November 17, 2021
autos Business Transportation

GM Anounces Ultium Charge 360, Combining 60,000 EV Chargers Through Its Apps

According to the Guidehouse Insights Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey, the three biggest barriers to EV adoption are the cost of the vehicles, access to charging and time to charge. General Motors

GM
and other automakers are trying to address the cost with new purpose-built EVs with improved batteries. But charger access and charging times remain a major issue, especially for those that don’t live somewhere with off-street parking. Like Tesla

TSLA
and Ford, GM is trying to improve access with the Ultium Charge 360 network that will include 60,000 chargers across the U.S. and Canada.

Tesla tried to address charging with its SuperCharger network of DC fast chargers which now numbers more than 10,000 chargers at over 1,000 locations. Tesla also encourages hotels, restaurants and other businesses to install high-power AC destination chargers. Tesla’s proprietary charging system communicates with the vehicle when plugged in and automatically bills the driver’s account for charging if it isn’t free. 

When Ford announced the Mustang Mach-E, it announced that it was integrating multiple charging networks into its FordPass app in the vehicle and on mobile devices. The first two networks were Electrify America and Greenlots with more than 13,000 chargers between them. Ford opted to incorporate the new Plug&Charge standard that enables the same sort easy access as Tesla with automatic billing. However, only the Electrify America chargers actually support this and so far it has proven to be buggy, not always working. 

Ultium Charge 360 has signed up seven network partners – Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect which combine for more than 60,000 publicly available chargers. GM EV customers should be able to see real-time status information from all of the chargers on the app in the vehicle infotainment system which should make it easier to find a charger that is actually available and working. Drivers should also be able to pay for their charging session, although GM is not incorporating Plug&Charge initially.

For now, GM isn’t being too specific about the details of the app functionality except to say that customers will be able to pay and utilize chargers across the seven networks in a seamless and consistent way. GM is also working extending its group of partners as it goes forward. The automaker has implemented an agile software development process that will see app updates to the vehicle and mobile apps about every four weeks and it has a roadmap going out 18 months. 

The underlying platform has already been rolled in recent updates to the brand mobile apps and the new interfaces will arrive with the launch of the Hummer EV this fall. Additional enhancements will follow with other vehicle launches including the Cadillac Lyriq in spring 2022.  

In July 2020, GM and EVgo also announced a partnership to install 2,700 new DC fast chargers at locations people visit regularly like grocery stores. The goal was to make EV ownership easier for customers that don’t have access to charging at home or work by putting chargers at places they may visit once or twice a week and stay for while.The first of these 350 kW chargers are now operational in California, Florida and Washington and 500 are expected to be up and running by the end of 2021. The plan is to have an average of four chargers per location.

GM is also developing programs to help customers get charging accessories and installation at home. Current buyers of the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV get free installation of a 240V outlet in their garage that can be used with the included charging cable with the car. 

All of these are important steps in the right direction to make the transition to plug-in vehicles more seamless for drivers. However, to really make this valuable rather than frustrating, automakers and charging network providers need to make sure that every EV works with every charger at the maximum available speed, every time a driver pulls up. There are still far too many reports of EV drivers pulling up chargers only to find it either non-functional or only working at reduced power. This is not a problem that gas vehicles have. Gas pumps are fast and work virtually every time. That simple experience needs to become part of the EV lifestyle.