Take Control of Your Charge

7/31/2012

Smartphones and tablets are not the only connected devices today’s consumers are using. In fact, the vehicles we drive are becoming increasingly connected—and, in some cases, these connected cars are also electric. Before EVs (electric vehicles) can become truly accepted by the mainstream, however, consumers need to feel confident the EV-charging infrastructure can support their vehicles.

Strides are being made to put current and future EV owners at ease. Retailers such as Kohl’s, www.kohls.com, and Walgreens, www.walgreens.com, among many others, are doing their part by offering M2M (machine-to-machine)-enabled charging stations for customers.

Dozens of Kohl’s locations, for instance, are dedicating up to four parking spaces to the pilot program, which runs through the end of this year. The charging stations can be activated by RFID (radio-frequency identification) cards available at the customer-service desk.


Automakers are also doing their part to help customers locate charging points and manage their vehicles via mobile apps that use LBS (location-based services). Ford, www.ford.com, for instance, says the MyFord Mobile app will help EV owners find the nearest of more than 9,400 public charging stations in the U.S.

The MyFord Mobile app, a free download through Apple’s App Store, offers an entire database of charging stations. Powered by MapQuest, the database is continually updated as new charging stations are installed across the country. Ford suggests this realtime access to the locations of charging stations is part of what it will take to coax consumers into the EV market.

The app also allows consumers to view their current state of charge, activate a charging session remotely, and remotely precondition the cabin temperature. MyFord Mobile can be used with Ford Focus Electric and the upcoming C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids.

Another automaker, Honda, www.honda.com, announced a similar app this month—HondaLink EV, which is designed to accommodate owners of the Fit EV all-electric vehicle and the upcoming Accord Plug-In Hybrid.

The free app for iPhone and Android devices will let drivers view the state of their vehicle’s charge from anywhere, plus initiate charging and activate the A/C or heater remotely. Like MyFord Mobile, HondaLink EV will also point EV owners to the nearest charging station, alleviating trip anxiety for those running low on charge.

With additions such as 24/7 roadside assistance, Honda hopes its app will help EV owners adjust to life with a battery-powered vehicle. As more automakers invest in electric vehicles and hybrids, society is racing to provide the infrastructure needed to support these new, connected machines. Harnessing connected devices and LBS to help pave the way for EV adoption seems like a natural part of the solution.



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