Major EV charging networks sign roaming agreement, opening door for more flexibility
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Jul 16, 2021
Jasmin Legatos

Canadian electric vehicle fleet operators and drivers are set to benefit from the convenience of using one card or app to access chargers from some of North America’s largest networks

Image source: ChargePoint

Canadian electric vehicle fleet operators and drivers are set to benefit from the convenience of using one card or app to access chargers from several of North America’s largest networks

Greenlots, ChargePoint, EV Connect and FLO have now enabled roaming across their networks of 54,000 chargers in Canada and the United States, with more companies expected to join in the near future.

This means that electric vehicle (EV) owners no longer need an account or a membership with each of these providers to charge their vehicles at public stations — think malls, workplaces or on the roadside. It’s similar to how bank card holders can get money from any ATM, but without any additional service fees.

Providers say this type of seamless experience will help accelerate the switch to electric.

“Roaming agreements are a tangible way to improve EV drivers’ experience and break down barriers to widespread adoption, which ultimately encourages more people to switch to electric vehicles,” FLO’s chief product officer Nathan Yang said in a statement.

According to a recent poll by KPMG, half of those planning to buy a vehicle but not an EV cited lack of charging infrastructure as a factor in their decision. “Roaming is a really critical piece in our transition,” says Suzanne Goldberg, ChargePoint’s director of policy for Canada, in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

“Our mission is to ensure that all people and goods can move on electric. We get there by putting the driver first.”

It’s also a critical piece in the transition of the country’s commercial fleets like delivery vehicles. 

“Knowing that the fleet driver can use one card, one network and one ecosystem to charge in their depot and then around town no matter where they are, makes it easier for fleet managers [to make that move],” Goldberg adds. 

An incentive for businesses

For companies that have or are thinking of installing chargers on-premise, the roaming partnerships represent a good business opportunity.

“It makes it easier to find a charging station, which will increase their utilisation and ultimately benefit the individual that has invested in the charging equipment,” Goldberg says. 

While in most cases charging rates are set by the individual station owner, the agreement will provide more visibility on pricing and allow consumers to better pick and choose where and how they want to charge. For instance, if they’re only planning on making a quick stop, they can use their home provider’s app to find a station with fast charge capabilities on another participating network.

Plug and Charge convenience

Electrify Canada, a partnership between Volkswagen Group and Electrify America, also recently introduced an update that will make seamless charging more available to Canadians across its fast charging network: Plug and Charge.

Owners of the 2021 Porsche Taycan equipped with this feature can now register with the manufacturer online when they purchase their vehicles, add a payment method and charge at any Electrify Canada site without pulling out their wallets or smartphones. The charger communicates directly with the vehicle to “identify, authenticate and authorize and bill the customer’s registered account for the charging session,” explains a statement by the company.

The plug and charge approach is used by Tesla across its Supercharging network and is one of the reasons that manufacturer’s charging experience is highly regarded.

“It takes almost no time to start the charge. You just plug it in and walk away,” says Mike Moran, head of communications for both Electrify Canada and Americain an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada. “It further streamlines the charging process.”

Electrify Canada announced this week they are expanding in a major way. The company, increased its commitment to build 32 Canadian charging locations to more than 100 by 2025. With the new stations, Electrify Canada will operate in nine provinces.

More partnerships to come

Moran also says the company, which owns and operates direct current or DC fast chargers with charging speeds up to 350kW, plans to unveil plug and charge partnerships with other car manufacturers later this year. Though no passenger vehicle can currently charge at 350kW (the Taycan is the fastest on the market at 270 kW), Electrify Canada’s fast charging capabilities allow it to future-proof its system.

“[Fast] public charging extends the useability of your electric vehicle for people who don’t have access to a personal charging point or who need a charge on the road,” Moran adds. 

Software at the heart of developments

In the case of both roaming and plug and charge, software is the key that enables charging developments. “It’s the glue,” Goldberg says. “When we talk about seamless charging, we’re referring to that software piece.”

Moran, too, credits Electrify Canada’s software team for helping to make plug and charge a reality with the Taycan but also credits the automakers.

“You’re hearing announcements every day. We’re all trying to make it as convenient as possible to travel across the country and from province to province in an EV. That’s what’s so exciting about the e-mobility industry: the technology is coming at us fairly rapidly.”

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