ebee streelight charging stationEnlarge Photo
Activating any given public charging station to recharge an electric car can pose something of a hassle.
Yes, plugging it in is simple enough, but public charging infrastructure in the U.S. is run by multiple independent companies—meaning electric-car owners are essentially required to carry multiple access cards to use various stations.
ABB, a charging station company, aims to alleviate the multi-card hassle with a simple technology that requires no RFiD card or smartphone app.
The company recently announced what it calls Autocharge, which uses a unique "identifier" dubbed EV-ID.
Electric cars that use the Combined Charging System protocol communicates their EV-ID to the station when the driver plugs the vehicle in, according to Charged EVs. After that, charging begins.
The driver need only plug in and then walk away—billing is done automatically.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJEnlarge Photo
Although ABB stations will require a driver to register the first time a car is plugged in, every other stop is completely free of cards, apps, or fobs.
Various charging companies and collectives have worked to ease vehicle charging, so far with little success.
Two years ago, the ROEV Association, which included BMW, Nissan, and charging-network operators CarCharging/Blink, ChargePoint, and NRG EVgo, announced plans to provide "roaming" among multiple networks.
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However, that coalition has made no headway in the United States, despite the claim that its members together cover 91 percent of U.S. charging stations.
While electric-vehicle owners can call a toll-free number to unlock most charging stations, allowing them to pay for a session via credit card, virtually none of the stations accept credit cards themselves.
Traditional pay-by-phone via a code hasn't caught on in the U.S., either.
Renault Connected Energy charging station powered by second-life batteries
Renault Connected Energy charging station powered by second-life batteriesEnlarge Photo
That leaves ABB with the simplest, most convenient solution we've seen so far.
The company says even older electric cars should work with Autocharge, as long as they're CCS-equipped—which excludes the Kia Soul EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Nissan Leaf.
Internal tests at ABB showed electric cars from as early as 2012 worked just as well as brand new electric cars.
CHECK OUT: Forget Electric-Car Charging Networks, Pay By Mobile Phone? (2012)
The charging-station company also ensured no additional hardware is needed for the Autocharge function.
Stations simply require an over-the-air update to handle Autocharge, making them completely capable of the seamless payment method.
It's probably the next best thing to companies actually taking credit cards at the charging station itself—just as gasoline pumps have done for decades.