The market for electric vehicles (EVs) is on the brink of shifting from early adopters to an early majority of more pragmatic consumers. This transition requires both charging equipment manufacturers and charge point operators (CPOs) to take another look at what EV drivers value most when they charge their cars. Studies show it all boils down to three things: availability, reliability, and convenience.
Range anxiety is a critical factor for people who consider buying an EV. Simply put: “Can I drive from A to B without getting stuck with an empty battery?” To be able to say “yes” to this question, the geographical coverage of charging stations must be adequate for the average driver. In general, that means that every 50-60 miles, there must be a publicly accessible charging station available.
But there is more to it. We talked about this topic in a recent interview with Robert Krause, who’s heading the EVC business at Diebold Nixdorf, and John Eichberger, executive director at The Fuels Institute. “Availability of chargers requires significant investments. It is a chicken-and-egg problem: how do you justify the purchase of an EV when you do not see a broad-based charging infrastructure in place, and vice versa: how do you justify investing in such a charging infrastructure until there is a sufficient volume of EVs on the road? That is why I am happy to see governments stepping in, both in Europe and in the U.S.,” says Krause. “However, availability is not only about the number of chargers per square mile, it also relates to things like open charging platforms and driver roaming, which avoids drivers needing multiple charging memberships; full hardware and software interoperability; and ease of payment, including support for all commonly used payment types. These all together determine ‘availability’ for an EV driver.”
The second aspect consumers value when it comes to EV charging is the reliability of the charging infrastructure – or in other words: having charging ports up-and-running at all times. As one can imagine, nothing is more frustrating than a charger being out-of-order while you have a nearly empty battery. This only exacerbates the whole range anxiety issue. “Reliability of service is indeed a must, since drivers prefer brands who offer dependable charging services for their electric vehicles. Reliable charging services lead to improved customer experience and increased customer loyalty, higher charging and upsell revenues, and have a positive impact on brand perception,” says Eichberger. “Uptime, it cannot be stressed enough, is a critical success factor. Think about unresponsive or unavailable screens on the charger, payment system failures, network issues, or broken connectors. These issues should be fixed to offer a convenient customer experience.” Krause agrees and adds: “The real competitive difference will become the reliability of charging services. Reliable charging requires sophisticated monitoring of charger equipment, smart spare parts logistics, and a fine-grained service & support organization so that chargers can be repaired within a couple of hours instead of in a couple of days. Today, we see CPOs and OEMs struggle to realize their growth ambitions. One of the reasons is that they lack the staff and bandwidth to quickly deploy chargers in an ever-expanding geography. This is where Diebold Nixdorf can help: we have literally thousands of experienced service technicians around the globe who are trained in servicing a range of charging technologies. With our installation, maintenance, and support services, we allow OEMs and CPOs to focus on their own strengths while we take care of the rest.”
Next to availability and reliability, convenience is often mentioned by EV drivers when asked about what they deem important while charging their electric car. Charging stations need to be easily accessible and offer amenities to attract and retain loyal drivers. Things like having a c-store or restaurant located on premises are examples of this. Typically, people spend 20-30 minutes charging their electric cars, and they like having the option to spend their time in a productive way while waiting for their charge to complete. And this may be beneficial to retailers, too: “Next to selling electricity and accruing so-called carbon credits (CO2 certificates), retailers can make additional money by combining the charging process with other commercial services while taking advantage of the long dwelling times of customers charging their cars in front of their stores,” says Krause. He adds: “Retailers should rethink their current business model and develop new, integrated customer journeys that not only bring in additional revenues but also increase customer loyalty. If they are able to get drivers out of their cars and into the convenience stores, EV charging will for sure increase the average basket size.”
Eichberger agrees and adds another perspective: “There is an opportunity cost associated with not installing a charging station. More than one-third of fueling customers purchase something inside a convenience store – dismissing this customer because they choose to drive an EV would potentially sacrifice in-store purchases. Even if an EV customer is not actively seeking a charger, they will notice which retailers offer charging services and that will resonate with them.”
EV drivers are looking for reliable charging services in a convenient setting. This is already causing a shift in focus from just getting ports in the ground to keeping ports up and running at all times. To guarantee high uptimes, many leading charger manufacturers and CPOs are already partnering with Diebold Nixdorf to deliver reliable, ‘always-on’ charging experiences to EV drivers. Working with our team of 11,000 service engineers and leveraging the 5,000+ stock locations in over 100 countries, this ensures rapid installation, maintenance and support for their charging equipment around the world.
Read the entire interview with John Eichberger and Robert Krause.