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Road Rave: Taking the guesswork out of public EV charging stations

Range anxiety and uncertainty about access to charging stations are still the primary concerns cited by new car buyers when asked why they are hesitant to purchase or lease an electric vehicle.

“Dealerships are looking for the top three things they can say to help sell a car, and we found that the hard part of selling an EV is the charging system,” Matt Teske, the founder of a startup named Chargeway, told Digital Trends.

Through a comprehensive approach involving car dealers, public utilities, charging providers, and consumers, Teske believes he can simplify the public charging network, and make car buyers more comfortable with the idea of going electric.

The Chargeway Beacon

Teske developed the Chargeway Beacon to help dealers make the case for EVs. It’s basically a big stand-up display that shows the network of charging stations in the nearby area. The beacon displays every location, and it can be customized to show only those stations compatible with the cars sold at that dealership. If you’re in the market for a Leaf, for example, the nearest Nissan dealer will show you only the charging stations the hatchback can plug into.

Chargeway

“With this tool, you can show a customer who is shopping in the showroom exactly where they can charge the vehicle,” Teske explained. “With electric cars, we have a cornucopia of options with plug types, AC or DC, and charging speeds. It takes too long to explain. So, we took all that language about charging, and converted into something you can explain to someone in the matter of a minute.”

Categorizing Charging Stations

To explain the charging landscape, Chargeway developed a system to categorize charging stations based on their plug type, and on the charging speed available at the station. Plug types are tagged as green, blue, or red in the app. Green stations use the standard SAE J1772 variety plus the DC Fast charging CCS plug, as supported by Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and other automakers. Blue stations offer CHAdeMO fast-charging plugs. Red stations are for Tesla chargers. It’s a lot simpler – and less technical – than it sounds when you break it down into colors.

Jeff Zuschmeide/Digital Trends

Then, each charging station is also rated according to its charging speed. The number one indicates 1.4 kilowatts, while a two indicates charging capabilities between three and 20 kilowatts. Fast charging ranges from three to six, up to 200 kilowatts. The faster you charge, the faster you’ll get back on the road.

The Chargeway App

Teske’s vision doesn’t stop at the dealership door. The Beacon is really just a large format implementation of the main product: the Chargeway app. The app is free to download for iOS or Android, and free to use for consumers. To answer the obvious question, Chargeway makes money through support from public electric utilities, who are keen to promote EV use, and who often have agreements to promote green initiatives with their home states and municipalities.

When you select your particular vehicle, the app ignores all charging stations that are not applicable to it.

The Chargeway app has a lot going on. The main function is a map of all public EV charging stations in America. You can use it like a similar function in Google maps to zoom in where you happen to be now, or to check out the charging scene in any area you plan to visit. That’s pretty good on its own, but Chargeway takes it a step further.

“It always comes down to the car you’re driving,” Teske said. “Because, depending on the car, the plug type might be different, and the charging level it can accept will be different. The car you’re driving is the only thing you’re concerned about.”

The Chargeway app also includes every EV you can buy in America. When you select your particular vehicle, the app ignores all charging stations that are not applicable to it.

Chargeway

“Once you add your vehicle, we can show you the stations that will work for you,” Teske explained.

It doesn’t end there. When you select a charging station, the app offers you the ability to calculate how long you need to leave your car plugged into the charger to take on enough electricity to get where you’re going. For example, if you roll in on a 50-percent charge with 120 miles of range left on your car, and you need to travel 150 miles to get home, the Chargeway app will tell you precisely how long you’ll wait at that station for. Extending this service a little further, Chargeway can help you plan a road trip, including calculating your charge times at stations along the way to get you where you’re going in the most efficient way.

Partnering with Utilities and Charging Station Networks

Chargeway is working with the different charging station networks to place stickers on the chargers that correspond to its color- and number-based classification system. That way, users will be able to see the same information on the charger that the app displays. Additionally, signage visible from the road could use the same designations to give EV drivers confidence that the station fits their car.

“By labeling the stations, drivers can immediately know if that charger will work for them.”

“Labeling the stations is one of the last things we’re working on,” Teske said. “If you’re an EV driver, you’re not seeing a well-lit gas station on the corner. Charging stations could be tucked away anywhere. By labeling the stations, drivers can immediately know if that charger will work for them.”

Right now, Chargeway is working a pilot program in Portland, Oregon, in partnership with Portland General Electric corporation and the company’s Electric Avenue charging stations around the city.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“This is the first example of what we’re doing with PGE,” Teske said. “We’re going to be labeling every single Electric Avenue with the exact same language.”

Moving forward, Chargeway plans to work with charging network providers to support the company’s color and number coding system, and to make it easier for EV owners to manage charge accounts with multiple providers. Ultimately, Teske’s goal is to make EV charging as straightforward as fueling up a car.

“An electric car drives just like any other car on the road,” Teske insisted. “The only difference is how you fuel it. Chargeway now makes electric fuel easy for everyone to understand.”

Jeff Zurschmeide
Jeff Zurschmeide is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon. Jeff covers new cars, motor sports, and technical topics for a…
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