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Electrify America Unveils its EV Charging Smartphone App Designed to Make Charging Easy

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【Summary】Electrify America (EA) is investing $2 billion over ten years on EV charging infrastructure in the U.S., as well as education about electric vehicles. Besides building a coast to coast network of EV vehicle charging infrastructure, one of the goals of EA is to make electric vehicle charging a seamless experience for drivers and the company just unveiled its first smartphone app.

Eric Walz    May 06, 2019 2:00 PM PT
Electrify America Unveils its EV Charging Smartphone App Designed to Make Charging Easy
Electrify America's Reston, Virginia test lab.

Electrify America (EA) is investing $2 billion over ten years in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) EV charging infrastructure in the U.S., as well as education about electric vehicles. Besides building a nationwide network of EV charging infrastructure, one of the goals of EA is to make electric vehicle charging a seamless experience for drivers and today the company unveiled its first smartphone app.

The app is available for both Android and iPhone and allows EV drivers to easily manage a charging session right from their phone.

EA is headquartered in Reston, VA and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group. The company was formed as restitution for the infamous Volkswagen "dieselgate" scandal. EA's chief mission is to build out a robust network of fast charging (350 kw) and 150 kw charging stations in major metro areas coast to coast.

"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."

With the launch of the new Electrify America app, the company also announced two new membership plans, Electrify America Pass and Pass+. Both plans will be available later this month.

The standard pass includes per-minute charging cost plus a $1 session fee to initiate charging and the upgrade to Electrify America Pass+ subscription offers a lower cost per-minute along with a $4 monthly subscription fee.

EA's new mobile app features and easy to use interface and makes finding a nearby charging station simple. The app shows all of the charging stations in the area, how many of each type of chargers are at the station, and which ones are available to use. Electrify America Pass holders can see the charging status of vehicles currently using the chargers and received a notification when a charger becomes available.

Customers can upload their payment information into the app and pay for a charging session through their phone. They can also see prices by selecting a station and viewing the charging costs.

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The Electrify America EV Charging app

EA has created an all-new pricing structure to prepare for future EVs capable of charging from 50kW, 150kW and up to 350kW.  Under the new pricing structure, per-minute costs are dependent on the power level at which the car is charging and the state where the charger is located. So drivers of EVs capable of fast-charging will pay a little more than Nissan Leaf drivers.

The app allows a driver to check charging status in real time as along the vehicle is able to communicate charging information. The smartphone app shows the vehicle's current state of charge (SOC) and the time remaining until the battery reaches "bulk" charge, which is generally around 80 percent.

Drivers can also receive notifications of when the charging session has started, slowed and stopped. Once a charging session is complete, the app will provide a digital receipt.

EA aims to have 484 charger sites operational by the end of June and up to 2,000 more by the end of this year. Average spacing between chargers is around 70 miles, allowing a EV driver to cross the country without worrying about running out of juice.

Electrify America's chief operating officer Brendan Jones said that Electrify America's EV charging network rollout will surpass Tesla's Supercharger network.

"It will be the fastest deployment of EV charging infrastructure in the United States." he said. It will also be open to all drivers, no matter what brand of EV they drive.

In addition to providing charging for drivers of VW and Audi vehicles, Electrify America has already struck a deal with several automakers, including an EV startup that does not plan on operating EV charging stations on its own. California-based Lucid Motors is one of the first electric vehicle startups to ink a deal with EA, allowing Lucid owners to charge their vehicles at any Electrify America station nationwide.

"Plug & Charge" Technology

EA chargers.jpg

A pair of EV charging stations being tested at Electrify America's lab in Reston, VA.

Many of EA's charging stations feature "Plug & Charge" technology (ISO 15118), an industry standard way of communication between the vehicle and the charger. If "Plug & Charge" is supported by the manufacturer, the only action required by the driver is to plug in the EV charging cable.

Once the charging cable is plugged in, the EV will automatically identify itself to the charging station on behalf of the driver and be authorized to begin recharging its battery. There is no need to enter a credit card or scan a QR code. All of the billing info and other data is transferred through the cable using a secure security certificate shared between the car and charging site.

EA said that this implementation in the future will require cooperation from automakers to allow for the sharing of vehicle data via the charging port.

Each charger is designed to deliver the maximum power the vehicle accepts, so a driver does not have to select their vehicle's charging rate, as soon as the vehicle is plugged in, the charging rate adjusts automatically. Per-minute costs are dependent on the power level at which the car is charging and the state where the charger is located.

"The rate of charge is determined by the car itself, not the charger." said Seth Cutler, chief engineer at Electrify America. The driver can simply plug in and the charging rate is automatically adjusted based on the vehicle.

Liquid Cooled EV Charging Cables

Another way to make charging easier for customers is the use of liquid cooled cables at the charging sites, which reduces the amount of cooper needed to support the higher charging rates of up to 350 kw. The built-in cooling system allows the charging cables to be made much thinner and lighter, so they are easy for a driver to handle and plug in to their vehicle.

Electrify America says that without the integrated cooling system, the cables would need to be made much thicker (about the diameter of a person's fist), making them heavy and unwieldy to use.

In addition to the liquid cooled cables, each Electrify America charging station is equipped with dual cables. This is so a driver does not have to worry about which side the charging port is located on their vehicle, they can simply pull up to the charger and grab whichever cable is closest to the connector on their vehicle.

Electrify America says that at least 100 of the EV charging sites will have Tesla batteries as backup energy storage to support higher peak power demands (over 200 kW), when needed. The Tesla batteries eliminate peak charges from utility companies which are often passed on to power customers. The batteries also provide backup for emergencies such as a power outage. Each Tesla battery has 350 kWh of storage capacity.

The EV charging stations are located in 17 metropolitan areas, and along high-traffic corridors in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

The new app gives EV drivers convenient access to the entire EA network.

(Disclosure: Electrify America provided travel expenses to a select group of journalists to visit the company's Reston, VA headquarters and Center of Excellence. This in no way influenced our media coverage.)

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