Plug and Charge Simplifies EV Charging
Photo credit: John Voelcker
From the car and driver
Plug and Charge is a new way to automate payment for electric vehicle charging that brings convenience to people who drive something other than Tesla - such as the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The plug-and-charge protocol tells the charging station what type of electric vehicle you are connecting and conveniently sends you an invoice.
We were accidentally among the first US drivers to try it in early December.
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For example, let's say you needed a phone app or RFID tag every time you bought gasoline - and had to pre-register with the brand. Drive in, validate the pump, and then find out how much you would pay for your gasoline. No trailer or app? You need to call a toll-free number to provide credit card information over the phone.
This is how electric car charging works for everyone except Tesla drivers today. Some EV drivers have up to six swipe cards, tags or phone apps for different networks on their travel routes.
There's a better way - and back in 2012, Tesla showed the US how to do it. You just drive in, plug in to top up, and all billing is done through the back end. This is how it should be, and with the company's high-speed Supercharger network, you can now drive a Tesla almost anywhere in the lower 48 states.
However, like Apple, Tesla has the advantage of a closed ecosystem: Only Teslas can charge at Tesla Supercharger locations. The company controls both sides of the transaction. Eight years later, the rest of the EV world - dozens of separate EVs, all of which can be charged on dozens of different networks - has caught up.
Photo credit: John Voelcker
Quite coincidentally, I was possibly the first civilian in the US to see the future of electric vehicle charging. In early December, I drove 480 miles in four days showing friends and EV drivers a Ford Mustang Mach-E test car from 2021. On a trip, I stopped at an Electrify America DC fast charging station. The machine told me to plug in first, so I plugged the 150kW capable plug into the charging port on the Mach-E's left front fender.
Lo and behold, I watched the machine quickly identify the car, validate the charge, and start the flow of electricity. No trailer, no app, no toll-free number to call.
The magic behind this mundane transaction is the plug-and-charge protocol, which identifies an EV to a charging station. The charging system then validates the car with its manufacturer, who provides billing information that is used to start charging.
The system I use, all the software of which is invisible to me, is similar (but not identical) to a European plug-and-charge protocol that is already used by drivers of several electric vehicles on the Europe-wide Ionity network and others. Half a dozen car brands funded Ionity to make long distance electric vehicle travel across more than a dozen European countries practical and seamless.
Plugging in a car and having it auto-charge doesn't sound like a lot, but the software integration and validation to achieve it is surprisingly complex. For example, Electrify America is testing dozen of charging stations for compatibility with dozens of the latest electric cars - including camouflaged prototype electric vehicles that were brought in closed trailers to the testing labs in Vienna, Virginia.
Plug and Charge will be introduced in the latest generations of electric vehicles sold in the United States. The Mustang Mach-E and the Porsche Taycan 2021 were both delivered to dealers in December. I think it's possible a Taycan owner beat me by a day or two, and if so, that person was just as pleased with the newfound simplicity as I was.
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