Normally with your electric vehicle you would charge at home, or at your work. In case you have to make a longer trip to a different location, you have to find yourself a charging spot to top your electric vehicle up some in order to get back home again. To help electric vehicle drivers with this, a lot of initiatives have stepped up to provide information on where these charging stations can be found. Here in the Netherlands there are over 5 different organizations involved in bringing the driver of an electric vehicle to the nearest charging station.
So the question to where it all boils down to: which should you use? Which is the service that provides you with all the charging stations? There are some differences between the services, most come with a smartphone App, some don’t. Some show every little charging station, even the ones for an electric bicycle (hardly suitable for an electric car). And when focussing on the chargers for cars; not every charging station is listed in all the services; i.e. there are significant gaps and discrepancies.
For many applications on the internet it is possible to use another program to tap into a service. For example an online database with all the points of interest on a map, which can be accessed with an App from a different supplier. This results in the data being consistent and available on various platforms, without having to store and maintain it twice. The key to this lies in something called an API. Without wanting to go into full detail how an API works, it is sufficient to know that it provides easy access to information across the web in a consistent way.
If such an API would exist for the databases for electric vehicle chargers, various smartphone Apps could have essentially the same information, brought in the same fashion. In theory, this information could even be used to update the in-car Apps that are also providing directions to chargers. Sounds like a dream come true, but why does such an API not exist on a large scale yet? Surely I’m not the first to think of this?
Hard to tell, but I can only imagine that the current providers of the information have ambitions to become the number one in this service and are not interested in handing out “their” data for free. Remember that it currently only registers the location of the chargers, in some rare cases the data can tell you if a charger is currently available or not.
One to rule them all
So with an API, would all be ok? Currently the Dutch foundation E-Laad is working on such an API together with a few of their partners. Their first target is to get an API out that at least provides consistency in how data is presented. This will help the various services to provide the same information to users. A next step and much asked for around the internet would be to show the availability of the charging station in the Apps. No point in driving to a charing station when you know it is in use for a few more hours.
Once this foundation is laid, there are more possibilities to put an API to good use with regards to charging stations. Good material for a project I’d like to dedicate myself to and write another post about at a later stage when that has materialized more.
Dutch sites which facilitate the information at the moment, some of them have started partnering and sharing their data (thankfully):