If you’ve got one of the many new electric cars due to launch this year on order you’re probably as excited about going electric as our own Marty Padgett, who is one of the many patiently waiting for a 2011 Nissan Leaf.

You’ve already talked with your dealer and perhaps even had a home-visit to assess if your home wiring needs upgrading in order to fit a Level 2 charge station. 

When it comes to boring your neighbours and family, you’ve got everyone beat. You can tell them the minutest details of the car’s specification list and probably even know which number you are on the waiting list. 

But while you wait the agonising few months until you go electric you may be overlooking one essential to your electric car experience. A smart phone. 

Charging, A Total Art Form

It’s true that both the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt operate just fine without anything other than a driver and a source of power. But if you really want the total experience or gesamtkunstwerk of the electric car then a smart phone is a must. 

Smart Drive app, for iPhone and 2011 Smart Electric Drive

Smart Drive app, for iPhone and 2011 Smart Electric Drive

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, 2011 Chevy Volt and 2012 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive will make applications available to owners to enable them to check up on the state of charge of their cars remotely. Available for both iOS and Android devices, each car has its own application to keep owners appraised of how full the battery is, when the car is expected to be fully charged, and even if the car has accidentally been unplugged by someone. 

This feature is especially useful since most electric cars don’t have a way of locking charging cables in place while the vehicle is unattended. Imagine returning to your car to find out that it hasn’t been charging when you’d hoped it had been. 

And there’s more. The 2011 Chevy Volt even allows you to remotely schedule when your car charges. Need to head out in the morning earlier than you expected but don’t want to return to a cold garage to reprogram the Volt’s charge timer? 

Pre Heat Your Car

There’s another nifty feature of smart phone apps for electric cars. Remote climate control. 

Imagine the scenario. You’re out at the theater for an evening show followed by a meal, but you notice that the temperature is dropping and it looks like snow. Instead of climbing into a chilly 2011 Nissan Leaf, you can use its smart-phone application to remotely activate your Leaf’s heater, making sure you have a warm car to return to at the end of the night. 

Remote pre-cooling is also possible, making sure you don’t overheat on hot summer days. 

Unlock, Lock

While we’re not entirely sure why you’d want to, Chevrolet’s Volt application for the iPhone and Android devices gives you the ability to unlock your 2011 Volt from your smart phone.  You can even tell the car to start. Perhaps then this is a neat way of letting someone move your car without giving them the keys. 

Screencap showing the Chevrolet Volt app for Android

Screencap showing the Chevrolet Volt app for Android

Geek Cred

While you may not be able to drive your electric car remotely like James Bond can with his BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, being able to remotely pull up performance and range stats  will impress your friends with geek tendencies. 

As for other interactions with the car? Many car fans spend thousands of dollars on expensive remotely controlled security systems for their car. You’ll be getting one free with your electric car. That has to be worth some kudos. 

In Conclusion

If you’re on a waiting list for an electric car and don’t have a smart phone, perhaps now is a time to upgrade your cellphone. Aside from the smart phone app your car’s maker will want you to have, there are some excellent free applications out there to help you keep track of the car’s distance-per-charge, find a nearby charger and even rent a gasoline car when you need to go that bit further. 

Smart phones? They’re the killer app for any electric car.