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What is your preferred public charge station app?

  • Juice Bar Locator by Green Garage Associates

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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
As I've settled into my Volt I find more and more that I am integrating public charging into my daily routine. The benefits of this are not only that most of these stations are currently free to use, but in many cases here in the Bay Area where parking can be difficult on an evening out, the EV spots often provide an almost guaranteed premium spot!

As such, I have started using several different apps that assist with finding a public EVSE when planning my various outings and have found that some are very good and others not so much. I thought it would be good to start a poll and see what the general consensus is on the selection of apps currently available. Note that I've limited this poll to US apps and exluded those for the UK, Spain, Japan, etc.

Here's my input based on my experience using these apps. First let me say I find it frustrating that:
1) The Volt navigation system can find the nearest gas stations but not charging stations - what's wrong with this picture?
and
2) The OnStar RemoteLink app should also have this feature built in and able to send the coordinates to my Volt rather than needing a 2nd app.

1st Choice - Recargo iPhone and now Anroid!
http://www.recargo.com/homepage
My vote goes to this app. First and foremost, it seems to have one of the most complete station map databases. This is the most important feature to me and so far I haven't noticed any missing stations in my area unlike many of the other apps. I also find it to be very fast and easy to use with a clean mobile friendly interface. The app is associated with PlugInCars.com and even has a tab to get the latest EV news headlines! Today's headline, "Chevy Volt Sales Trump Nissan Leaf" :). It also allows you to filter for the specific type of charge connector you want to use, i.e. J1772, Nema 5-20, etc. It allows you to send directions to your map app or GPS which many others apps do not have. Finally, this app easily allows users to take photos of the charge station from their phone and upload it immediately through the app along with "Check In" comments on their experience. You can add new stations real time through their website, http://www.recargo.com, but not through the app (the station will show up instantly however).

UPDATE: There is now an Android app! Also, Recargo has purchased PluginCars.com - the EV news feed on this app is one of my favorite features that is exclusive to Recargo. This one is still my favorite. The only improvement I can see would be the ability to add a station through the app like you can on PlugShare rather than having to go to their website. Overall - this is an outstanding app.

2nd Choice - PlugShare by Xatori iPhone and Android
http://www.plugshare.com/
This app is interesting because in addition to public chargers, it also shows some private home installs for users who volunteer to list them (not me). It also shows everything listed in the National DOE EVSE Registry so the map is very complete. Like Recargo, it's easy to use and easy to add photos and Check In feedback right through the app. This app along with Recargo simply provides the best and cleanest overall mobile user experience.

UPDATE: PlugShare now appears to be linked real time to ChargePoint so it is able to not only show station location, but also whether or not the station is in use! This is a great enhancement especially because this app loads so much faster than the ChargePoint app. PlugShare is also the only app that lets you add a station through the app rather than going to the website. Still my 2nd favorite.

3rd Choice - ChargePoint by Coulomb Technologies - iPhone, Android, & Blackberry
http://www.coulombtech.com/
This app is only for chargepoint stations which are pretty abundant in my area, but not so much in many other parts of the US so it's value will vary by location. It's pretty slow because it loads not only station location but also charge status (e.g. whether or not another EV is currently using the station). I do like that I can actually start and end a charge session through the app in case I don't have my RFID card with me (can't do this with the Blink app). Also, similar to OnStar, this app sends you texts if your car is unplugged while charging or when the charging is completed. Another benefit is it provides charging status data including Energy in kWh and Power in kW.

UPDATE: Even though this app is only for ChargePoint, it's my 3rd favorite because of it's ability to start/stop charge sessions, track my engergy usage and send me texts making it more functional and interactive than most other apps. It acts as more than just a station locator and in many ways is like OnStar's RemoteLink. One other feature I failed to mention in my original post is the Trip Mapping which is very cool. This is unique to this app and allows you to map directions from 2 points showing all stations within a 5 mile proximity of your route. You can adjust the proximity range from 5 miles to 100 miles (in 5 mile incriments).

4th Choice - CarStations by Darwin 3D - iPhone and Android
http://carstations.com/
The options on the first screen are good (Map nearby, list nearby, search city, favorites, add station, settings). My biggest beef with this app was that the default zoom on the map is way too far out so you have to zoom back in everytime you open it. UPDATE: You can change the search radius in the settings from the 100mile default, I changed mine down to 10 which fixed the zoom issue. However, there are still stations that show up on Recargo and PlugShare which are not on this app. It does have a Wiki system allowing users to add stations through the app which is great but I'm more interested in an app that tells me where the stations are rather than the other way around (and it's much easier to add stations in PlugShare). For the time being I'm keeping this app however as I think it will improve over time. ADDITION: I forgot to mention my other issue with this app is the station details are not "mobile friendly" like Recargo and PlugShare which allow you to easily view the location details, connector types, photos, user comments, etc on your mobile device. Instead, CarStations links you to their regular website to view details in a tiny browser that can be difficult to read.

UPDATE: I've been using the updated version 1.7 for a couple weeks now and have to say this app is definitely getting better! The map database is now much more complete. And they've added a new and improved mobile view of the station details rather than linking you to their website. I still find this app lacking in a couple areas. CarStations has no user Check In capability which is a big miss IMO because this lets you easily tally good and bad experiences. Also, adding photos or new stations on CarStations requires you to send emails whereas Recargo and PlugShare let you do this real time through the app. This app remains my 4th choice.

5th Choice - ECOtality by Blink - iPhone and Android
http://www.blinknetwork.com/mobile.html
This app, similar to ChargePoint, is only for Blink's EVSEs.

UPDATE: I installed this app as there is finally a commericial Blink unit in my area (although Coulomb still owns most of the Bay Area market share). I have to say I find the Coulomb app to be far better than the Blink app which is very basic. With the Coulomb app you can actually start and end a charge session through the app without having the RFID card in your posession, not possible in the Blink app. Coulomb also gives you a detailed Charge Status and Trip Mapping feature not found in the Blink app. Both apps will tell you if a station is currently in use which is very helpful. The Blink app seems to be faster at loading the station map with status and locations, but the station details screen is not quite as informative as the Coulomb app. Still very useful if you have a lot of Blink EVSEs in your area, but overall I think this is the most basic of ALL charging apps.

The rest in no particular order:
EV Charger Finder by Darwin 3D - iPhone
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ev-charger-finder/id354628084?mt=8
Don't ask me why Darwin 3D has 2 different apps, weird? But I think their other app, CarStations is better in most ways except for the zoom bit. This app is missing many charging stations and is very incomplete in my experience. It's also hard to search in this app and when you center the map on your location it's difficult to reference as there is no dot for your GPS location?

Juice Bar Locator by Green Garage Associates - iPhone
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/juice-bar-locator/id424317354?mt=8
This app is for Juice Bar charge stations but it does show other non-JB stations. The map is still very limited overall with many stations missing. I would definitely not recommend this one.

ChargeLocator and ChargeLocator Premium - iPhone and Android
http://chargelocator.com/
Really bad app IMO. It's slow and to get most of the station details like what type of charge connectors are available, you have to pay $5 to upgrade to the premium edition!

ChargePro by SemaConnect - iPhone
http://www.semaconnect.com/
Total garbage, 0 stations showed up, maybe I was doing something wrong but I don't think so.

That's my list, hopefully this info is helpful. I invite others to please add their input. So after all this testing, which apps am I still using going forward? These (in order of preference):
1) Recargo
2) PlugShare
3) ChargePoint
4) CarStations
5) Blink

For those of you who don't have iPhone or Android, you can go to the websites of most of the app makers above and search for stations from there. Or you can use the DOE NREL mobile "Alternative Fueling Station Locator" site at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/stations/m

You can find more info on these apps at http://www.pluginamerica.org/accessories
 

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Used all of the apps and found no public charging near me. The closest is like over 150 miles away.
 

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I'll go out and look but since you've done the homework which of these have Windows Phone versions?
 

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Im sincerely jealous. In my area (omaha, NE) we literally have 2 and they are both at Nissan dealerships.
 

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I use CarStations and PlugShare, which have the most listings in my area. Some of the other ones are new to me. I just loaded them on my phone and tested. None of the apps list all of the charging stations in my area - kind of disappointing. I have actually added a few to the databases.
 

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I've never used a public EV charging station. My favoriate "charging app" is
gasbuddy for the iphone
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gasbuddy-find-cheap-gas-prices/id406719683?mt=8
it is (or at least was) free and when you only fillup every month or so, one gets out of touch with who has good prices
:confused:

However, my last 2 fills were at the supermarket were we accumulate gas credits (4cents off, then 10cents, etc..) with the infrequent fills, I'm not only using less gas, my gas is getting cheaper!

The only chargers I know of in CO are at a nissan dealer or for pay, at the equivalent of $6-$9 a gallon. Not interested.

Has anyone stopped in with a Volt to try to get a charge at a Nissan dealer.. it might be funny exchange?
 

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I have only used the Chargepoint and Blink iPhone apps because these are the predominant charger networks in southern ca. I have used the Chargepont chargers when in the Orange County and Blink chargers in San Diego (the few locations that are available now). I just installed the Recargo app and it is accurate for San Diego. It even found another location in the Kearny Mesa area that I wasn't unaware of because it isn't part it the Chargepoint or Blink networks.
 

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I use CarStations and PlugShare, which have the most listings in my area. Some of the other ones are new to me. I just loaded them on my phone and tested. None of the apps list all of the charging stations in my area - kind of disappointing. I have actually added a few to the databases.
MTN Ranger, CarStations is wiki-like, anyone can add stations. You can add them yourself, or, if you want, I'd be willing to add them for you. Just send me the addresses, and a photo if you can get one, and I'll post them on CarStations. Post new charging stations on CarStations is really not hard to do, and just takes a couple minutes. If you take a photo to post, take it from a location so a user can recognize the location from the photo.

If you want me to do the posting, just send me a PM with the info. If you add it, or I add it, the extra info will be available for anyone to use.

WVhybrid
 

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Thanks for this! I've only been using the Chargepoint app which is limiting since it's only about Chargepoint. I now have some options to check out. Thanks again. :)
 

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Can Not Locate Apps

I looked in the obvious places and can not locate the apps. I have a Droid phone, if that matters...

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'll go out and look but since you've done the homework which of these have Windows Phone versions?
I looked in the obvious places and can not locate the apps. I have a Droid phone, if that matters...

Thanks.
Sorry guys, I thought everyone used iPhones now ;) Just kidding, I've gone back and updated the original post with phone compatibility and websites for the various apps, hope this helps. Pauldon, unfortunately I don't see Windows Phone versions for any of the apps I reviewed. However, I did add a link to the end of the original post to a DOE NREL mobile site for locating stations that may help you, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/stations/m.

While doing the research, I came across this article that also sizes up a few of these apps:
http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/25/apps-for-electric-vehicle-drivers/

-JT
 

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I think it's important to separately consider a particular service's WEBSITE versus their APP.

After some evaluation several months ago, I decided that carstations.com was the best site, so much so that I put it into my sig below. As WVhybrid mentioned above, it's very easy to submit data on stations that you've found, whether it's just a note about accessibility or a picture of the environs or whatever. Those submissions go into their moderation queue but typically show up on the website within a day. If you look at ANY non-Nissan charging location in the Atlanta metro area, you will likely see comments and pictures submitted by me.

Critically, CarStations.com doesn't just limit to one vendor's chargers, like ChargePoint does.

The CarStations.com smartphone app just came out in October and does need a little improvement (and I'm told that a round of improvements is coming this month). But they start with the best raw data set, so I'm sticking with them for now. And they have the app for both iPhone and Android. (I thought everyone was off iPhone and using Android by now, just kidding :) )

(thank Joule Thief for the tip on this thread; I'll add it to the FAQ soon)

(EDIT: added to FAQ)
 

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The Google Maps EV charging function is terrible. Have you actually tried it? Utterly useless. False positives, false negatives, ugh.
Tried it but never verified the data as there is virtually nothing around me (except Nissan dealers).
Just tossing it into the mix as it had not been mentioned. Good to know is bad, especially with false positives that could be ugly if in BEV.
 

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MTN Ranger, CarStations is wiki-like, anyone can add stations. You can add them yourself, or, if you want, I'd be willing to add them for you. Just send me the addresses, and a photo if you can get one, and I'll post them on CarStations. Post new charging stations on CarStations is really not hard to do, and just takes a couple minutes. If you take a photo to post, take it from a location so a user can recognize the location from the photo.

If you want me to do the posting, just send me a PM with the info. If you add it, or I add it, the extra info will be available for anyone to use.

WVhybrid
Yes, I have been adding charging stations to the CarStations and PlugShare databases. I even added photos.

I just found a new charging station yesterday but unfortunately it is "city vehicles only" according to a cop I asked. Corner of S Salisbury St & W South St, by the convention center in downtown Raleigh.
Downtown Raleigh Solar EVSE Web.jpg
 

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Today I took a long look at the PlugShare site (where I assume the PlugShare app gets its data). At least for the Atlanta area, it's got pretty bad data -- missing stations, wrong info, etc. CarStations.com has much better data and features that help you actually find the station. I think CarStations.com is evolving into a better site because of the wiki-like feedback capabilities. (although not strictly wiki-like because all edits have to be approved, but they do get approved quuickly)
 

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Yes, I have been adding charging stations to the CarStations and PlugShare databases. I even added photos.
Thank you! :)

Now if everyone added one charging station......

(edit) I'd go ahead and add the city's charging station. You never know when they may bend the rules in an emergency.
 

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Thank you! :)

Now if everyone added one charging station......

(edit) I'd go ahead and add the city's charging station. You never know when they may bend the rules in an emergency.
I'm thrilled that Raleigh is adding 20-30 stations all over the area. Some are so new that they haven't been activated yet (7-14 days they told me).
 
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