July 4, 2022

How EV APIs accelerate mobility app development

Winona Rajamohan

Content Marketing Manager

The Biden administration signed a new $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, which provides more opportunities to empower electric vehicle (EV) adoption and cleaner energy. EV businesses use Smartcar’s EV API to accelerate the production and distribution of EV solutions for crucial pain points in the market.

📝 Here's a summary of what's ahead:

  • An EV API makes it easier for apps and services to communicate with vehicles without hardware. You can use EV APIs to retrieve an electric vehicle’s state of charge and battery levels, automatically start and stop charging, and more.
  • Examples of use cases for EV APIs include apps for route planning, building EV analytics software, helping utilities manage EV charging, and helping owners schedule EV charging.
  • Do you build or buy for your app? Well, that ultimately depends on your core priorities, available developer resources, product-market fit, and competition.

In ten years, what might the state of mobility look like?

The average driver can afford an electric vehicle. They aren’t worried about charging their vehicle on any kind of trip, whether its to the grocery store or on a family vacation. They can easily locate and reserve stations, make payments, and manage charging. They’re connected to utility providers and help electrical grids depend on renewable energy.

Now imagine doing all of this with a few clicks.

This ideal landscape requires seamless communication between EV manufacturers, solution providers, utilities, policymakers, and consumers. That’s why businesses are finding opportunities in EV APIs to develop integrated software that can meet policy goals and consumer demand at scale.

What is an EV API?

Mobility apps use an electric vehicle API to retrieve data and send commands to an EV with built-in internet connectivity.

As of today, 97% of electric vehicles are connected cars — which means they are shipped with an embedded cellular modem that equips them with 4G or 5G internet connectivity.

With an EV API, apps can integrate with electric vehicles without hardware devices like OBD-II dongles or smartphone telematics. This gives businesses the following benefits:  

  • Reducing the cost of ordering and shipping hardware
  • Accelerating vehicle owner onboarding with a software-only user authorization flow (that only takes a few clicks)
  • Flexibility to connect with EVs across different makes and models — even those without built-in onboard diagnostics ports
  • More data accuracy, transparency, and security

An EV API is your application's most reliable source of vehicle data. Electric vehicles use car APIs to send information to automakers regularly. This information is visible to vehicle owners in their connected services account.

For example, Tesla owners can download the Tesla mobile app to see information related to their charging status and charging levels.

If you want to build an app that uses EV APIs to retrieve data from and send commands to EVs, you need a secure integration that your developers can manage at scale (Hint: Asking vehicle owners for their connected services log-in details is not going to fly).

How do you get started with EV APIs for your app? We talk about this later on in the article

But first, let’s get into the types of EV data you can access with an EV API.

What data can your app access with an EV API?

EV APIs give your app a lot of data to work with – enough to help you do this like identifying the charging status of an EV, retrieving an EV’s state of charge (SoC), and controlling charging remotely.

In fact, a car API can return so many different kinds of data that you might not know where to even begin. As a developer platform for connected cars, Smartcar focuses on standardizing EV API data and errors across 99 different models so you can work with the most relevant data sets.

You can use our EV API to access the following endpoints:

  1. EV battery levels: Retrieve the state of charge (SoC) and remaining range from an EV.
  2. EV charging status: Know whether an electric vehicle is currently plugged in and charging.
  3. EV start and stop charge: Remotely start and stop charging an EV.
  4. EV battery capacity: Read the capacity of an electric car battery.
  5. Location: Find an electric vehicle’s last know location by geographic coordinates
  6. Vehicle attributes: Retrieve an electric vehicle’s make, model, and model year.

For brands like Tesla, Chevrolet, and Cadillac, Smartcar offers brand-specific endpoints that give you access to:

  1. EV charging completion time: Retrieve the date and time a vehicle expects to complete a charging session.
  2. EV charging voltage: Retrieve the charger's voltage measured by a vehicle when it’s plugged in.
  3. EV charge limit: Retrieve or set the charge limit configuration of a vehicle.

💡 You can take a look at all endpoints by heading over to our docs!

Real examples from apps using EV APIs

Alright. That was a lot of endpoints.

But I’m sure you’re thinking, “Now what do I do with all that data anyway”

Instead of explaining, let me show you what apps are building today with Smartcar’s API.

EV route planning 🗺

Apps can access a vehicle’s charging status, battery capacity, battery levels, and location to find an optimal route with EV charging stations along the way.

EV Navigation lets EV owners spend less time planning their driving time by identifying routes suitable for their car’s battery range and calculating how long charging will take if they stop at a station.

Before using Smartcar’s EV API, drivers manually entered their EV SoC for each trip. Now EV Navigation can automatically pull this information from users to save them time and effort while producing more accurate results.

Road usage charge 🛣

Road usage charge (RUC) programs — also known as road charge or the vehicle mileage tax — are being piloted in US states as an alternative to the gas tax. With the eventual phase-out of gas-powered vehicles, these programs will help states continue to generate revenue for road and highway maintenance.

Emovis is a toll-based mobility service provider that helps states enroll EVs into local RUC pilot programs. They use our odometer API so EV drivers can be onboarded without having to purchase and install OBD-II dongles or upload a photo of their odometer reading.

Beyond EV APIs being more secure and transparent than OBD-II dongles, it also allows Emovis to accommodate EV models like the Tesla Model 3s that don’t have OBD ports.

Build rich EV data sets 🗄

Businesses connect with electric vehicles using a EV API to access real-time data for building software applications, research databases, and vehicle maintenance reports.

With permission to access car data like mileage, battery levels, and charging statuses, Recurrent provides drivers with battery performance reports for used electric vehicles. Data accessed through Smartcar's EV API is transparent and accurate, enabling Recurrent to build a cross-manufacturer EV battery data set.

Manage EV charging ⚡

Supporting an uptick in charging stations calls for collaboration between EV charging companies and utility providers to lower electricity infrastructure costs, prevent blackouts for residents, and reduce emissions from an uncontrolled increase in electricity generation. DERMS software and virtual power plant software use EV APIs to get consistent insight into an EV’s state of charge for more accurate load forecasts, incentivizing customer behavior, and shifting electricity loads accordingly.

EV grid management will help reduce emissions by electricity transporation as EV charging becomes more common

Rolling Energy Networks accesses this vehicle data to help utilities build load management programs and conduct EV research for grid integration.

Another way to reduce the load on grids is through battery energy storage systems. Emulate uses an EV API to manage EV charging between electric vehicles and virtual batteries to increase the efficiency of energy usage from retail electricity providers.

Optimizing charging schedules for off-peak hours 🔌

With a cloud solution, peak-load demand on the grid can be reduced through managed charging — when software or utility remotely schedules charging when the electricity demand is lower.

Apps like Optiwatt and FlexCharging use EV APIs to facilitate communication between EV drivers and utilities to reduce the impact on grids. Smartcar’s API endpoints for battery levels and SoC allow solution providers to monitor a vehicle’s battery accurately and immediately start and stop charging in rhythm with electricity fluctuations seen on the grid.

Utilities benefit from partnering with intelligent charging businesses to ensure a consistent and comfortable electricity supply for residents, especially in low-income locations and high-density populations. This also reduces consumer friction by taking the onus off existing and potential EV drivers manually monitoring their charging schedules.

 

Build vs Buy: How to get started with an EV API?If you’re looking into a build or buy strategy for your app’s EV APIs, let’s compare and evaluate the best choice for your business:

Building your own integration

Going this route is definitely possible, but there are a few caveats.

First, you’ll need a good amount of developer bandwidth dedicated solely to managing EV APIs across different vehicle brands and models.

For some apps, this can take four to five engineers to build the integrations, maintain them as OEM APIs change, and troubleshoot random brand-specific errors. You’ll also want to

This can easily push your product roadmap back six months, a year, or even more, depending on the number of EV brands you want your app to serve. Of course, you can get this done quicker if you already have EV API experts on your team who have experience dealing with each brand's unique edge cases and error states.

Working with an EV API platform

With more electric vehicle brands coming into the market, many apps find it difficult to build integrations quickly enough without slowing production.

Source: Automotive News

That’s why many apps work with EV API providers like Smartcar to increase speed-to-market and lower engineering costs.

Smartcar’s EV API lets apps use a single integration to communicate with over 20 EV brands. Our developers have standardized all returned data so you can easily use our SDKs to access the endpoints most relevant to your business. Your team can also use our extensive error guides to debug issues that your vehicle owners may run into.

Another significant value-add to your business is that our platform comes with a pre-built OAuth2.0 flow that lets vehicle owners securely review and consent to data being shared with your app.

Let’s do a quick recap — here are a few questions you can use to help you think about your strategy.

  1. Will you be integrating with more than one EV brand?
  2. Will an extra 6 to 12 months take away your competitive advantage in the market?
  3. Do you have enough developer resources to prioritize EV integrations on top of your core product?
  4. How will you protect user privacy and give them transparency over shared data?

Innovating the future of transportation

Electric vehicles are a new generation of mobility where cars are more integrated with software than ever. It signals a future of transportation where connectivity removes barriers holding traditional auto industries back — like insurance and tolling — and scale services for digitally adept drivers on the go.

APIs for electric vehicles empower businesses with an easier way to disrupt traditional methods of vehicle data collection for more resource-efficient production, stable integrations, and user adoption.

Learn more about Smartcar’s EV API endpoints by signing up for a demo or create your free account today to take our platform for a spin.

 


Vehicle brands, logos, and model names belong to their respective trademark holders and do not indicate endorsement or affiliation with Smartcar.

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