Most of time an EV is charged at home, but if you’re going on a road trip you need to plan ahead where you’ll juice up. Luckily there are two killer apps that are a must install on the smartphone of every EV owner - A Better Route Planner and PlugShare - that’ll avoid the panic of 1% battery remaining.
A Better Route Planner, or ABRP for short, is like Google Maps but for electric vehicles. The ABRP team have amassed a large collection of real-world consumption data for every EV on the market via their users and apply that information to provide very accurate range estimations based on mapping data from Open Street Map.
In its simplest form you pop in your model of EV, a starting point, a destination, any waypoints you need to stop at along the way and boom - it tells you where to charge along the way. It also shows you how long you need to charge for (charging to 100% takes a while and is not always necessary) and how long the entire journey will take.
The real magic is not only does it just show you chargers along the route, it takes into consideration things that impact your vehicle’s range. Terrain is the big one (steep inclines suck power, downhill stretches add juice back in), but ABRP can even take into consideration the range impacts of additional weight and forecast weather conditions.
Some EVs have this functionality built-in but the beauty of ABRP is that it plans a route using all the chargers available to you, not just chargers your vehicle’s manufacturer is aware of. This is fantastic for Tesla owners as it’ll plan a route using non-Tesla networks like NRMA, Evie and Chargefox, as well as Superchargers, which Tesla’s built-in navigation rudely won’t do in Australia.
ABRP is free to use on the web at https://abetterrouteplanner.com and has apps on Android and iOS. There is the option of a premium subscription for 5 Euro a month or 50 Euro a year. For your money you get access to live weather conditions, real time traffic, real-time charger availability, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support and more.
PlugShare has the ability to plan routes but ABRP does a much better job. PlugShare’s primary use is for tracking down locations with a charger, like car parks, hotels and shopping centres as it is the world’s largest database of electric vehicle charging points. If there’s a charger accessible by the public, chances are someone has listed it on PlugShare.
PlugShare can filter the map by charger type, so if you don’t want to see Tesla chargers or the older J1772 plugs on the map, just unselect them. There’s even the ability to find “wall” plugs, which are normal domestic power sockets your portable charger can sip some electricity from, or three-phase sockets that are common in more remote areas if you’re going deep into rural Australia.
A popular use for PlugShare is checking if a charger is offline. Due to the crowdsourced nature of the platform, any EV driver can leave comments on chargers they’ve used and if the charger worked, what speed it charged at, how much the charger costs and other tips for getting going like directions and up to date photos. This can be a huge time saver if checked in advance.
Most EVs have a list of chargers in their satellite navigation systems and can show you what is around your current position, but none have the depth of PlugShare. Tesla for example will only show Tesla’s destination chargers, excluding the hundreds of non-Tesla chargers available for use. Other manufacturers rely on mapping companies like TomTom to provide charger info which is unfortunately out of date and lacks the extra details the PlugShare community provides.
PlugShare is free, available on the web at https://plugshare.com and can be found on the iOS and Android app stores.