OK, you bought the electric car, and now you have to deal with the fact that it’s range is only 100 miles. That may not have seemed like a big deal in the showroom, but trust me on this — you’re going to be watching that range gauge like a hawk, and it’s going to be any port in a storm.
The idea of an iPad app that can find the vital public charging stations that you’ll need is not new — you get one with your Nissan Leaf, for instance. I’ve used it, and it’s pretty cool, giving you a regularly updated GPS map of available plug-in spots. But the founder of Dictionary.com, which achieved 20 million downloads last year, says he has the magic formula to “make range anxiety a figment of the imagination.” According to Brian Kariger, now the CEO of Recargo, “Up-to-the-minute reports from the roadside are part of the answer.” Kariger, who’s just 40, knows about EVs from experience. He has a Tesla Roadster and a Nissan Leaf.
This is actually an important addition, because just knowing the location of charging stations is only half the battle — you also need to know if they’re occupied, and if they’re functional. That’s where Recargo’s real-time comments will come in very handy.
Most of the time we don’t have to wait to get gas, but charging stations are still fairly rare, so EVs (also kind of rare, come to think of it) can be lined up at them. Recargo lets actual users have their say about charging, the same way Pissedconsumer.com lets you vent about bad big box experiences.
There’s also a news feed with the latest info on electric cars. It might in fact be a useful app even if you don’t have a plug-in vehicle yet. (Full disclosure: some of the news is from PluginCars.com, and I contribute there occasionally.)
You can use the app to search by charger type, which is useful if your car happens to be a Tesla Roadster. Most cars today use a standard plug, known by the prosaic name J1772. Another thing I like about Recargo is that its charger maps (the kind you get with any current app) are tied in to Google Street Views, so you also get street-level photographs of the sites, which may make them a lot easier to spot when you’re approaching the appropriate intersection.
The latest version, Recargo 1.5, has an inventory of 1,000 charging sites worldwide. In its current form, it’s a free download for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch. You’re out of luck if you’re not an Apple user, but there’s still plenty of functionality on the website.