Chargeway launches Portland pilot program to make EV charging easier
One of the biggest concerns that automobile buyers cite about electric vehicles is the challenge of locating compatible charging stations. New companies and new locations are opening regularly across the metro area, but a charging station is of no use if EV drivers don't know where it is. The situation is further complicated by the different styles of chargers and different charging rates of different vehicles.
That's why Matt Teske formed Chargeway. This new Portland-based company has several initiatives, but all are aimed at making EV charging as easy and convenient as stopping at a gas station.
"With electric cars, we have a cornucopia of options with plug types, AC or DC, and charging speeds," explains Chargeway's founder, Matt Teske. "It takes too long to explain. So we took all that language about charging and converted into something you can explain to someone in the matter of a minute."
"It always comes down to the car you're driving," Teske says. "Because depending on the car, the plug type might be different and the charging level it can accept will be different. That's the only thing you're concerned about."
The Chargeway User App
Chargeway's system of categorizing charging stations is simple. Different plug types are listed as blue, green, or red. Charging speeds are listed numerically from 1 to 7. The higher the number, the more electricity the charger can deliver.
Then Chargeway categorizes EVs by their plug type and the charging speeds the car can accept. For example, a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt uses a green style plug and can accept up to a level 4 charging rate in Chargeway's system.
To make the system useful to drivers, Chargeway put it on a smartphone app. The Chargeway app is free for anyone to download and use on both Android and Apple phones. Users simply select the make and model of EV and the app displays a map of available charging stations that are compatible with that particular car.
"Once you add your vehicle, we can show you the stations that will work for you," Teske says.
The app also includes advanced features like time estimators that show users how long it will take to get a given amount of mileage into their cars at a particular charger. The app also provides detailed information about charging stations such as the number of chargers at a given site, which charging company operates the site, and how much it costs to charge a vehicle there. Right now, the app identifies charging stations in all 50 U.S. states, and will plot a route from point to point, identifying compatible charging stations along the way, with suggested stopping points based on the user's vehicle range.
Chargeway in dealerships
"Dealerships are looking for the top three things they can say to help sell a car, and we found that the hard part of selling an EV is the charging system," Teske states.
To help solve that problem, Chargeway has developed a large interactive "beacon" display that offers access to the same information available through the phone app. The beacon explains charging, displays regional charging locations, and shows which stations work for the particular vehicles for sale at that dealership.
Teske hopes that with the stress taken out of identifying charging stations, dealerships will find it easier to sell more EVs. "With this tool, you can show a customer who is shopping in the showroom exactly where they can charge the vehicle," he says.
Chargeway at charging stations
The last piece of the Chargeway puzzle is the charging stations themselves and highway infrastructure. Teske is trying to convince charging station providers to accept his color and number designations and place stickers on the charging stations so that customers using the app see the same information on their phones and on the units. Signs along the roadside could use the same designations to specify charging capabilities at a given site.
"Labeling the stations is one of the last things we're working on," Teske says. "If you're an EV driver, you're not seeing a well-lit gas station on the corner. These stations could be tucked away anywhere. By labeling the stations, drivers can immediately know if that charger will work for them."
EV owners can see Chargeway labels at PGE's downtown Electric Avenue charging center at 121 SW Salmon Street. New Electric Avenue stations are under construction in East Portland, Milwaukie, and Hillsboro.
"This is the first example of what we're doing with PGE," Teske says. "We're going to be labeling every single Electric Avenue with the exact same language."
Longer term, Chargeway plans to work with other charging providers to support the app's color and number coding system and to streamline the process of getting accounts with multiple providers.
To learn more and download the app, go to www.chargeway.net.