This Thing Rules

Charging your EV on the go is hell, but not if you have this app

Electrify America's app takes the extreme stress out of finding a public place to charge your EV.

Even if electric vehicles are the future — and trust me, they are — the world doesn’t always move in unison toward an obvious, less planet-polluting, destiny. Exhibit A: America’s extreme lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Electric trucks, SUVs, sedans, bikes, scooters, and heck, even boats, are cropping up on a near-daily basis, but the infrastructure to charge said vehicles on the fly has continued its glacial lag. I was already aware of the utter lack of charging stations when I joined my EV-owning parents for a road trip this summer, but witnessing the issue firsthand was nothing short of deflating.

Charging stations can be a complete gamble; while Google Maps is a crucial resource for finding chargers on the fly, it does little to ensure that those stations are actually up and running once you arrive. Dysfunctional or otherwise offline chargers are a regular occurence, and the only thing worse than happening upon a bricked charging station is trying to troubleshoot the problem with customers service (or lack thereof) while your precious battery — and your ride home — dwindle. Not fun.

After several such encounters on our road trip, my perception of a bright EV future started to turn dim — that is until my parents bestowed upon me two magic words: Electrify America.

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Electrify America is a network of public EV chargers owned by Volkswagen. The chargers themselves are more than functional, delivering up top 350kW of DC fast charging, and coming in either CCS or CHAdeMO connections (sorry, Tesla owners). In total, Electrify America says it owns about 730 stations across the U.S. and just under 2,400 individual charging units. What separates Electrify America from the competition isn’t necessarily its charging hardware, however, it’s the network’s incredibly trusty companion app.

Downloading Electrify America’s free app unlocks several perks for any electric vehicle owner. The first, and most obvious, perk is a clean and functional map of where electrify America’s stations are located, which allows you to get a quick overview and plot a course that works for your vehicles range and current battery level — a crucial piece to planning any lengthy trip in an EV.

Beyond just coordinates, Electrify America’s app also gives specific written details on where you can expect to find its chargers. For example: tapping on the “Shops at Skyview Center” station near me in Queens, New York, reveals that the chargers are actually located in the parking garage on the fifth level. Valuable information if you’re desperately looking for a fast charger before you run out of juice!

Payments for charging can happen either in-app or through a more traditional card terminal on the charger itself.

In a landscape as piecemeal as this, knowledge is power — literally.

The second, and probably the more pivotal feature, however, is an overview of not just where the station is, but data on its current status. Electrify America’s app tells you how many chargers at a given station exist, how many are in use, and whether or not they’re experiencing any technical issues. Naturally, it also gives you data on how fast (or slow) chargers are so you can make an informed decision on whether to make your pilgrimage.

Conversely, other charging networks require motorists to gamble; crossing their fingers and hoping that chargers are both available and functional by the time they arrive. I can’t overstate what a relief it is to know that you’ll be able to charge once you finally get to a station, or knowing to navigate to another station with available chargers. In a landscape as piecemeal as this, knowledge is power — literally.

Electrify America’s in-app map of charging stations in my area.Electrify America

Electrify America’s suite of features may not be unique — competing charging networks like EVgo have similar apps — but I can say with certainty that the latter of the two is nowhere near as polished and streamlined. If you don’t believe me, just take a quick glance at both options’ reviews in the Google Play Store. Spoiler alert: the tone of EVgo’s feedback is a little less... satisfied. And as someone who has witnessed EVgo’s failures in hardware and software on multiple occasions firsthand, I’m going to have to agree with the commenters on this one.

Above all else, Electrify America and its app provide an intangible benefit for anyone navigating the invariably rough waters of owning an electric vehicle: peace of mind. And though times are rough, investment in EV charging stations is on the way; a move that will hopefully bolster availability and alleviate some of the strain on drivers going out for long-distance trips. In the meantime, however, know that you have at least one trusty sidekick on your all-electric journey.