How Can We Improve the Electric Charging User Experience?
A recent episode of the CX Files podcast featured Tanya Sinclair, the UK and Ireland policy director at ChargePoint. An electric vehicle (EV) plugs into the ChargePoint network every two seconds so their service is a really important part of the infrastructure that is allowing the general public to consider switching from petrol and diesel to EVs. The electric charging user experience must be far above that of traditional petrol stations in order for a new breed of customer to embrace an entirely new culture.
In many countries there is no consumer choice. The EU has banned the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2035 and in the UK it will be five years earlier – that’s literally the end of this decade. Consumers will soon be forced to switch, but is the infrastructure out there to allow us to stop worrying about the range we can manage on a single charge?
Tanya Sinclair explained: “Definitely an education process needs to take place, but I don’t think that it’s only the car manufacturers that need to do the educating. I think we all have a role to play – ChargePoint as a charging manufacturer and supplier of charging solutions also has a role to play to explain how easy charging can be.”
The auto industry is experiencing a rapid wave of change at present and, as Tanya explained on the podcast, there is a an education process that has started, but needs to be developed further. This is because the change taking place is so significant. In addition to the increasing importance of EVs we are also seeing the possibility of autonomous vehicles, the continued growth in ride-hailing to the point that many people in cities don’t have any need to own a car, and new models of ownership for those who are still buying – such as cars on subscription.
But out of all the changes the auto industry is facing, the importance of EVs is certainly the most urgent. Governments have placed a stake in the ground now and the auto manufacturers are responding. Ford recently announced an $11.4 billion investment in scaling up their production of batteries and EVs and GM has increased their recent EV investment by 75% – to $35 billion by 2025.
There are two sides to this story from the point of view of the electric charging user experience. Customers all want choice, new models from trusted brands and the improved driving range that this constant innovation keeps offering. But they also need to know that networks like ChargePoint are out there and easily available to make them switch to EVs.
Electric charging stations need to be as ubiquitous as petrol or gas stations are now. They need to offer fast charging options. They need to offer inter-operability between the different charging networks. Imagine arriving at a Shell gas station today and being told that your cash is not acceptable because it’s “from the wrong network” – that’s the issue the EV charging stations still have.
As the charging network is built out further and the charging companies improve the way they interact with each other – and their customers – there will be far more confidence from the consumers. They need to understand that longer journeys are possible. There is also a mindset shift that needs to take place about the difference between a tank of fuel and a battery. Most EV users will charge at home and usually be leaving their home with a battery charged to 100% – that’s very different to how we use cars that require petrol or diesel.
The EV universe is actually about far more than the manufacturers alone. For EVs to truly become successful we need a reliable and easy to use charging network, interoperable charging services, new insurance policies, and service centers that know how to maintain and repair EV problems. It’s really not just the cars alone.
I believe we can get there before the end of the decade, but it will need some careful planning. In particular how the EV user interacts with all these various different companies that will support their EV use. Some traditional industries will need to change rapidly – such as insurance and car maintenance – and some need to be entirely overhauled. Who will need a network of gas stations in the 2030s, except the dwindling number of people with older vehicles and collectors of classic cars.
Eventually the use of petrol or gas will become very rare – perhaps a decade or so after the ban on selling these vehicles. In the meantime, as Tanya Sinclair suggested, there is a process of education for EV users to understand the opportunity and also for all the industries that interact with vehicle users today – how will they adapt their customer-facing processes to support EVs?