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EV Start-Ups Struggle to Offer Functionality of Tesla, Mass-Market Brands in Vehicle Smartphone Apps


Usage of an auto manufacturer’s mobile app remains high, according to the J.D. Power OEM EV App Benchmark Study. Even though app usage by owners of gas-powered vehicles has increased during recent years, owners of electric vehicles (EVs) are still more likely to use their app on a more regular basis, especially for needs like checking range information or viewing active charging status. More than 50% of EV owners use their brand’s app at least half of the time they drive, indicative of an app’s importance and reliance.

“For the most part, owners are still very dissatisfied with the functionality and speed of the EV apps that are on the market,” said Jason Norton, senior manager of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power. “Manufacturers need greater focus on these critical areas, creating a user experience which aligns with other frequently used consumer apps. For instance, banking customers would probably not wait 60 seconds to view their account balances on their bank’s app, so why would EV owners wait that long to confirm that their vehicle doors are locked?”

Following are key findings of the 2022 study:

  • It’s all about charging: Nearly three-fourths (70%) of EV owners say that they use their app at least every other drive to monitor the charging process and view their available range. While owners predominately charge their vehicles at home, 85% say they still desire the ability to find charging stations in case they need one while being on the road.
  • Feature desirability is high—and owners want more: Of the 20 most common app features, 15 features were cited as desirable by 70% of EV owners. Surprisingly, though, only eight features are widely available. There also are new advanced features—such as phone as a key—that more owners want added to an app but are only being offered by a few manufacturers.
  • Dealer help needed: Similar to the introduction of Bluetooth in vehicles several years ago, an EV app’s features need to be explained to owners by dealership personnel. Nearly one-third (32%) of owners say they have never used their EV app because they don’t know how to do so.
  • Owners don’t want to pay: The primary reason that owners stop using their EV app is that the free trial period expires. Owners are still stating that they are not willing to pay for a manufacturer’s EV app—especially for those brands that previously offered a free app but now want to charge for it.

According to the expert benchmarking, the top-performing EV apps are the FordPass, Tesla, MyHyundai, Kia Access and Genesis Intelligent Assistant.

While Tesla, the volume leader in EV sales, does very well with its mobile app and continues to add content, some recent EV start-ups (e.g., Lucid, Rivian) are falling short in charging functionality, speed of the app and general content offered in their app.

“New EV start-ups need to better understand consumer expectations, ensuring that their mobile apps meet the standards of established EV manufacturers like Tesla and other brands that already put a lot of work in their digital offerings,” said Fabian Chowanetz, director of automotive consulting at J.D. Power Europe. “Many of these new players in the EV market are not providing the necessary app content that owners are seeking. For example, owners want the ability to find charging stations, set up the charging process and information on electric driving or advanced technology.”

The OEM EV App Benchmark Study gauges EV owners’ experience with their brand’s mobile app. Insights are derived from surveying EV owners and an expert benchmarking assessment of the most relevant EV mobile apps. Results are based on a standardized evaluation approach relying on more than 300 best practices for vehicle apps that include more than 60 EV-specific attributes.

The expert benchmarking includes apps from the top 20 brands that sell EVs in the United States and Europe. This year, 15 models were evaluated in the United States and six in Europe. More than 1,000 EV owners in the United States were surveyed in March 2022.

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