Now, it appears a similar concept may be heading towards the world of electric cars, and specifically electric car charging with a new service known as e-clearing.net emerging in Europe.
One of the features common to modern charging stations is that each one is part of a large network of stations, all connected via the internet. To the individual, this can bring useful benefits such as real-time updates of your car's charging status via smartphone apps or text alerts, and quick alerts to the company running the charging point should it ever develop a fault allowing them to fix it more efficiently or even remotely.
The brainchild of Nokia Siemens and a German public utility group called Smartlab, e-clearing.net will authenticate your data across a charging infrastructure, regardless of whom owns the different infrastructres across a country. It can use data such as your EV charging contract ID, an RFID card number, a PIN or a telephone number.
Payment can then be handled centrally and securely, and the cost of charging away from home can then be added to your home electricity bill rather than having to pay on the spot or via other methods. In this respect, it's no different to mobile phone roaming charges - you can use networks in other countries, and any calls made will appear on your usual bill. It might be more expensive, but it reduces the hassle.
Downsides? Well, there's the expense aspect. With the concept in early stages it's not clear how much you might be billed for charging away from home using the e-clearing.net service, but if cell phone roaming is anything to go by you can certainly expect it to be more than you'd pay at home.
On the other hand, if parking charges are included (as they often are when charging away from home) then you may get good value for money from the service, and it saves having to pay at a meter or pay via your cell phone. Matching various forms of personal identification should make the service very secure, too.
There are currently no details on the e-clearing.net website and no word on when the service will roll out. It's an interesting concept though, and one that could catch on as the charging process becomes ever more streamlined.
How would you feel about electric car roaming charges? Tell us in the comments section below.