When you plug in a Tesla vehicle to charge, it has the ability to charge automatically without any additional manual action required. This feature is designed to provide convenience and ease of use for Tesla owners. But, for other cars, the process of getting a charge is often more complicated. Instead of just plugging in, you usually have to pay for the session with a credit card, activate a session using a mobile app, or otherwise get things going manually.
Other manufacturers are trying to bring that level of convenience to their vehicles, though.
One way they’re doing it is just to switch to Tesla’s charging plug and protocols. As we’ve seen this year, Ford, GM, and a growing number of other manufacturers are going to have future vehicles (starting in 2025) with Tesla’s NACS plug instead of CCS. When these future vehicles use an adapter at other stations, they’ll still have to go through the rigmarole, but things should be faster and easier at a Supercharger.
Another way to make things easier is to add automatic charging to CCS charging stations, and that’s the approach EVgo has been taking. EVgo announced in September 2022 that it is extending plug & charge support to all CCS EVs through its new Autocharge+ feature. This enables EV drivers with vehicle and payment information set up in the EVgo app to conveniently plug in and start charging, without the need to activate the charger using the app or swipe/scan a credit card.
“EVgo believes every step of the charging experience must be convenient and easy, including locating and reserving a charger, finding nearby shopping and experiences, and now with Autocharge+, seamlessly initiating a charging session,” said Ivo Steklac, Chief Technology Officer at EVgo, at the time. “The modern digital technology we’ve built is making charging an EV even simpler than fueling up at a gas station. Autocharge+ is game-changing just like mobile wallets and same-day delivery have become, once again demonstrating EVgo’s leadership in delivering cutting-edge charging services for EV drivers.”
EVgo’s latest announcement builds upon its previous one in June 2022, where it introduced plug & charge support for GM electric vehicles with DC fast charging capability. By signing up just once, GM customers gain convenient access to fast charging on the EVgo network. The charger and car work together to securely match the driver’s vehicle with their EVgo and GM brand app accounts. To enroll, GM customers need to register their vehicle in the GM brand app (myChevrolet, myGMC, myCadillac), then link their EVgo account and activate Plug & Charge within the GM brand app.
I tested that capability later that year during a trip to Houston in my Bolt EUV. To ensure a smooth setup, I had to first establish and complete my EVgo account (years earlier). Next, I switched to the manufacturer’s app to link my EVgo account to my OnStar/GM account. Once the accounts were linked, the EVgo stations could recognize my vehicle when I plug it in and initiate charging, and know what card to put the charges on.
For my test, I pulled up to a Walgreens, conveniently located along I-69 in north Houston, just a few miles away from the town of Humble. The Walgreens station, affectionately named “Dexter” by EVgo, caught my attention as I arrived. Eager to experience the seamless charging process, I stepped out of my Bolt EUV and confidently plugged the CCS plug into the charging port.
So here’s what went down next — it was just plain boring. The car and the station had a little chat, and then bam! The car started charging, no need for an RFID card, no app juggling, no credit card swiping, and definitely no smoke signals to EVgo HQ. I mean, unlike any other non-Tesla DCFC charging session I’ve ever had (and paid for), it was as simple as plug and charge. The car started charging, and I was sitting there feeling like something was missing.
My only complaint was that the charging session occurred during peak hours, costing me $14 for approximately 17 kWh. This translates to around $0.80 per kWh, which is relatively expensive compared to the $0.12 per minute rate at Electrify America. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to know that plug and charge is viable for non-Tesla electric vehicles.
But, apparently this experience wasn’t actually available for all vehicles whose owners had an account, because EVgo recently announced that it is adding this support for Rivian’s vehicles. Last week, the company announced that the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV would be able to charge just by plugging in. According to the company, those two vehicles bring the total number of vehicle models compatible with Autocharge to 30.
The company also says that these convenient sessions happen for about 13% of all EVgo charging sessions.
“As we’ve seen with rideshare, on-demand delivery, contactless payments and beyond — the more frictionless and dependable an experience is, the more people will embrace it. EVgo is committed to delivering reliable and convenient fast charging, and Autocharge+ offers the seamless customer experience that drivers expect,” said Ivo Steklac, Chief Technology Officer at EVgo. “We’re thrilled to welcome Rivian drivers to Autocharge+ and look forward to expanding the program for even more EV drivers in the future.”
This Should Be More Common
One thing that jumped out at me in the press release was that only a small percentage of EVgo’s charging sessions use Autocharge, which is somewhat confusing. You’d think that frequent EVgo users would set it up to make things easier, but apparently that’s not the case.
But, then I remembered that I don’t live anywhere near any EVgo stations. The nearest ones are a 5-hour drive away, and going the other way, the nearest ones are most of the way across Texas. On that trip to Houston, the EVgo station was the only one along my route, and I admit that I chose it just to test the feature out. So, it could be that EVgo’s users mostly aren’t frequent users, and few think it’s worth the trouble of setting the app up for it.
Really, things like Autocharge+ and Plug and Charge should be the norm in the industry. The option for other things, like a manual pay-per-charge, should probably exist for odd situations so nobody gets stranded, but for everything else, just plugging in and charging should be more widely available. If Electrify America, ChargePoint, and Blink all did this, too, I would probably never even get my phone out of my purse at a charging station.
So, the big question we’re left with is this: why isn’t everybody doing this?
Featured image provided by EVgo and Rivian.
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