The hidden 7638 electric vehicle charging decisions every minute
Where, when and how to charge next? Questions that electric vehicle drivers are left to deal with. This must change quickly.
Do you remember the times when you had to refuel your internal combustion engine car? Not a pleasant experience, indeed, but if you are interested in making electric vehicle (EV) charging more convenient, it might be worth looking back on. Not to replicate how the oil-industry organized putting energy into a vehicle, but to get a fundamental understanding about how drivers go about refueling and charging. Because winning mass-market customer groups will be about being the best in “EV charging decision making”; surely you don’t want to miss out on this one.
From tigers to fuel stations: Are we good at decision making?
The human-brain is an awesome instrument for wandering this earth. It must be as it has developed over millions of years for serving us in our strive for survival. What it is especially good at is learning from experience, storing information consciously and unconsciously as well as making this information available when needed. It does this for the sake of making the right decisions, so that we can run away quickly from an approaching tiger, choose the right mate for reproduction OR decide what fuel station we should go to next.
We humans are decision making machines, driven by different kinds of decision making systems (System 1 and 2) as Daniel Kahnemann famously describes in his book “Thinking fast and slow”. These systems allow us to either make decisions subconsciously or consciously. Depending on which system we make use of, our brain relies on different internal and external decision making factors. The “tiger approaching scenario” is pretty simple: The “I don’t wanna die”-reflex (System 1 — Intuition) gives you no other choice than to run immediately. But looking at the fuel station example, most of us would rather think twice about which station to go to next. Many more factors are influencing the decision making process and are consciously taken into account (System 2 — Rational Thinking):
- Experience from the past: “Wasn’t there this awful cashier the last time I went there?” or “I never want to go to a fuel station Saturday morning again, I don’t want to wait 10 minutes!”
- Personal preferences: “Who am I to touch these dirty fuel pumps. I only go to stations with a fuel attendant.” or “I only go when and where prices are the lowest.”
- External circumstances: “There are 5 fuel stations on this route, which one should we take?” or “There is a traffic jam on this route, let’s go the other way and skip the refueling until tomorrow.”
The cool thing about our brain is that it is capable of handling all these different factors in the decision making process. Researchers from Cornell University have shown that only for the question “What to eat?” we make over 200 decisions each day; and these must be quite good ones — judging based on the constantly increasing human population numbers. And somehow the evolution of our brain also allows for making good decisions in fueling — despite the fact that we only had a little more than 100 years to become good at it.
But wait, is this actually true? Were all our decisions in regards to fueling really that good? Didn’t we end up here and there at a crowded fuel station, leading to waiting times until the next fuel pump was free? Or did we go to the next fuel station, just to afterwardslearn that the price per litre there was 10 cents at the next station 100 meter further? Or, for whatever reasons, put the premium fuel instead of the normal one in your tank and ended up paying 10 euro more?
Truth is, that in an increasingly complex world as we have today, our capability of making the right decision is more and more challenged. I’m for example in the (un)fortunate position that I have more than 1 shirt in my wardrobe, which causes troubles every morning whilst getting ready for the day. And the same can be applied to get energy into our vehicles; we often have many options at hand. In Germany there are around 14,000 fuel stations with an average distance to a fueling station of around 5 km, leaving you to decide where you would go fueling next. Not an easy decision to make.
Where, when and how to charge my electric vehicle?
Looking at EV charging, which will become the predominant form of getting energy into a vehicle over the next few years, this situation will be even worse. You’ll have many more options available of where, when and how to charge next. Don’t get me wrong, EV charging options everywhere are obviously a good thing, but making the right charging decision could become a very tricky thing. Many factors influence a pleasant charging experience and considering all of them might be an impossible task for the average EV driver. Everyone that already drives an EV can attest to this fact and to give others a rough idea, here are some of the factors that might influence the decision of charging:
- Plug type and other technical factors: You own a car with the ChadeMo charging standard? You want to use Plug&Charge? Watch out to find the right stations.
- Price: There are many different eMobility Service Providers (eMSP) out there that you can sign up for, and all of them have different pricing schemes. Or you can choose to pay directly to the Charge Point Operator (CPO) based on ad-hoc payment. Also, you can choose between different kinds of charging speeds and charging stations that also influences how expensive charging will be.
- Sustainability: It also may be important to you to only charge with renewable energy. But at what charging stations is that the case? And isn’t it best to charge at times when there is a lot of wind and sun to maximise efficiency of renewable energy sources?
- Availability: Charging takes longer than fueling, everyone knows that. But this means that if a charging station is already used, you might end up waiting a long time until it gets free again.
- Convenience: Is it better to wait five minutes for the next rapid charger to be free again or should you drive home to try to find a slow charger near your house for charging overnight?
Additionally, another important aspect to consider is that one will charge an EV much more than fueling a car, simply because of battery-size and energy density. To get a rough understanding of how many EV charging decisions are constantly made, let’s make a simple and heuristic calculation: Let’s assume that for every EV registered (currently 11 million cars worldwide) drivers make one single charging session a day which requires one decision to make. In total this leads to 7,638 decisions every minute about where, when and how to charge EVs worldwide — or 30,552 decisions since you started reading this blog post (for the industry experts: we haven’t even considered V1G, V2G, or any other V2X use case which requires even more decision making, especially during the charging session).
It is obvious that we can’t leave the drivers alone with this. If only 15% of these EV charging decisions are “bad” to “very bad” decisions (if we assume a normal distribution of decision making quality) we end up with thousands of frustrated drivers per day. To give you a personal example on this: I’m currently a user of one of the biggest and more premium oriented eMSPs in Europe. Over the last year I constantly heard of how much bigger the network of available charge points got. Of course, this is very nice and I appreciate the effort to give me more charging options. But when I then looked at the hundreds of stations along my next long-term route or the approx. 10 stations nearmy house I’m always asking myself: Where, when and how to charge next? There are so many options for charging, but I don’t know what would be the best for me. I’m trapped in the decision making process and I still wait for some nudge in the right direction. I leave it to you to find out how much I’d be willing to pay for a solution.
Being part of the EV charging industry for a while now, I know how much we have achieved until today. But in my opinion it is important that we don’t stop there. We need to be better in supporting EV drivers in their decision making around charging so that new customer groups are confident in driving electric. That is also why we at fronyx have put providing solutions for EV drivers’ decision making at the very front of our mission statement. I hope this article will inspire entrepreneurs, product builders and decision makers to realize this necessity. Don’t hesitate to reach out via LinkedIn or to drop a comment below. Stay tuned for more.