November 27, 2023

Personalizing EV charging experiences: How EV charging APIs drive customer satisfaction

Winona Rajamohan

Content Marketing Manager

Why do EV charging networks need telematic-based EV charging APIs in efforts to make EV ownership sustainable, accessible, and convenient? The list of misconceptions surrounding electric vehicles and EV charging grows longer every day. One of my favorite reads recently has been Carbon Brief’s comprehensive fact-check of 21 myths surrounding EVs, from EVs being inherently ‘dirtier’ than gas-powered vehicles to our electric grid being on the brink of failure due to EV charging loads.

It’s safe to say that many of these myths serve as good fodder for frustrated consumers who are unhappy about factors like the cost of EVs, charging accessibility, electricity rates, and range anxiety. Electric vehicles are on a long, tumultuous journey to unravel economic norms, infrastructure, and the emotional appeal of vehicles that we’ve been accustomed to for the better part of the last century. It’s only natural for gaps in the consumer experience to emerge — and as an EV charging network provider, it’s only natural to want to build a product that customers really need.

The abundance of data generated by electric vehicles themselves holds immense power — when used correctly. It helps us better understand the impacts of EV adoption and from there, develop purpose-driven EV solutions that can make tangible improvements to overall charging infrastructure.

Sitting at the intersection of energy, mobility, and technology, EV charging APIs give charging operators the flexibility to build new infrastructure rooted in software interoperability and democratized access to vehicle information.

By accessing charging data from vehicles, businesses can build solutions that focus on the needs of a specific vehicle or driver — from their location to their battery health, charging preferences, budget, and more. In this blog, we explore the capabilities, applications, and features of EV charging APIs shaping the future of electric mobility.

What is an EV charging API?

EV businesses use an EV charging API to access accurate and up-to-date charging data from electric vehicles. This data includes information about EV battery levels and the charging status of a vehicle.

With EV APIs, apps and services for electric vehicles can retrieve this data purely through the EV’s embedded telematics modem. Drivers do not have to plug their EV into a home charger or public charging station for an application or service to start collecting data about their charging session. EV owners also don’t require any plug-in aftermarket hardware like OBD-II dongles.

Why use an EV charging API instead of collecting data from EV charging hardware?

The decision to use an EV charging API or EV charger API ultimately depends on the type of electric vehicle solution you’re building.

An integration with an EV charger makes sense if you need granular information about the charger itself instead of the vehicle.  An EV charger API connects your app to EV chargers and charging networks.  You can use an EV charger API to get information about the EV charger — like its brand, model, location, and charge rate

On the other hand, an EV charging API like Smartcar gives charging networks visibility into how drivers charge their electric vehicles. For example, charging apps can surface alerts and tailor recommendations for charging sessions by analyzing utility rates, EV charging patterns, and driver behavior.

What solutions can you build with an EV charging API?

The challenges of accessing granular vehicle data coupled with the lack of transparency when collecting data from vehicle owners have contributed to some distrust in EV applications as a whole. We can’t overcome fragmentation in the EV charging ecosystem simply by giving drivers features and data that don’t add value to their day-to-day travel.

Case in point: Our 2023 State of Connected Car Apps report found that 74% are unsatisfied with their automaker’s built-in connected services functionality.

EV charging operators must move away from the idea that more data is inherently better. Instead, focus on using the right data to give EV drivers the level of personalization, convenience, and safety they need as they travel from one place to another.

The emergence of EV charging API platforms like Smartcar stems from the belief that applications for vehicle owners must be built with vehicle owners in mind — which is a seemingly straightforward but difficult task without permission to get vehicle data directly from consumers. Smartcar’s software-based integrations allow EV businesses to build purpose-driven solutions, such as apps for:

⚡️ Smart charging

EV owners use apps like Optiwatt to optimize and schedule their EV charging sessions according to factors like electricity rates, the carbon intensity of the grid, or specific hours of the day. An EV charging API helps drivers adopt a set-it-and-forget-it approach to charging, allowing EV chargers to automatically start or stop charging according to a driver’s configured preferences. These APIs also give businesses up-to-date visibility of EV charging behavior to predict grid demand and proactively shift charging to prevent blackouts.

🗺️ EV route planning

Although 80% of EV charging occurs at home, range anxiety remains a prevalent concern of EV owners when they’re out and about and dependent on public EV charging infrastructure. EV charging APIs give solution providers an exciting avenue to utilize live battery data to help users personalize their EV charging experience depending on where they are, their remaining battery levels, when they would like to start charging, and more.

On top of using telematics data to use a car’s location to look for nearby EV chargers, apps like Carge use Smartcar’s EV charging API to elevate the EV charging experience with capabilities like setting a time to stop charging, reserving charging stations proactively when the remaining battery drops below a certain level, and monitoring battery levels when they’re away from their car.

📍Mobile EV charging

Beyond locating and reserving EV chargers, mobile EV charging stations also improve the accessibility of public EV charging stations. Solutions like CAFU provide on-demand EV charging in residential neighborhoods, public parking lots, and community events or gatherings. An EV charging API allows drivers to make quick bookings for charging sessions based on an EV’s approximate location and the amount of energy required to charge the battery. This makes ordering a charge for your EV as simple as hailing an Uber. Mobile charging services are an example of the emerging Energy-as-a-service use case, which unlocks wider distribution of renewable energy while keeping infrastructure costs low in metropolitan areas and creating reliability for EV drivers.

🚙 EV ride-sharing

With 40% of ridesharing passengers stating that they’ve traveled with an EV for the first time through app bookings, there’s now significant value in ensuring the reliability and convenience of EV rideshare. An EV that runs low on range in the middle of a trip is the last thing any passenger wants, especially if they’re on the go or rushing to an appointment. EV charging APIs allow ridesharing businesses to gain visibility into the remaining range of their EV drivers so they can assign trips that do not exceed that range. It also opens up doors to partner with EV charging operators to plan routes, provide charging incentives, and optimize charging times.

Features to look for in an EV charging API

An EV charging API helps developers build EV charging solutions that integrate directly with an electric vehicle.

For example, Smartcar’s EV charging API allows drivers to securely opt in to their utility’s managed charging program or schedule their charging sessions during hours when electricity rates are lower or the grid is more carbon-efficient.

To do this, an EV charging API gives businesses the following endpoints:

  • Battery level: Returns an EV’s state of charge and the battery’s remaining range so businesses can accurately estimate EV charging times and surface solutions for scheduling charging, locating nearby chargers, and more.
  • Battery capacity: Retrieve the total capacity from an electric vehicle’s battery to better predict EV charging loads, charging times, and the cost of each charging session.
  • Charge status: Shows charging networks and utilities if an electric vehicle is currently plugged in and charging, making it easier to identify available EV chargers or charging sessions that must be stopped to manage grid loads.
  • Charge limit: Get and set the charge limit of an electric vehicle to optimize charging sessions for EV owners based on the time of day and real-time grid load.
  • Start and stop charge: Proactively start or stop EV charging sessions based on customer preferences, an EV’s current state of charge, available range, or demand on the grid.

There were over 40 models of electric cars, trucks, and SUVs on sale in 2023 — more variety than ever before. It’s important to note that each brand and model has its own proprietary API and data points. For example, Smartcar’s brand-specific endpoints for Tesla vehicles look different from those of BMW and MINI vehicles because of how unique these endpoints are to each brand.  

With that being said, EV data alone isn’t enough for businesses to build actionable solutions that can keep up with the number of EV makes and models emerging popping into the market.

Smartcar’s platform allows EV charging networks, DERMS software, and EV service providers to integrate an EV charging API into their solution effectively with developer-friendly tools. This means having features such as:

Brand coverage

A platform that supports API integrations across different EV makes and models so internal developers aren’t spending all their time standardizing data for each brand and monitoring sudden changes made to endpoints and credentials for each automaker API. EV charging apps like Carge, Optiwatt, and Flexcharging use Smartcar’s EV charging API because it allows them to retrieve EV charging data from over 100 EV models using a single integration.

Status and alerts

Smartcar’s EV charging API platform gives businesses access to scheduled and event-based webhooks that allow the API to send a message or retrieve data based on a specified trigger. With EV charging apps and services aiming to give consumers up-to-date information, like the progress of their charging sessions, nearby charging stations, and the cost of charging their vehicle, real-time alerts play an important role. With Smartcar’s webhooks, EV businesses can send notifications based on a set schedule or after specific actions, like when a vehicle starts charging, stops charging, or completes a charging session.

Proactive actions

In use cases like smart charging and demand response, EV charging APIs must allow businesses to trigger actions in addition to retrieving live data. Smartcar’s API unlocks the benefits of standardized connected car integrations while giving EV solutions the ability to proactively start and stop charging sessions and set the charging limit for an electric vehicle.

User consent and authorization

We learned that 41% of drivers want complete visibility into the data points requested by a vehicle app before they authorize it for use. But secure user authorization flows and API tokens management processes aren’t readily available when you integrate with an automaker’s API. This is handled when developers integrate with Smartcar’s API, allowing teams to focus on building core products instead of creating new UI, databases, token routes, and refresh routes for user authorization.

Smartcar's 2023 State of Connected Car Apps

Security and Compliance

EV integrations involve sensitive data on how people travel and manage personal or shared vehicles. When integrated into broader transportation and energy infrastructure, it becomes even more critical for businesses to strengthen their integrations with industry-grade security compliance protocols that standardize data management practices, prevent system vulnerabilities, and respect consumers' rights over their own data.  

Securing your backend infrastructure with SOC 2 Type 2 compliance, GDPR compliance, annual penetration testing, and consistent network monitoring can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars. At Smartcar, we believe that these security standards must go hand-in-hand with any implementation of connected car APIs. Integrating with our platform gives you these security features so you don’t put your business and end users at risk.

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What’s next? Getting started with an EV charging API

The future of EV charging applications is full of opportunity.

Whether it’s accommodating specific driver preferences, local transportation needs, or interoperability with supporting mobility initiatives like energy distribution, shared mobility, and vehicle maintenance — there are still many unsolved problems in the reality of EV charging across different communities.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s where the agility of standardized, open APIs will prove most valuable.

"From my experience with hundreds of EV owners, it seems that they naturally are receptive to new ways of tweaking their experience for the better. Because that's essentially what buying an EV has been until recently - tweaking your car ownership for the better. I believe that's also why third-party apps gain traction. Some apps save you the hassle, and some are just making it all better."

— Jaan Jurikas, creator of the EV Universe newsletter, in our State of Connected Car Apps report.

If you’re looking to scale an EV charging application that puts drivers first, here are a few helpful resources to better understand Smartcar’s API:

Everything you need to know about car APIs. Delivered monthly.

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