What is En-Route EV Charging?

En-route charging refers to charging electric cars while on the road, which is different from destination charging, which takes place at the end of the trip.

Application of En-Route EV Charging

Public EV charging can take many forms, depending on where the chargers are located, who owns and operates them, and where they fit in an EV driver’s itinerary. Broadly speaking, en-route charging is the opposite of destination charging because en-route implies that drivers charge on the way to their destination. Yet, en-route and destination charging solve most needs related to EV charging because, combined, they provide a public charging infrastructure that supports EV owners along their trips.

There’s a difference, however, in the type of chargers needed for either type of charging. En-route charging, because it happens during a trip, requires fast charging speeds like those provided by rapid DC charge points.

Hardly any driver wants to wait hours at a roadside stop to continue their trip. However, providing charge stations capable of charging an EV within, say, 20 minutes or less, is considerably more costly than installing Level 2 chargers—which are the standard choice for destination charging.

Importance of En-Route EV Charging

En-route charging makes up the smallest proportion of the EV charging mix, both regarding average session duration (due to the rapid charging speeds) and overall usage (due to most trips being short-distance charging as opposed to long-distance). The reason is that this type of charging is only needed for a small portion of a typical vehicle usage.

However, this doesn’t make en-route charging any less important, quite the opposite. A reliable roadside charging network is crucial for enabling EVs as vehicles that can efficiently take over internal combustion engine cars. One of the main concerns that EV drivers and prospective EV owners have is being stranded in the middle of their long-distance journey because of a non-existent charging infrastructure.

That said, a reliable public charging network is necessary regardless of location—within or outside of urbanized areas. Nonetheless, it’s simpler to find assistance in times of need in a populated area than while on the road.

This leads to another matter with en-route charging. The remoteness of such charging stations makes maintenance a challenge. At the same time, a poor customer experience due to a broken or poorly maintained charging site can leave drivers frustrated and unable to charge, which could be detrimental to charge point operators (CPOs). This indicates that getting into the en-route charging business is a multi-faceted venture that requires careful planning and implementation.

Practical Example of En-Route EV Charging

An EV driver charges at a roadside stop while traveling to a vacation destination. To draw a parallel, en-route charging to EVs is what fuelling up at a roadside gas station is to internal combustion engine vehicles.

Additional Information About En-Route EV Charging

  • Of the businesses involved in the EV charging industry, electric mobility service providers (eMSPs) have an excellent opportunity to make the most of en-route charging by providing added value to drivers. eMSPs can do so, for example, by making it easy for EV owners to find and reserve chargers along their trips and by providing EV roaming services (especially helpful for long-distance and international travel).
  • En-route charging can be a lucrative business niche, but it also requires substantial investment due to the high price tags of rapid chargers, installation procedures, and subsequent maintenance. Hence, a limited number of companies can afford to enter the en-route charging business at scale. Furthermore, the high initial investment means that less traveled locations remain without charging stations, which makes it more difficult for EV owners to plan longer trips. There are still many places where the distance between two charging networks is too large for any currently available EV to make it on a single charge, even if range has expanded significantly throughout the past years.
  • On the topic of providing quality en-route charging service to EV drivers, CPOs have several options on a software and hardware level. Regarding software, they can ensure maximum uptime with intelligent charge point management systems (CPMS) that support predictive maintenance. This is a system that continuously monitors the chargers for any errors and provides timely notifications to CPOs so they can fix the issue early on before it turns into a bigger problem. Some predictive maintenance systems can even automatically fix errors. However, not all CPMS include predictive maintenance.
  • Where hardware is concerned, i.e., chargers, providing timely maintenance is more complicated because it requires the physical presence of a technician. Hardware problems can result from accidents, improper use, wear-and-tear, vandalism, extreme weather conditions, and other causes. Either way, providing repairs as quickly as possible is necessary for maintaining customer satisfaction. To make maintenance and repairs easier, some charge point manufacturers opt for modular designs that allow CPOs to replace only the damaged components without replacing the entire charger.

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