EV Nick’s Guide to the Top Ten EV Apps

31st Jan 2019

EV Nick’s Guide to the Top Ten EV Apps
One of the main hurdles with being an electric car driver is having the right app to charge at each location. It’s less of an issue in Scotland with CPS cards, however the rest of the UK is a battleground of private companies, each with their own app or charge card service. Every year I do a Top 10 of electric car charging apps and cards for EV drivers. This includes the various apps for charging your car and also for trip planning, the 2nd hurdle for most EV drivers. I this article I list the best apps and grade them for their usability, design and features.

Plugshare

with 230,000 locations worldwide on the charge map, is likely one everyone has heard of. The best description I’ve heard of it is as Wikipedia for charge point locations. It’s community of members add new photos of chargers and they also contribute towards rating how reliable they are. For example, “did it work”, “was it ICE’d” feeds into a reliability score for each charge point. One of the best features, for me, is the ability to say you’re charging and how long you will be there. This lets other people who might be waiting to use the charger see your predicted return time it also allows them to message you via the app if they are needing to charge.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Ecotricity

also known as the electric highway is present at every motorway service station in the country apart from 1! They often get bad press, however, with them being in the most used locations it isn’t surprising that we often hear horror stories. Personally I’ve never had a single issue in my car (Renault Zoe) and Nissan Leaf owners tend to say the same, however CCS based cars seem to have regular issues with these pumps. A nationwide fix has gone in and some are now being updated. However, their app is rather reliable and there is a backup webpage. If you have no data or internet signal, the pumps have a local wifi connection that allows you to access the app. The wifi password is “ecotricity”. Also, if the pump has no server connection then the pump will work on free vend. In fact I can say that I’ve had more free electricity from Ecotricity than I have paid for. As well as the rapids, Ecotricity has some small 22kw posts around the country. However you need an Ecotricity RFID card for these to work.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

CYC

or Charge Your Car are the same people that operate the back-office system for ChargePlace Scotland. It’s also under the umbrella of BP Chargemaster / Polar network. Most the chargers on this system are currently free, however some do have a tariff, Chargers can be started in various ways if you haven’t got a polar membership, it’s also a way for a tourist in Scotland to activate CPS chargers. The app is terrible however. It’s not got the best search function and is clunky and slow. If you’re waiting for your CPS card it’s a great way to start the chargers.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Polar Instant

is owned and run by BP Chargemaster they have some of the most modern and arguably the most reliable chargers in the UK. This part of the review is going to be split in two parts, one review of the instant app and the other the paid membership. Polar instant is one of the most reliable networks and tends to be in very good locations around the UK. If a polar charger isn’t on the CYC system it’s on the polar instant network. However once I had to use one in an underground car park in London. Luckily there were two of us, one to use the app and shout instructions while the other plugged the car in. Not well thought out. Their rapids do tend to be outdoors however, so all good. If you’re on the polar instant system your need to top up the account with credit before slowing down the process and if you’re somewhere with poor signal it’s going to take some time! They are also expensive to non members, however if you’re not likely to use them much, not an issue. Some of there new rapids have Contactless card payment direct on the terminal which does mean you can pay by tapping your debit card!

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Polar Paid‘s subscription option does make life easier and if you’re going to use them a lot it makes it cheaper! You get an RFID tag and just tap it on the
charger, that’s it! No app, just tap and plug

USABILITY

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Podpoint

is our next app, often found at Lidl. Most of them are free! They tend to fit a mixture of rapids and 7kW posts. They’re nice clean machines in well lit areas and apart from them sometimes having issues when they just been installed tend to be faultless. Nice clean fresh design app that loads straight to a map of the UK, if you have a podpoint home charger you can connect it to the app to see your home usage in the app as well as your public charging sessions. Chargers have neat little names making it easy to understand you’re starting the correct plug.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Smoov

is the app your need to access the chargers at Shell petrol stations. Currently the most Northerly charger is in Glasgow, with the majority in London. However as Shell roll them out we will likely see them on most Shell forecourts. The app however is terrible. My advice would be don’t to instead get a NewMotion RFID card its free and can be linked to other charger providers like engenie who also have a terrible app and there app and Smoov app will be rated as one below. (Editors note: Shell own NewMotion)

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

WattsUp

is like Plugshare in many ways. Before you say you don’t need a similar app, wait and let me tell you why you do. It’s design is a thing of beauty in my mind it should get more marks than I can give. The trip planner shows you what “brand” each charger is so if you wanted to avoid a certain network you can, unlike lugshare you don’t have to click each charger to find this out it’s shown on the planner, I’ve had some minor issues with it crashing but this app is the newest on our list and the developers seem very active on social media, so I am sure updates and fixes will come all the time. It’s got lots of nice, easy to use features like find the nearest charger and every time Ioad the app there seems to be an improvement or new feature.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store

Your dedicated car app.

The list of options here could be endless, so search for your car in an app store and download some apps to try. They offer features like remote preheat and charge scheduling and many other things. I can’t rate all the dedicated apps but I’d say if your car has one you need to download it, good or bad.

It’s time to cheat a little, the next apps are not strictly electric car apps.

What3words

is in fact a navigation app system I first learned about it from the team that have a Rally version of a Renault Zoe they use it in case there drivers break down on a rally circuit and they need to locate them. So why is being listed here? Well I think its something that many EV apps should build into there system as we know most EV chargers are in remote locations and hard to often find. What3Words makes finding these location EASY, it gives you 3 words you type them into its sat nav system or your cars sat nav if it supports it and then it takes you to that exact geolocation, no stupidly long sat nav numbers or hard to remember postcodes that are not likely near the charger just type 3 words and you’re there! Sadly no charge maps use them yet… and no EV chargers on its system but hopefully soon!

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

Gridwatch

Another useful and interesting app is GRIDWATCH this lets you see live figures for National Grid generation and energy sources. However more importantly for us eco conscious it tells you the CO2 these forms of generation are producing and you can then decide if you really need to plug your car in for a charge. In Scotland you’re blessed with lots of wind turbines so the power is mostly green however if we all do our bit this will help lower overall CO2 figures.

USABILITY

DESIGN

FEATURES

Download from the App Store Get it on Google Play

I hope this list has helped you and I do hope you found some you didn’t know about previously. This list gets updated annually on my YouTube channel and I always look out for new entries.

Some apps dropped out from this year’s list as I didn’t think they added anything that others didn’t already do (better).


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