Automakers Partner With Third-Party Networks, Apps to Ease Electric Vehicle Ownership 

As a growing number of electric vehicles (EVs) hit the road, automakers are partnering with third parties and their apps to make it easier for owners to keep these vehicles charged. 

The demand for this service is accelerating. EV sales in the U.S. doubled to 475,000 vehicles in 2021, EV charging network EVgo reported. EVs now account for 3% of vehicle sales in the U.S., up from 1.5% in the previous year. 

Read more: EV Charging Network’s App Enables Reservations, Payments and Rewards 

When announcing their programs, the automakers and their partners noted that charging stations will draw EV drivers to retail locations, extend the automaker’s relationship with the vehicle owners and boost shoppers’ consideration of EVs. 

“We believe that making charging easy also makes ownership easy,” Greg Silvestri, vice president of service operations at Kia America, said in a statement. 

Continuing Customer Relationships After Vehicle Delivery 

Kia America is running a pilot program that provides EV owners with a solution that brings the charging to them. The automaker announced March 15 that through April 30 it is offering customers in three markets no-cost access to an on-demand mobile charging service. 

This service is delivered by Currently, which will charge EV owners’ vehicles at the time and location of their choosing. To utilize the program, Kia EV owners must download the Currently app that enables them to schedule the service. 

Kia’s offer is now available in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, California. The automaker said it will consider expanding the offer, based on customer response to this pilot program. 

“The relationship with our customers does not end after delivery. In fact, that is just the beginning,” Silvestri said. 

Providing a Place to Relax During EV Charging 

Another recently announced partnership will make it easy for EV owners to get a discount on the charging and sit with a cup of coffee while it’s being done. In a pilot program that is to begin this summer, Volvo Car USA and Starbucks will install 60 chargers at 15 Starbucks locations. These stations will be available to all EV drivers for a fee, and to Volvo owners at no charge or at preferential rates. 

The supplier of the chargers, EV charging network ChargePoint, will also provide its app so that drivers can find and access the charging stations. The app can be used on a smartphone or can be integrated into the in-dash system of Volvo Recharge vehicles that have Google embedded. 

“Volvo Cars wants to give people the freedom to move and lower their impact on the environment,” Anders Gustafsson, senior vice president of the Americas and president and CEO at Volvo Car USA, said in a statement. “Working with Starbucks we can do that by giving them enjoyable places to relax while their cars recharge.” 

Serving Each Customer’s Charging Needs and Preferences 

Toyota, too, will work with ChargePoint to offer customers charging solutions both at home and at public stations. This program will begin later this year with the launch of Toyota’s 2023 bZ4X battery electric SUV. 

For home charging, drivers of this vehicle will be able to purchase a charger from participating Toyota dealerships or directly from ChargePoint. 

For drivers looking for public charging stations, Toyota will use ChargePoint’s application programming interfaces (APIs) to help them find, use and pay for vehicle charging via the Toyota App. 

“We want to instill a feeling of confidence in our bZ4X customers by providing a variety of charging options both at home and away to serve each customer’s unique charging needs and preferences,” Christopher Yang, vice president of EV Charging Solutions at Toyota, said in a statement. 

Taking Care of an Item on EV Owners’ To-Do Lists 

Charging is going to be a significant item on EV owners’ to-do lists, whether they’re having their vehicle charged at home, at the office or at a public station. 

Toyota said the home charger for the bZ4X can charge up to 25 miles of range per hour. The chargers that are to be used at the Starbucks locations can bring the Volvo C40 Recharge from a 20% to a 90% charge in about 40 minutes, and the CEO of the parent company of Currently said EV charging is likely to take a couple of hours each week.