Please let me give you my money: mobile app eases fragmented payment system for public EV charging

EV drivers, rejoice—and pay up: a new partnership between Recargo and SemaConnect aims to make it easier to pay for public charging.

Starting Tuesday, about 300 SemaConnect stations, located mostly on the East Coast, will let you pay with the new Pay with Plugshare mobile app (currently available for iPhone, with an Android app in the works). PlugShare is a popular mobile app and Web site for finding charge stations. The network relies on tech developed by Recargo, a company that develops electric vehicle software.

Image: Recargo
With the Pay with PlugShare app, you can easily find a station, get directions, and more.

"The entire goal is to lower the barrier for people to be able to charge," said Forrest North, the Chief Operating Officer of Recargo, in a pre-briefing with TechHive. EV drivers currently grapple with a highly fragmented non-system, where for paying for public charging could require calling a phone number to provide payment information, or using a payment card tied to a specific network of stations. It’s cumbersome, and sometimes drivers are unable to use a station if they can’t find a way to pay.

Pay with PlugShare removes these barriers by using your phone as the payment device. You install the app and enter your credit-card information (Visa, Mastercard, or Discover), which you have to do only once. When you approach a SemaConnect station, your smartphone authenticates using the app and GPS. You choose your charger and fill up. The app also offers a station locator based on PlugShare's voluminous database, and ways to share reviews and tips on specific stations with other users.

The industry benefits from smoother payments as well, because charge station providers don’t have to develop a custom authentication system. Recargo plans to roll out the app to more station providers next year.

EVs are still too expensive, and charging stations are in short supply (especially outside of major metropolitan areas). But if partnerships like these make using the charging stations easier, that’ll remove one more pain point holding back EV and plug-in adoption in the US. Oh, and stop making the cars look like a clone of the Toyota Prius.

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