what is a route planner and why is it essential?

As soon as the journeys in an electric car exceed the actual range of the vehicle, charging on the road becomes necessary. To make traveling easier, a route planner is essential. Let’s see together what the different manufacturers offer, and distinguish the good students from the bad.

Renault Mégane E-Tech // Source: Frandroid – Renault

If the electric vehicle does not add restrictions to everyday life, long journeys are very different. Indeed, even if the fast charging network has become denser in France and in Europe, it is clear that you should always plan your trip well to avoid unpleasant surprises.

An essential companion for long journeys is therefore the famous one itinerary Planner. Some manufacturers offer an on-board system that takes into account the limits of the vehicle, while others prove to be poor learners and leave drivers to fend for themselves. Let’s take a closer look at the proposals of the various manufacturers and imagine future developments.

What can I do without an integrated route planner?

Too many vehicles that are still being sold do not have a proper route planner. Sure, they have a GPS navigation system that gives directions clearly, but that’s not really enough when you have to cover hundreds of miles in an electric car.

In practice, the driver therefore cannot rely solely on their vehicle’s infotainment system and must use third-party services to find where to charge. Imagine getting behind the wheel of your new Nissan Ariya, Renault Zoe or even MG4, and entering your destination 500 kilometers away. Except maybe information like what, you don’t have enough battery to arrive safely, you have nothing left.

In these still too numerous cases, planning tools such as A Better Route Planner or Chargemap are essential. We also have a file detailing how to tame these tools so it’s easy to consider long journeys aboard your new connected car.

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For their part, some manufacturers rely on a companion mobile application to be able to send a destination to the vehicle, such as Kia or Hyundai, but this is far from enough. It is only possible to enter one destination and send it to the vehicle, which does not automatically add charging stops when needed.

The planners on board leave much to be desired

Happy, some brands stand out and offer a satisfying experience – though imperfect – to owners. Among these good students we find Tesla, who uses its network of Superchargers to best guide the driver, as you can see in the short video below.

Route planning with automatic charge stop additions at Tesla remains unrivaled to this day. pic.twitter.com/Shcf4Fba5H

— Bob Jouy (@bobjouy) September 26, 2022

However, this level of route planning assistance is the bare minimum for it to be considered adequate.. Indeed, once we delve a little into what Tesla has to offer today on its Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y, we notice significant oversights.

Tesla still has work to do

First of all, the offered charging stops are only offered on the Tesla Supercharger networkwhere in most cases a detour has to be made to load, where Totalenergies, Ionity, Fastned and others are on highways.

Then, it is not possible to adjust anything : The on-board system therefore considers it acceptable by default to arrive at your destination with less than 20% battery. In many cases, however, the first fast charging station can be inaccessible if you arrive with so little battery. The driver must therefore anticipate his movements on the spot to know what percentage of the battery it has to charge to during the last shutdown in order to be silent.

Finally, for many months, Tesla has noted third-party charging stations well and pre-conditioned the battery when one of these chargers has come into navigation, but the route planner does not take into account the fact that we will load at this location! So if you manually enter multiple Ionity terminals consecutively 100 kilometers apart, and the final destination is too far to go there at once, the onboard system will tell you that there is not enough battery to reach the destination, as if the stops at the terminals were just stages with no recharging.

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As Tesla are computers on wheels, we’re not immune to a good surprise coming soon, with improvements on the various points mentioned, but at the moment another manufacturer is doing much better than the American firm.

Mercedes is doing better than Tesla has its own game

The best route planner of the moment is offered by Mercedes, which fixes on all of Tesla’s flaws. The screen not only clearly shows the charging time, but also the battery level before and after charging all this can be adjusted to your liking.

So if you’re the adventurous type, you could indicate a very low battery level to optimize the charging time. You can choose your preferred charging networks and all indications are clear. At the very end of 2022, the Mercedes route planner will indeed be the market reference. We could appreciate it at the wheel of the Mercedes EQS, or more recently the Mercedes EQE.

Which features are important?

By extensively discussing the proposals of Tesla and Mercedes, but also tools such as A Better Route Planner, we can delete the important elements from the route plannersthat we would like to see en masse on board electric vehicles today.

First of all, take into account the desired battery levels upon arrival at each terminal, but also at the final destination is very important. Indeed, some will be comfortable with a few percent of the battery before a charge, while others may prefer to be more careful and not drop below 20%, for example.

The terminals offered by the vehicle must take into account the fast charging capability. It is not convenient to offer a Ford Mustang Mach-e to stop for several hours on an 11 kW charging station, when Ionity terminals supplying up to 350 kW are nearby. We deliberately draw the line at the ridiculous, but these cases are anything but fictional: it unfortunately happens in reality.

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Mercedes EQS charging on an Ionity terminal // Source: Romain Heuillard for Frandroid

It must be possible to choose the networks to be usedas the current charging card jungle is such that certain networks will be preferred because of their ease of use, their geographical location or because the owners have a subscription at a preferential rate.

Real-time display of terminal availability is essential information, which must be displayed. In order not to have to queue at a charging station on busy days while another is almost empty a few tens of kilometers away, it is essential to see the number of available terminals live. The information already exists and is visible in the applications of each charging operator. All you need to do is share it for manufacturers to access. Likewise, clearly displaying the terminals that are out of service is a necessity.

Finally, display the charging current directly on the vehicle screen is an extra that we would like to see happen more widely. At this time, you can only see this pricing information live at Tesla through its network of Superchargers.

A future in which everything still has to happen

As you can see, there is still a long way to go for all players in electric mobility if they want to offer navigation that is in line with driver expectations. Electric vehicles are now becoming more and more capable of long journeys, in particular thanks to the increasing density of fast charging stations.

However, with the current limitations and capabilities of today’s connected vehicles, it is essential to offer a route planner worthy of the name to attract an ever-increasing clientele. At the beginning of 2023, it should no longer be acceptable to rely on external websites, various mobile applications and other charge cards to get on the road with an electric car.

For this reason, we have made the decision not to give an electric car without a route planner a higher rating than 8/10.

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Ana has been with businesscraze for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesscraze team, Ana seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.