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EV Drivers — who are they now and in the future? — Part 3

In this series which is based on data from Electric Vehicle Councils study, JD Power buyer considerations and other sources to better understand how and where consumers drive and recharge their electric vehicles (EVs) and what they would like to experience while recharging in terms of site design, amenities, capabilities, and services.

It is intended to understand current consumer behaviour and how it will evolve in the next 10 years.

Part 1 was published 19 Oct 2022

Part 2 was published 25 Oct 2022

We will look at the following 5 areas:

  • Part 1 — Who is the EV Driver?

  • Part 2 — When and where does the EV Driver recharge?

  • Part 3 — Why does an EV Driver choose a particular recharging facility?

  • Part 4 — How do EV drivers interact with charging equipment?

  • Part 5 — What do EV Drivers do at facilities while charging?

Part 3 — Why does the EV Driver choose a particular public recharging facility? Summary

  • EV drivers tend to base their choice of public chargers on various factors, including: speed of charging, need for charging, brand of the charger, compatibility with the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), dependability, availability, identity of charging host/facilities available (e.g., grocery store, gym, etc.), payment options available, and app/in-car interface suggestions.

  • Dependability, convenience, cost of use, and the need to travel beyond the EV’s battery range appear to have the greatest influence in the choice of charging location (2011–2019).

  • Approximately 75% of today’s non-Tesla drivers feel the current charging network is “somewhat” or “very adequate” (2017).

  • Approximately 46% of BEV drivers (2016) feel availability of direct current fast charging (DCFC) as a feature is not a very big influencer in their EV buying decision.

  • More than 80% of EV drivers use three charging locations or fewer away from their home, where they do most of their charging (2011–2014).

  • The drivers’ decision in picking a brand of charger is influenced by factors such as favouring the provider of the default EV charge card (e.g., Hyundai Ioniq has a ChargePoint card in the glovebox). Other factors include being of the same brand as their home charger, dependability of the network, availability in their primary area of operation of the vehicle, and availability at the places they visit often.

  • Fewer than 5% of EV owners rely on smartphone applications (“apps”) to find charging stations for daily use, although many EV owners likely have a charging app on their smartphone. Tesla models have point-to-point trip planning with charging integrated in the vehicle, and it is likely other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) will use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to follow (2022).

  • Level 2 charging availability’s influence on consumer perception of availability, capacity and convenience compared to DCFC equipment

In CleanTechnica’s survey of current and potential EV drivers, 46% of respondents feel that DCFC is not “very important” and 54% felt it was “very important” or a requirement”(Figure 26). In a different study, CleanTechnica found that approximately 70% of BEV drivers used DCFC only a few times a year (Figure 27).

In the same study, approximately 42% of non-Tesla BEV drivers think the current EV charging network is “very adequate,” and approximately 33% think it is “somewhat adequate.”

Tesla, as of October 2022, owned 14,589 Superchargers (equivalent to DCFCs) and 11,685 Destination Charging locations (equivalent to Level 2 chargers), which makes the Tesla network approximately 54% of all DCFCs in the U.S. and approximately 16% of all Level 2 chargers. Non-Tesla EV drivers currently have access to approximately 15,000 DCFCs and approximately 60,000 Level 2 chargers. These data points suggest that current EV owners are not deterred by today’s EV infrastructure; rather, they have found ways to use EVs around potential infrastructure limitations. For mass adoption, it is important to understand the views of buyers who do not consider EVs today. This can be pursued with a targeted survey toward those individuals.

Influence of Charging Equipment Brands

EV drivers’ selection of a particular brand of charger can be influenced by the following factors:

  1. Built-in equipment: Vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq and Chevrolet Bolt EV usually either have a ChargePoint or similar charge card in the glovebox of the vehicle when bought new. Many drivers, since the charge card is already available, tend to use the corresponding brand of charging network. Tesla, with the charging application integrated into the infotainment system, allows for seamless operation within its network. Nissan Leafs ship with an EZ Card that allows the driver to use chargers operated by ChargePoint, Blink, Network from Car Charging Group, AeroVironment, and NRG EVgo.

  2. Familiarity: Charging network providers like ChargePoint and Blink also make home chargers. When a consumer has one of them installed at home, familiarity with the home charger could bias their choice of a public charger used especially when they are new to owning EVs.

  3. Dependability: Consumer Reports notes that some networks are more dependable than others and that chargers at newer stations can be out of service.

  4. Availability: ChargePoint has more than 35,000 Level 2 chargers in the U.S., which is just shy of the combined total of all other networks’ Level 2 chargers combined. However, networks are not uniformly distributed throughout the country. Hence, a customer’s choice could sometimes be based on availability, rather than by choice. For example, in Alaska, out of the 39 available Level 2 plugs, only eight are operated by ChargePoint and 24 are non-networked. So, an EV owner in Alaska might prefer signing up with ChargePoint to have access to eight chargers, which is more convenient than signing up individually with various standalone providers that operate each of the other chargers.

  5. Charging host: A customer may prefer to use a particular charger network based on their needs and habits. For example, a customer who shops at a particular grocery store, where a charger of a certain network is installed, might choose to use that particular network for their charging needs because they go there anyway and plugging in would be an added convenience.

CleanTechnica found that PlugShare was the most popular app — it had been used by 74% of the participants (Figure 28).

Various sources point to the fact that on average PEV drivers rely on public charging stations for only 20%-33% of their charging needs, and the remaining 67%-80% of charging happens at home or at work.

More than 80% of drivers use only three public locations or fewer for their charging needs away from home and work.

Cumulatively, approximately 38% of all PEVs sold were Tesla vehicles before 2019, and in 2019, 58% of all PEVs sold were Tesla vehicles. Tesla has their Superchargers network integrated onto the infotainment system, negating the need for an app. Based on this, it would be safe to assume that fewer than 5% of EV drivers use apps on a daily or frequent basis to locate charging stations. It is likely that EV owners download at least one of these apps, and app usage is likely to be more frequent when in a new location (Figure 29).

Going forward, OEMs are likely to provide similar attributes to Tesla’s in-vehicle point-to-point trip-planning feature. As more owners use their EVs for long-distance travel, the need for trip planning and finding public charging will increase. Many OEMs have adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that allows applications such as PlugShare and Zap-Map to provide in-vehicle features. OEMs are providing APIs to allow integration of smart routing into their interface; with availability of data such as power output and vehicle state-of-charge, the in-car navigation system could optimise the route by planning a stop at a faster charging station to reduce overall trip time.

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