Google announced today a new feature for electric vehicle owners that uses artificial intelligence to sort through thousands of public charging stations while finding the best route. The level of technology needed to make this type of route planning functional is a pretty clear indication of what an unholy mess EV charging in America is today.
In a blog post published Wednesday, Google acknowledges that route planning in an EV can be like “solving a puzzle” (which is an overly polite way of saying it), with EV owners needing to find the right charging station within range that also has the specific type of plug their car needs.
The new feature will only work for electric vehicles with Google’s native Android Automotive system installed as their primary operating system. Right now, the only two models with Android Automotive are the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge, but Google says more are on the way.
Google is using a newly developed routing algorithm that uses a type of math called “graph theory” to present charging stop recommendations to EV owners based on their location, the amount of range left in their vehicle, and the type of plug their vehicles use. Google writes:
Now when you enter a destination that requires two or more recharge stops, algorithms in Maps will search and filter through tens to thousands of public charging stations to find the most efficient route — all in less than 10 seconds. You can see how long each charge will take and your updated total trip time, so your final ETA will never again be a mystery.
EV charging stations in the US typically feature one of two types of standards: CCS (Combined Charging System), which was first rolled out in 2013; and CHAdeMO, a trade name for a quick charging method. Nissan and Mitsubishi use CHAdeMO, while Jaguar and BMW use CCS, for example.
Tesla has yet to offer CCS adapters for its vehicles. It does offer CHAdeMO adapters, but the charging industry appears to be moving toward the CCS standard. That’s still been slow going, though. The US government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center’s database says there are still more places to fast-charge CHAdeMO vehicles than those with CCS.
Google Maps recently added a new feature that lets you search for electric car charging stations based on the type of plug they offer. But this feature uses more data about your range and plug type to help take some of the guesswork out of route planning.
The new algorithmic route planning will also work on shorter trips and will soon include details about methods of payment accepted at the individual charging stations for European customers.
EV charging in the US is a bit of a patchwork, with companies like EVgo, Electrify America (which is owned by Volkswagen), and ChargePoint all offering different levels of voltage and plug compatibility. Some stations are more functional than others, and there’s a general lack of real-time information for EV owners about which stations are in service and which aren’t.
President Joe Biden wants to throw the weight of the federal government behind improving the charging infrastructure in the US. He has pledged to spend billions of dollars to add 550,000 EV charging stations in the US over the course of his term in office.