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Smartphone apps help EV drivers find charging sites

Some of the real-time apps tell whether stations are available, in use or out of service.

August 28, 2011|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

A variety of smartphone applications are being launched to help smooth out driving an electric vehicle.

Some, such as the Chargepoint app, point out nearby charging stations on a map.

Coulomb Technologies Inc. created the app to help users find the chargers it is installing across the country. The app notes whether stations are available, in use or out of service, all in real-time. It can also distinguish between free and paid chargers and be used to make reservations.

ECOtality, an electric-vehicle infrastructure developer also in the midst of a nationwide build-up, launched a similar app linking to and named after its growing network of Blink charging stations.

Recargo, created by Dictionary.com founder Brian Kariger, also tracks public charging stations. The app comes equipped with a comments section for updates on specific chargers, a photo-sharing feature to locate hard-to-find units and maps with Google Street View.

Developer Xatori has a more crowd-sourced take on a station-finder app. PlugShare is a social network of homeowners and business owners willing to give drivers access to their outlets. Providers can give out contact information so drivers can make appointments to power up.

Other apps allow drivers who are still considering EVs to pretend.

Virtual Test Drive, still in beta testing from Virtual Vehicle Co., uses smartphone GPS functions to monitor driving patterns. The app then feeds the data into a website, which analyzes factors such as routes, cost savings and range issues to suggest which EVs would be best suited to the driver.

The similar Evolve app from BMW also simulates a battery-powered vehicle, showing drivers how much battery juice would have been left had they been in an EV. The app also tracks the virtual vehicle's carbon emissions and cost of charging.

Other automakers have launched apps paired with EV models already on the market.

Ford Focus Electric owners can use the MyFord Mobile app to plan trips around available charging stations. The app can tell whether the battery has enough power to reach a charger and can also direct home chargers to automatically juice up the car when utility electricity rates are lowest.

Nissan has a similar app for Leaf drivers known as Carwings.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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