Multiple electric vehicles arriving this year promise a driving range of more than 200 miles.
While that’s great news, and it’s bound to convince more households to make the jump to a fully electric vehicle—and to take road trips with it—it presents a new challenge to automakers: making public charging options at least as easy to figure out as filling up your gas tank ever was.
That’s a role that Chargeway hopes to help with. The Portland, Oregon EV-related software startup has created Chargeway Beacons—tall-standing interactive kiosks with 43-inch touch screens, conceived to fit right into car-dealership showrooms and elsewhere as education tools to make it easier for shoppers and salespeople alike.
As part of a new pilot program that was announced last week at the Portland Auto Show, involving the Oregon Auto Dealers Association, PGE, Pacific Power, OpConnect, Forth, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, Chargeway will be installing Beacons at auto dealerships, primarily along the I-5 and I-84 corridors in Oregon—with the goal of increasing EV literacy and sales.
Chargeway Beacon - Forth electric vehicle showcase, Portland
Since its inception in 2017, Chargeway and its founder, Matt Teske, have been focused on the hard reality that navigating most public-charging options—with the exception of Tesla's, perhaps—is anything but easy.
The primary issue is that every hardware maker and charging network seems to want to use different signage. Understanding EV charging options in kilowatts, volts, and amps, and the difference between CHAdeMO, CCS, and Level 2 shouldn’t be a required course for owning an electric vehicle.
Chargeway has a simple solution, which comes in the form of colored circles and numbers. The color corresponds to the charge connector, and the number corresponds to how fast it can potentially charge.
What’s displayed on the kiosks very closely mirrors Chargeway’s app, which makes finding a station that will work with any particular car easy. It is available for iPhones and Android devices,
Chargeway app - February 2019Chargeway app
The interface, as with the app, allows you to plan routes and see chargers specific to your vehicle. However in the Chargeway Beacon format it will be configured to display the vitals only for the EVs sold at that dealership. Chargeway added a zip-code-based purchase-incentive rundown, including federal, state, and utility credits—the latter being something that dealerships often miss.
Further, the Beacon can help drivers crunch the numbers on what an electric car would cost to run in their zip code, charging at home, versus driving on gasoline. (Costs for charging on networks will of course vary).
Chargeway app - February 2019
Chargeway will also offer customers the chance to send information to public utilities, with the opportunity to get more info on home charging and green-energy options, and perhaps find out about incentives for charger installations, for example.
“We’re thrilled to be Chargeway’s first network partner,” said Dexter Turner, the CEO of OpConnect, in a press release, where he then summed up the situation exceptionally well: “We see Chargeway as a way to drive more traffic to our network, simplify the charging experience, and reduce calls to our support number from confused new drivers.”
The company put its first Beacons at Forth’s Electric Showcase in downtown Portland, and at Wentworth's Wilsonville Chevrolet in Wilsonville, Oregon, outside Portland. At present the organization has eight complete Beacons and hints that a greater expansion, even beyond the pilot program, is on the way—so let’s hope the program expands beyond Oregon. For automakers and dealerships looking to clear the fog over all the EVs and charging options, it’s looking like the right solution at the right time.