Google and Apple Need to Step up EV Features in Mapping

How can the birthplace of Tesla be so far behind?

I live in Northern California. More specifically, the Bay Area. You may know it as Silicon Valley. This is where many of your favorite pieces of tech were conceived. The area is between San Jose, California, and San Francisco, and is home to Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others. If it's in tech, it was probably born here. Including the company that helped kick off the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, Tesla. 

A computer displaying the website for A Better Route Planner showing a route from the Southern US to the Northern US.
A Better Route Planner in a web browser.

Stocksnap / Mockup Photos

So it's odd that every time I open Google Maps and Apple Maps to plan out a route in my EV, I'm not offered a robust charging infrastructure feature set. Everywhere I look in Northern California, I see EVs. Thousands of EVs. A higher concentration than nearly anywhere else in the country. So it's odd that two of the tech giants seem to be dragging their feet, and it's time for them to step up before a startup comes along and does to them what they did to MapQuest. 

Where Are You Going?

Both Google and Apple have done… something. Google now offers up the most efficient route to a location. Apple seemed ready to make this a reality with an actual EV routing feature. But at launch in June 2020, Apple said it only supported the Chevy Bolt, and even then, it didn't work the last time I tried it in a Bolt. You see, it's been hard to get a Bolt in because of that whole battery issue. The app was also supposed to get support for Ford and BMW EVs. But a quick look at forums shows it hasn't shown up yet. 

We reached out to Apple about what's happening with this feature. 

You can search and find charging stations in the apps, and in some EVs, Apple will surface when you're near a charging station. Still, it feels like the two companies battling for your mapping experience are only half committed to making sure they come out on top in the upcoming EV transition. 

It's odd that two of the tech giants seem to be dragging their feet, and it's time for them to step up...

Along the Way

Building software that works is difficult. Making sure it works with multiple OS versions and vehicles? That's near impossible. But only near, not totally impossible. There are ways to make this work. 

If you've never used it, you may be surprised to learn about A Better Route Planner. It essentially does what I would like to see from Apple. It's a website and app so you can create an account, map out a route, and get in your vehicle and head off with a route that includes charging stops along the way. It works with Apple Maps and Android Auto.

What it doesn't do is connect deeply with your vehicle. Instead, you need to input some information. Like the trim level of your vehicle, the battery's current state of charge, and the state of charge you would like to have when you arrive at your destination. 

You throw all that info in there, and it creates a route. The rub is, you need to pay for a subscription for it to work with CarPlay or Android Auto. If you travel long distances in an EV regularly or you're planning an epic road trip, it's worth it. It's not as slick an interface as you would expect from, say, Apple and Google, but it gets the job done, and more importantly, it's filling in a huge gap. 

There are, of course, EV charging network apps. Those typically only show stations and don't have routing capabilities which is also slightly disappointing. Most tie their navigation with Google and Apple so it seems that they could create a route with waypoints and send them to the mapping software from the tech giant. 

An EV Charging box mounted on a pole.

Erik McClean / Unsplash

Almost There

Fortunately for Google Maps users, there is a light at the end of the electron tunnel. Google's Android Automotive infotainment system—found in Polestar and Volvo vehicles—uses Google Maps and features route guidance with EV charging stopovers. Google has the technology, it's tied in deeply with the new vehicles from those automakers, but it's there. The Maps team just needs to figure out how the rest of us with not-Swedish EVs can use it. 

Meanwhile, back in Silicon Valley, tech employees are silently motoring along in their Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycans. The more junior employees are cruising down Interstate 280 in Model 3s, Volkswagen ID.4s, and Ford Mach-Es. They are the first adopters. Fortunately for the Tesla drivers, the routing options are there, and it's true that the feature is ending up in the navigation systems of some of the new EVs. But not all of them, and to be honest, we all still use Apple and Google Maps. 

The giant tech companies just need to help us seamlessly get around in our EVs.

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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