A familiar refrain you’ll hear in connection with the market for electric vehicles is that its success depends not only on the vehicles themselves, but also on building out the requisite EV charging network to a sufficiently large scale that it becomes useful.
While the choice of plug-in cars is widening, the infographic below represents just how rapidly that charging infrastructure is growing too. In the last two years alone, the deployment of charging stations has grown more than ten-fold in the USA, so it’s easy to understand why EV owners have come to rely on tools that ensure they are up-to-date as to where they can plug in. The two leading companies in providing such tools via their apps for EV owners, Recargo and Xatori, have just announced that they will merge to combine their resources to deliver a more powerful offering to their users.
In 2013, both companies have enjoyed rapid growth; according to the press release announcing their merger, both have doubled membership this year. While an overlapping product from each entity has been a charging station locator, going forward, they will consolidate these into a single directory of over 20,000 EV charging stations under the PlugShare brand.
Much of the success of both organizations so far has been down to building community around their services, which in turn has allowed them to gain powerful market intelligence. For example, their charging station location services have been widely adopted because up-to-the-minute data on the location and status of places to plug in are crowdsourced from their member communities. As members check in, information on individual charging stations is fed back into the app, often with photos. This has resulted in charging station information often being superior to that embedded in vehicle navigation systems.
Forrest North, CEO of Xatori, who will become the COO of the merged Recargo, describes their membership as, “an active and passionate community” enabling a mutually beneficial relationship to develop. While Recargo provides user tools, the company offers a forum for data to come back from the community, helping to inform what products consumers want. As such, automakers, fleet managers and utilities are all eager to work with Recargo. Accordingly, the new company will have services tailored to drivers, but also those that are industry-facing. As Brian Kariger, who will remain CEO of the merged Recargo puts it, they are, “bringing the experience of drivers into the relationship with the industry.”
The press release reports that the companies are coming together with the same goal in mind; to grow the EV market. I asked Brian Kariger and Forrest North what they feel will make plug-in vehicles successful. The fundamental answer, “the market needs to produce products the consumer really wants.” That said though, there are numerous barriers to information for consumers at the moment; Kariger and North see their role as being a part of overcoming barriers to intelligence and their combined resources will provide greater opportunities to do that.
In the meantime, Forrest North pointed out that we are crossing the milestone of 100,000 plug-in cars in the USA at the moment, adding, “There’s no going back now.”
The complete suite of Recargo products now includes:
Consumer products and services:
- PluginCars – the web’s premier site for reviews, user forums and guides about purchasing and owning plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles
- PlugShare – a cause-based social network that allows users to find charging stations and connect with other plug-in vehicle owners
- Recargo Station Finder – finds electric vehicle charging stations, searches for food and activities via Yelp, and connects to news from PluginCars.com
- GreenCharge – displays driving patterns, charging costs, and environmental impact on iPhones and iPads
- PlugInsights – delivers opt-in surveys of behaviors and desires of potential and current plug-in buyers, catered to the plug-in industry
- Charging Station API – an industry-standard API to integrate and deliver charging station information on a variety of platforms
- ChargeManager – a web-based application to maintain plug-in electric and hybrid fleets by monitoring vehicles’ charging statuses and levels
- Reports and Dashboards – provides the plug-in industry with an inside view on charging stations and electric vehicles across North America
Charging station image by gywst