News & Views

Who’s Responsible for the EV Ownership Experience?

Before electric vehicles (EVs), the lines of accountability were simple. If you lost power in your home or you wanted to draw energy from renewable resources, you turned to your utility company. If your car lost power or you wanted better in-vehicle technology, you looked to the manufacturer.

Electrified life is a bit more complex. If your EV battery is taking too long to charge, do you contact your utility provider or your auto dealer? If you want to charge your EV using wind or solar power, whose app do you open to make those adjustments? And if you’re loving every moment of your customer experience (CX), do you give credit to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that made your EV or to the energy company that keeps it moving? These blurred lines call for new alliances. Energy and mobility companies need to come together around three core experiences and be ready to deliver on the promise of electrification.

Ownership That Lives Up to the Hype

Media headlines and slick marketing of EV vehicles are helping shift buyers’ perceptions—1 in 4 now say they’re “very likely” to consider an EV for their next purchase or lease—but it’s also raising the bar. Can drivers really have full confidence in their EV’s battery range? Can EV pickups consistently tow heavy loads and power large homes? What kind of power supply and extra equipment does it take to make that a reality? OEMs are pouring millions into marketing their EV brands, but they need to collaborate with energy providers to deliver on those exciting capabilities.

Bidirectional charging—which lets a consumer use energy stored in their EV battery to power other electric devices, vehicles, homes, or businesses—is a prime example of this co-dependency. Ford’s Lightning F-150 is already on the market and can serve as a supplementary home energy source to keep lights and appliances running for 3-10 days if the grid is down. GM is partnering with California-based utility company PG&E to test technology that lets power flow from a GM Ultium battery into a customer’s home, automatically coordinating between the EV, the home, and PG&E’s electric supply. Similar alliances will be key to ensuring a seamless experience between EVs and utilities.

Early signs of overall satisfaction are encouraging: the latest report from J.D. Power found that more than 95% of current EV owners are happy with their vehicles, and the introduction of new electric models is driving increased consumer interest.1 One thing is certain: EV skeptics and fans alike will be watching new model rollouts closely to see if they live up to the hype.

Charging That’s Accessible, Cost-Effective, and Smart—At Home and On the Road

Despite steady progress being made in EV battery life, “range anxiety” for consumers is still real. The fear of not having enough power to reach their destination is the top concern drivers have when considering an EV purchase. In 2022, the U.S. administration is requiring all 50 states to submit plans explaining how they would install high-voltage chargers on or near major highways, no more than 50 miles apart. Some states have already installed chargers in all rest areas along major routes. But what happens off the highway? Will EVs accurately track battery range? Will they alert drivers in time, and then navigate them to the closest public charging stations? And what about apartment dwellers who don’t have their own garage?

One in three shoppers who say they’re unlikely to consider buying an EV say they lack access to any charging capabilities at home or work.2 Despite new reports that say Ford F-150 Lightning owners are equipped to jumpstart other brands’ stranded EVs (even Teslas),3 no one wants to rely on the kindness of strangers to reach their destination. Consumer angst demands answers that energy and mobility companies will need to work together to find.

When in-garage charging is available, cost-saving utility options can make a difference in the ownership experience. Programs like lower off-peak charging rates, EV-only electrical rate plans, and incentives for Level 2 permanent charger installation make satisfaction scores jump. However, only 21% of EV owners think their utility provider offers multiple savings options—even when those options really are available. Cross-promotion and better communication between automakers and utilities will be key to help avoid frustration and improve cost-of-ownership among EV owners.

Renewable Energy Options for Charging EVs

Beyond the basics of accessing energy, eco-minded customers will also want to know where their energy is coming from. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a “green” vehicle only to charge it with coal-based energy. If automakers want to attract consumers with promises of planet-friendly mobility, they’ll need to work closely with utility companies to ensure that reality. One such partnership is already flourishing in Michigan: GM and Ford were among the first corporations to enroll in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program for large customers, which lets the automakers attribute a portion of their energy use to zero-emission wind and solar projects. (Vectorform is also a proud member of this program as well!)

One all-renewable energy retailer is taking a different route. Octopus Energy is hoping to replicate its success in the UK with a new EV leasing program that launched in the heart of U.S. oil & gas country. With EV Concierge, Octopus Energy will help Texas customers find and lease an EV of their choice, and will then install and seamlessly integrate smart charging and billing into their existing energy plan–saving customers 20-30% while tapping into 100% renewable energy sources.4 It’s a model that not only disrupts the EV sales process, but also circumvents traditional utilities and promises to provide hassle-free, affordable access to green energy.

As innovative pilots continue to emerge, modern utility customers are already empowered with options for managing their own energy use in their homes—and they’ll carry those demands into their EVs. If they’re already using an app to control in-home energy use, can they use that same app to manage charging their EV? Can the consumer decide where their energy is sourced, and how much renewable energy they want to purchase for their home and vehicle? Will there be cost-effective green options at all public EV charging stations, or will that become a premium service? The answers will need to unfold quickly, and they’re sure to impact CX for energy providers and auto manufacturers alike.

The Future’s Coming Fast

Energy and mobility companies are speeding toward an electrified future together. Both industries need to engage and learn from each other to succeed—and then pull in others from the ecosystem to help solve the challenges they jointly face.

Have you thought about your organization’s strategy for meeting customers’ expectations for electrification? How do your digital product teams collaborate internally and with partners? Are they aligned? The market is moving quickly; let us guide you on your journey. Connect with us today!


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