Consumers and automakers both know that range anxiety is a huge barrier standing between shoppers and electric vehicles. But soon, EV owners will have yet another tool in their anti-anxiety toolkit, and it comes from a partnership between GPS heavyweight TomTom and charging station manufacturer Coulomb Technologies.

The gist of the deal is simple: in the near future, TomTom's database will include a complete list of Coulomb charging stations. What's more, TomTom users will be able to reserve a charging spot right from their dashboard. And of course, TomTom will calculate the quickest route to help drivers reach that destination.

The technology is on display this week in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Plug-In 2011 Show. There's no word from either company on when it'll roll out to TomTom users, but since deployment would seem to be primarily a database issue, we'd hope to see it sooner rather than later.

Our take

Mapping the charging infrastructure is crucial -- especially now, as greater numbers of EVs flood showrooms, meaning that greater numbers of shoppers are considering them. For their service to the EV field, TomTom and Coulomb deserve some praise.

However, from the press release, it sounds as if TomTom's maps will only show Coulomb-branded "ChargePoint" stations. If that's the case, other charge points for EVs will be left off the map entirely, which could mean unnecessary panic for EV drivers who might be near a charging station and not know it. Furthermore, the TomTom/Coulomb project doesn't seem to improve much on Coulomb's existing app for smartphones.

Until final details about the project are released, we prefer the much larger, more inclusive EV-charging map that's being developed by Google and the U.S. Department of Energy. Not only does it include a wide range of charging options, but it's also free to use. True, it's only available via a web browser at the moment, but the data is downloadable to a range of GPS devices. If someone were smart, he/she would draft an app to put that data on smartphones -- and allow users to book charging time, too. (Consider that a hint, developers.)  

[MarketWatch]