Why Developers Should Care About EV Drivers
Julija Babre·Aug 23, 2019

Why Developers Should Care About EV Drivers

Julija Babre
Product Marketing Manager Enterprise
Aug 23, 2019 · 8 min read

The number of Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the road is increasing every year. There are an estimated 5.12 million EVs on the road today, and sales of EVs increased by 64% just from 2017 to 2018. Now that drivers are considering the switch to EVs, some common questions arise, and EV-aware apps are a big opportunity for developers, such as routing services optimized for EV drivers and the ability to provide up-to-date information about the location and availability of charging stations. We'll take a look at those concerns and show you how TomTom Developer Toolkit for Electric Mobility provides new features that simplify building location-based apps for EV drivers.

The Future of Mobility is Electric

The future of mobility is connected, autonomous, shared and electric. This change is happening now.

The number of Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the road is increasing every year. The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.98 million EVs were sold worldwide in 2018, bringing total EVs sold to 5.12 million. Sales of EVs increased by 64% from 2017 to 2018.

Apart from being more present on the roads, EVs are becoming increasingly affordable. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that electric cars will be as affordable as combustion-powered vehicles in the next six years, even without subsidies or incentives.

Now that drivers are considering the switch to electric, some common questions arise: is EV range sufficient to get to my destination? Is the charging infrastructure developed enough?

In most of the US and Europe, the answer is yes. Research from MIT shows that the range of EVs available today is sufficient to cover 87% of average user trips. At the same time, charging infrastructure is evolving quickly, supported by many government programs worldwide.

For example, the state of California has an ambitious goal of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) on the road by 2025 and 5 million by 2030, with an associated infrastructure goal of 250,000 ZEV chargers by 2025.

Although conditions seem optimal for EV adoption to take off, currently the adoption rate remains relatively low.

One of the main reasons for this is the psychological barrier of range anxiety — the fear of being stranded on the roadside when the EV battery runs out, with no way of charging up nearby. Electric vehicle-specific routing and easy access to charging infrastructure are two of the many ways location technology can help developers alleviate range anxiety for drivers, and increase adoption of EVs around the world.

How Developers Can Help Electric Vehicle Drivers

Many drivers depend on mapping and routing applications to find the locations they’re interested in, such as restaurants, stores, or their friend's new house. They expect routing and mapping applications to get them to the destination quickly. Adoption of EVs creates both a routing challenge for drivers and an opportunity for developers, as we touched upon in the previous section.

EV drivers have unique needs when it comes to mapping and routing applications. To name a few, EV drivers require:

  • Routing applications that take into account their vehicle’s charging behavior.

  • Routing applications that won’t guide them to a place where they’ll be left stranded on the side of the road, with an empty battery and no opportunity to charge.

  • Knowledge of their specific vehicle’s range to determine which destinations they can reach and when they need to charge.

  • The ability to maximize how far they can drive on a single battery charge.

  • An easy way to find compatible and available charging stations easily wherever they go.

Current mapping applications don’t always answer these EV-specific needs and worries. Consequently, there’s a massive opportunity for developers to build mapping and routing applications specifically for EV drivers. What’s more, developers need easy access to the right tools to build these unique applications.

Building Effective Apps for EV Drivers

To build a reliable route planner that fits EV drivers’ needs, developers must use location technology that can calculate routes taking into account the charging behavior and other parameters of the electric vehicle, traffic, and proximity to nearby charging stations.

Let’s look at a few ways that location technology can make it easy for developers to build apps for EV drivers.

Nearby Charging Stations

While out and about, one of the most common things an EV driver wants to know is whether there are any charging stations nearby or on their way that are compatible with the driver’s vehicle and not currently in use. This information is crucial for EV drivers to effectively use their electric car on a daily basis as well as for longer trips.

Today, developers have the opportunity to add this to any app they are building for EV drivers. If drivers can’t get this information from your app, they’ll have to get it somewhere else — and may stop using your app entirely.

Daily Routing and Reachable Range

For most EV drivers, location app usage revolves around daily routing, which does not require more than one charge. When planning typical trips, EV drivers focus on traveling within their vehicle’s reachable range, finding energy-saving routes to maximize battery life, and occasionally finding available recharging locations. EV drivers usually charge at home and are comfortable using their car for short trips and charge while at home or at work. They’re much more reluctant to take their EV on a long journey unless they can plan it carefully.

The TomTom exclusive eco-routing features — available in the TomTom Routing API — enable EV drivers can take the most energy efficient routes. The Routing API's Calculate Reachable Range feature provides the functionality developers can use to show EV drivers how far they can go on a charge. Calculate Reachable Range includes the ability for developers to specify precise energy budgets and detailed Electric Consumption Models.

With these features, location and routing apps can tailor results to EV drivers' specific vehicles and situations, whether they're starting from home with a full charge or planning the next stop on their daily travels. These routing features, focused on the needs of EV drivers, lay the course for confidence in planning longer trips, where EV drivers feel more preparation is needed, experience more range anxiety, have greater need for knowing exactly when and where to stop to charge and for how long.

Long Distance EV Routing

One area where EV drivers face significant challenges is planning longer trips — further than their EV can travel on a single charge. Planning such trips is tricky — drivers don’t want to stop more often than necessary, but also don’t want to end up stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery.

One critical difficulty EV drivers face compared to traditional car drivers is that they must do more planning and preparation before going on longer trips. Range anxiety comes into play on such trips. The driver will ask themselves questions like:

  • Can I reach my destination if I go with an EV?

  • Where should I stop to charge, and for how long?

  • Is there anywhere for me to recharge my vehicle when I arrive?

  • Which compatible and available EV charging stations can I reach from my current location?

Developers should aim to create apps that can answer all of these questions.

Developers can help by creating applications that give EV drivers confidence to take long trips without feeling any range anxiety. By considering the characteristics of the driver’s vehicle, the availability of compatible charging stations en route, and the energy requirements of all potential routes, new applications can take the worry out of long-range EV journeys.

Even better, these apps could tell users about restaurants and amenities near the charging stations they stop at, so they can make the best use of their time while the EV is charging.

What Developers Need to Build Apps for EV Drivers

Creating applications tuned to the needs of EV drivers requires lots of data — not just the charging station locations, but also the availability of chargers updated dynamically in real time. The limited number of charging connectors at a location coupled with the length of time the charging point is in use (minimally 30 minutes, but possibly far longer) makes this information critical. The driver wants to know whether they can charge the EV right now.

Keeping this information up-to-date requires periodic updates of source data and the ability to incorporate estimated time of arrival (ETA) into the calculation. Other information, such as operating hours and plug types, is also necessary. All of this information must be maintained and structured to answer driver queries rapidly and accurately.

Beyond this, you’ll also need to understand how road characteristics such as steep uphill grades and traffic conditions can impact electric vehicle range.

It is difficult and expensive to acquire and maintain this kind of information on a global scale. It is even more challenging to use this data and develop algorithms that support EV driver-specific needs and use cases. While there are many start-ups and larger companies working in the field of electric mobility, to do it effectively, developers need access to data and tools to make their effort reach the expected effectiveness levels.

What is Available to Developers Today

The TomTom Developer Toolkit for Electric Mobility is specifically designed to provide the services developers need to take advantage of the opportunity created by the explosion in EV popularity.

The Developer Toolkit for Electric Mobility contains new APIs that — when combined with TomTom’s existing location APIs — make it quick, fun, and easy for developers to create apps for EV drivers.

Let's take a look at the new APIs that can make life of a developer working on electric mobility apps much easier.

Long Distance EV Routing API

While the Routing API calculated the most energy efficient routes and the reachable range, the new Long Distance EV Routing API helps developers quickly plan long trips for EV drivers. By taking electric vehicle characteristics, traffic, and the charging station infrastructure into account, it enables developers to easily get routes that include optimized EV charging stops along the way with a single API call.

EV Charging Stations Availability API

With the TomTom Search API, developers can already find locations of EV charging stations in over 53 countries. The new EV Charging Stations Availability API goes a step further: it is now possible to check the real-time availability status of individual charging stations per connector type in 14 countries. Instead of just telling the EV drivers which charging stations are nearby or along their way, you can tell them which charging stations are compatible with their vehicle and are currently available for use.

Next Stop: Building Apps for EV Drivers with TomTom

EV drivers present new and unique challenges for mapping application developers. They also offer a huge opportunity. It’s not every day that a new and rapidly-growing market appears that is hungry for new apps where location is key.

But worry no more — TomTom is here to help. The TomTom Developer Toolkit for Electric Mobility provides the APIs and SDKs that developers need to create amazing apps without needing to tackle challenges like finding charging station availability, planning energy-efficient routes, and ensuring a driver’s battery will not run out at the most inconvenient moment and location. Let TomTom handle the hard parts of building for EV drivers so that you can focus on what’s most important: delivering apps that EV drivers will love and use every day!

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