Electrify America says that a new mobile app will become available later this month along with a new pricing strategy that will drop basic prices by about 20 percent. A new discounted subscription plan and a new 3-tier pricing model based on vehicle charging capability are also being introduced.
The new app, for Apple iOS and Google Android phones, will enable customers to search for and locate chargers and then pay for and start a charging session without physically using a credit card at the dispenser.
“We are committed to increasing EV adoption and are constantly innovating to make the charging experience as convenient and accessible as possible,” said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO at Electrify America. “With our new app, we put all the information and capabilities you need to charge your EV right in your pocket, making charging with us easier than ever. Combined with our new membership plans, we are streamlining the charging experience at our ultra-fast chargers.”
The new per-minute pricing is based around three different levels of vehicle charging power capability: below 75 kW, from 76 kW to 125 kW, and power levels above 126 kW. The appropriate pricing tier is identified at the beginning of each charging session when the car is plugged in and it remains unchanged until the charge ends.
The actual prices within those tiers will be set on a per-state basis and will be revealed later this month. However, company officials did say that the lowest-priced tier will drop approximately 20 percent below the previous 30 to 35 cents per minute prices that apply to all vehicles today even without a subscription.
Anyone will still be able to drive up and pay by credit card, but those who download and register with the new mobile app will get discounted subscription prices if they sign up for a $4 per month “Pass+” account.
Registering without paying a monthly fee will allow customers to see additional charging status details for each car already charging at a particular location. Registering a credit card with the app on some phones will enable “tap to pay” when the phone is momentarily placed next to the NFC (Near-Field Communications) reader on a charging dispenser. Charging sessions can also be started in the app using an internet connection back to Electrify America.
Per-minute prices will be lowest for a car like the Chevrolet Bolt EV that has a peak charging rate less than 75 kW. A Jaguar I-PACE, which can charge at up to around 100 kW, would pay the middle tier price when connected to a 150+ kW charging dispenser. Finally, an Audi e-tron SUV or Porsche Taycan sports sedan would pay the same per-minute price since they can both charge at power levels above 126 kW even though the e-tron is limited to about 150 kW and the Taycan can apparently charge closer to 300 kW.
Cars that charge at higher power will pay more per-minute but can add more energy and miles of range to the battery per minute so the actual effective cost of charging for each mile of added driving range is complex and will vary.
The company recently updated the software on its station equipment to enable the new capabilities. Some customers have complained in the past about unreliable credit card reader behavior at the charging dispensers. According to Seth Cutler, the company’s Chief Engineer, the dispensers have received several significant software updates during the past year but the latest update features a major internal redesign.
By the end of this year Electrify America plans to enable “Plug & Charge” functionality which will allow newer cars to automatically identify themselves to the charger when they are plugged in somewhat similar to the way Tesla vehicles identify themselves at Supercharger sites. Customers with cars that do not support this new feature will still have to swipe a credit card or initiate the charge from the new phone app. Newer vehicles from Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes Benz are expected to support “Plug & Charge” and company officials hinted that other carmakers are working on supporting it even if they have not announced it publicly yet.
EVgo, another nationwide charging provider, recently announced it will implement the AutoCharge mechanism already used by the Dutch charging provider Fastned in Europe. AutoCharge has the advantage of working with most existing electric cars that support CCS charging but is less secure than the “Plug & Charge” feature being implemented by Electrify America.
Carmakers are also arranging custom prepaid charging contracts with Electrify America. Each new Audi e-tron will get 1,000 kWh of charging during the first four years of use. Porsche Taycan owners will get unlimited 30-minute charging sessions for the first three years. Contracts with additional automakers are expected to be announced in coming weeks.
Not far from the company headquarters there is a testing facility where different car models are tested against the various kinds of charging equipment that Electrify America is installing.
Company officials said they have learned from some early installations where customers had difficulty reaching and inserting the charging plug into the car. Longer liquid-cooled cables are being installed at some sites now and cables are being reconfigured so that less twisting is needed to align the plug into the proper position at the car inlet.
Chief Operating Officer Brendan Jones noted that new high-power sites are coming online at a rapid pace this year that challenges Tesla’s early Supercharger rollout and exceeds the pace of any individual provider in Europe. Some 160 Electrify America DC sites have been added with over 700 dispensers since the first site opened in Chicopee, Massachusetts on May 2 of 2018. Over 100 additional sites have completed construction and are awaiting power connection by the utility.
At least 484 sites with over 2,000 charging dispensers are planned to be open by the end of 2019. Jones said the California portion of the buildout is running late but the remaining states are ahead of schedule. The stations will be located in 17 metropolitan areas, and along high-traffic corridors in 42 states and the District of Columbia.
Over 100 of those sites, mostly in the northeast and California, will receive stationary battery systems made by Tesla. These batteries will help reduce so-called “demand use” fees from utilities caused by large spikes in power consumption.
Slower AC 240V charging is being installed for Electrify America at workplaces and multi-unit residential complexes by charging providers EV Connect, Greenlots, SemaConnect.
Note: Electrify America paid for air fare and hotel costs to enable Electric Revs and some other media organizations to attend an in-person briefing last week at their headquarters in Reston, Virginia.