May 10, 2024

The App Garage: How to increase EV charging station utilization with Smartcar

Matt Aspinwall

Principal Product Manager

Learn how to use the Smartcar API to increase the utilization of EV charging stations. Using a vehicle’s state of charge and last known location, build an application or feature that helps customers discover nearby charging stations and plan routes effectively.

The problem: Underutilized chargers

We know that getting the green light to build charging stations in the right locations isn’t easy. According to WattLogic, building a commercial charging station could cost up to $5000 for four to eight hours of AC charging and up to $75,000 for 15 to 30 minutes of DC charging.  

But the challenge doesn’t end there. A properly placed EV charging station makes a profit in an average of four years — and that’s if utilization hits around 15%, with a 20% utilization rate being a recommended baseline. 

Data from Stable Auto discovered that around 70% of EV charging stations in the US market are underutilized. With charger accessibility also being a major concern in Europe, it’s safe to say that utilization is on the radar of every charge point operator who wants to capture the necessary revenue to pay for fixed costs like electricity rates, maintenance, site leasing, network management and more.

The solution: Using EV data to nudge customers toward available chargers

In this guide, we dive into how charge point operators can use the Smartcar API to increase charging station utilization. 

The Smartcar EV charging API gives charge point operators access to a vehicle’s location and state of charge — both crucial in helping you build an intuitive experience for finding chargers,  getting pricing transparency, and effectively planning routes. 

Keep reading for a technical walkthrough and best practices on increasing charger utilization with a customer vehicle’s location, state of charge, and third-party charging station information.

The app experience: Optimizing charging station discoverability

Creating your application 

To create an app with Smartcar, first set up a Smartcar account. Once your account is established, you'll need to register your application to obtain your client ID and secret. Smartcar offers a few paths to help developers start right away including a Postman test guide and our Starter Apps.

Next, you can implement the Smartcar Connect flow in your application, which is an essential component for authenticating and authorizing users.

After you've successfully integrated the Connect flow, you'll be able to make requests to the Smartcar API!

Using Smartcar endpoints for charging station discoverability

We’ll walk you through how to use our location and state of charge endpoints to determine: 

  1. Determine how far an EV can travel before it needs recharging
  2. Surface nearby chargers along a driver’s route. 

Once a vehicle is consented through Smartcar’s Connect flow, use the vehicle’s access token to determine current range. The GET /battery endpoint will return the current EV battery’s charge as both a percentage as well as a projected range provided by the automaker in kilometers.

{ "percentRemaining": 0.3, "range": 40.5 }

If your driver needs to know the nearest available charging station location, use the GET /location endpoint for the latest known location by latitude and longitude. Compare the current location to those of nearby charging locations to suggest a charger.

Should the distance calculation prove challenging, services such as Google’s Distance Matrix API can help calculate distance based on travel mode and even consider travel time with current traffic conditions!

{ "latitude": 37.4292, "longitude": 122.1381 }

Finally, for supported vehicles you can deliver the destination directly to the vehicle’s navigation system using POST /navigation/destination

Here's an example of what this application experience could look like!


You can also streamline your requests into a single batch request that returns a list of responses from multiple endpoints.
View this doc to learn how.

FAQs and best practices

Would this use case require regular polling or scheduled polling?

Scheduled polling is ideal for passive monitoring, but to find the best charging station at any given moment, raising these requests as needed is ideal.

Once a charging need is identified, pull the vehicle’s current battery level to determine the maximum range and location to compare to nearby charging stations.

What other data sources do I need besides the data retrieved via the Smartcar API? 

To find nearby charging stations, we suggest leveraging 3rd party data sets such as Google’s Places API or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's API.

Does Smartcar store any data? 

Smartcar does not store data responses on our platform and does not maintain data centers of our own. We remain a pipe that facilitates the movement of data from vehicles to applications upon receiving customer consent, but we are not an automotive data marketplace that stores, buys, or sells personal or anonymized data. 

Under GDPR, Smartcar is considered a data processor with regard to vehicle data. This means that we process personal data on behalf of each data controller, in this case being the individual vehicle owners. You can find more details in Smartcar’s Data Processing Addendum

How does Smartcar protect driver privacy?

Smartcar operates on a permissions-based model that gives drivers clear visibility into the data points they’re sharing with the applications of their choice. Our consent-based OAuth2.0 flow, Smartcar Connect, lets vehicle owners review data permissions (e.g. state of charge, battery level, location) before linking their EV, allowing you to clearly build trust with customers on how that data is used by your application.

Our platform also adheres strictly to industry-grade best practices and compliance standards, including SOC 2 Type II compliance, ISO 27001 and 27701, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and an API tokens management system. When a driver connects their car to your application via Smartcar, you receive a token that grants it the ability to access only the permissions that drivers consent to share — you are not able to see or store their credentials. Drivers can also disconnect their car at any time. 

What else do I need to know about integrating with Smartcar for EV data? 

Take a look at this vendor assessment checklist for a full list of capabilities to evaluate in an EV API platform. 

Why integrate with an EV to increase charger utilization?

Drivers want convenience, personalization, and reliability. 

Charging station data isn’t enough because it doesn’t accurately reflect the driver’s experience within their vehicle. Customers want peace of mind in knowing they can travel without worrying about finding chargers on their remaining battery level, managing unexpected charging costs, or shifting plans to accommodate long wait times and charge times. 

Smartcar gives charge point operators EV data that helps them: 

  • Increase customer satisfaction: Pinpoint nearby charging stations seamlessly to reduce frustration and range anxiety. Strengthen your reliability as a charging network operator by introducing predictability into your customer’s route planning and unlocking more data-driven features like charge time estimates, price estimates, and charge session management. 
  • Increase revenue while optimizing overhead development costs: Use a standardized API to communicate across 200+ EV models without testing and implementing new integrations with every vehicle. Scale utilization with predictable integration costs and less spend on developer resources. 
  • Boost customer engagement and loyalty: Use vehicle data to understand customer charging behavior better. Build a personalized user experience that motivates customers to keep coming back, whether through tailored rewards, dynamic incentives, or gamification. 

If you’re building an application, solution, or product experience around increasing charging station discoverability and utilization, book a demo today!

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