EV owners use automaker smartphone apps often but aren’t so happy with them

A majority of EV owners use automaker smartphone apps to manage charging, but they aren’t happy with them, according to a new J.D. Power study.

Of the EV owners surveyed, 70% said they used an app at least every other drive to monitor the charging process and view available range. And while most EV owners do the majority of their charging at home, 85% said they still wanted apps to show available public charging stations in case they needed one.

The study found that EV owners want more features—sometimes more than what automakers offer. Of the 20 most common app features, 15 were cited as desirable by 70% of EV owners surveyed. However, only eight of those features were “widely available,” according to J.D. Power.

Volkswagen's next-generation Car-Net

Volkswagen’s next-generation Car-Net

The study also found significant desire for more advanced app features that most automakers don’t yet offer, but at least one—phone as a key—isn’t related to EV charging.

In addition, 32% of respondents said they never used an EV smartphone app because they didn’t know how the app worked. So as with other aspects of EV ownership, lack of explanation by dealerships could be an issue.

EV owners also don’t want to pay for these apps, according to the study. The primary reason owners cited for no longer using an app was that their free trial period expired.

Rivian R1S

Rivian R1S

The top-rated EV apps in the study were FordPass, the Tesla app, MyHyundai, Kia Access, and Genesis Intelligent Assistant. Despite their high-tech image, Rivian and Lucid fell short in charging functionality, app speed, and general content, according to J.D. Power.

Power clarified to Green Car Reports that it comes down to—at least partly—a fundamental utility: the ability to remotely control charging.

“Among some apps of newer EV brands, we’re seeing—or not seeing—that they don’t have the ability to set charging timers or set departure timers,” said Jason D. Norton, of J.D. Power’s Global Automotive Consulting. “Not being able to do those tasks via the app reduces owners’ satisfaction with the overall at-home charging experience.”

According to data from another J.D. Power study, 84% of EV owners say they often or always charge at home—so the inability to remotely change charging times can sour the experience.

Tesla showed improvement this year. Last year’s version of this study panned Tesla (and Volkswagen) for the lack of route planning, as well as in Tesla’s case some diagnostic information that can be found on other brands’ apps.

Electrify America now on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Electrify America now on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Many automakers, surprisingly, offer no option to neatly transfer charging waypoints from phone to car while on a road trip. Electrify America just introduced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility last year. Despite this complexity, the number of apps likely won’t get smaller.

Not just automakers, but charging networks and other aggregators all want you to use their apps while they drive. General Motors aims to cut through that clutter with brand-specific apps for its EVs that have “one-click” charging across charging networks.