How different is driving an electric vehicle? Find charge pay

Paua Jaguar iPace on a country road in Scotland

29/07/2022

Find, charge, pay. This is the way to drive an EV.

Refuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle is common knowledge, and barely any drivers think about the actual process, day to day. In fact, the price per litre and miles per gallon are the most likely considerations, yet despite the soaring costs, it’s a pain most begrudgingly still bare. The process itself is so benign and habitual – you are driving down the road, the gauge or miles remaining readout indicates ‘low’ so you search out a red and yellow or a green and yellow sign (other brand pantones are also available!). You pull into the forecourt, there are multiple pumps and so you select petrol or diesel (most people get this right); maybe even super or premium if you’re feeling flush and/or driving a performance vehicle You fill the tank and a few minutes later you’re in the kiosk, where you pull out a credit card and you pay. The person in the kiosk hands you a paper receipt and if you are in the position that you need to claim your costs, perhaps whilst driving for work, you now have the evidence for a VAT recovery process.

However, charging an electric car is fundamentally more difficult. This is because only around 2% of the vehicles on the road today are electric. At present the infrastructure is barely developed for a greater figure than this 2%.

There are three steps in the journey to recharging an electric car; find, charge, and pay.

Fastned charging site at Hamilton on the Great British EV Rally
  1. Electric vehicle chargepoints are not necessarily located in an obvious and convenient position. They can be hidden in a back alley, they can be in a council car park, they can be attached to a lamppost, and they can be within petrol forecourts. The driver needs to confirm that the charger has the right connector for their vehicle and that the chargepoint can charge at the right speed for the amount of time that they have available. There is no point trying to use a 7kW charger if you only have 20 minutes to charge. And crucially the driver wants to know that the charger is not broken and is not currently occupied by another EV. As charging is not an immediate process there can be significant wait times for drivers.
  2. There are over 80 different charging networks in the UK, around 200 in France and 2,000 in Germany. Each of these networks has its own app, its own card and potentially its own subscription. This requires users to have multiple apps, cards and subscriptions. If the driver does not have this app or card then they need to apply to access the charger or move on to the next location. Sometimes a driver can start a charge directly with a credit card. See all the Paua network here. 
  3. Each of the apps, cards and subscriptions requires a linked payment method. On occasion a credit card reader can be used to start the machine. Crucially for a business there is a requirement to access a receipt. As these machines are unattended and do not print a receipt there is a requirement for the drivers to call an operator, send an email or fill in a web form. And if they are fortunate they may get a receipt. To read more on receipts we have a summary here.

Through this journey there is a hierarchy of need for the driver. The less range they have the more pressing is the key question ’can I get a charge?’. Additional characteristics that users are interested in include charging speed, sites with more connectors (increases the probability of getting a charge), the price to access and use each charger, and the reliability of a network. Understanding this ecosystem is crucial to supporting the best possible user experience.