regular charging stopovers with these cars still increase the travel time when compared to regular cars, the drivers I talked to stated that on longer trips, the difference in time is usually less than 10%, which all of them deemed acceptable.
However, this feature – as part of the car’s own infotainment system – appears to be limited to the upper tiers of EVs (e.g., Audi e-tron, Tesla, Porsche Taycan). In contrast, in the lower tiers (e.g., Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Honda e, VW ID3), OEMs opted to provide this essential service only as an app or website. While mirroring such an advanced trip planning app into the car’s display is often possible through means of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it still appears at a minimum to be an oversight and at max a conscious decision against better user experience, to not directly include it in the car’s UI. Given the lack of sufficient mobile internet coverage in parts of Europe, e.g., here in Germany, apps and websites on the driver’s smartphone might even stop working in critical moments, just due to lack of connectivity.
It appears unlikely that technical issues are the reason for this decision. Audi provides the function in their cars while VW, a related OEM, does not provide it in their latest ID3 model – even though the technology already exists. Tesla introduced their intelligent route finding system in 2016, so there has been ample time to develop a similar system from scratch for the other OEMs.
With what I have seen and heard from so many drivers of electric vehicles, it is hard to understand why these OEMs would not provide this most essential function in their current generation of cars. It truly has the potential to prevent users from worrying about reach - without having to actively spend time on trip planning and evaluation of charging stations.
If OEMs are serious about expanding their EV segments, they need to step up and implement this feature as soon as possible in upcoming software versions. While some users might be OK with being relegated to second class drivers, the impact of automated, intelligent trip planning is so high that these OEMs are otherwise likely to miss out on a lot of great word of mouth marketing for EVs in general and on a great opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market by simply implementing a piece of software that is already available in so many other cars.