Most EV owners sure like their mobile apps. Tesla drivers, not so much

A new study from J.D. Power found that electric vehicle owners are more than twice as likely to use the manufacturer’s mobile app than internal combustion engine vehicle owners.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

According to J.D. Power's new U.S. OEM EV App Benchmark Study, electric vehicle owners are far more interested in the apps that correspond with their vehicle compared to those with gas-needy cars.

More than 40% of electric vehicle owners told J.D. Power that they use the apps as often as every other trip, and people who own electric vehicles are more than twice as likely to download and use the mobile apps associated with their car than people with gas-powered vehicles. 

Just 19% of gas-powered vehicle owners told the survey that they use their car's app more than half the time or every time they drive. 

Kia Access, FordPass, Porsche Connect, myChevrolet and MyHyundai topped the list of the most popular electric vehicle apps according to the survey, which examines the "user experience with automakers' smartphone apps for EV owners."

The study features responses from 600 electric vehicle owners surveyed in March and examinations of the top 15 car companies that sell electric vehicles in the United States and Europe. 

Frank Hanley, senior director of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power, said in a statement that charging infrastructure is still being developed and that range anxiety is having a significant effect on customer behavior, forcing many to check battery levels and monitor charging processes.

"These owners are looking for different features in a mobile app," Hanley said. 

The study found that despite leading the U.S. in electric vehicle sales, Tesla's mobile app was ranked sixth in the study because it "has not changed significantly for many years." The study notes that the other apps ahead of Tesla offer "greater functionality," but Tesla was still well regarded for the speed of its remote control functions. 

Researchers with J.D. Power said that in spite of increased app usage by electric vehicle owners, not all of the apps were better than their counterparts for gas-guzzling vehicles. Both Mazda and Volkswagen were found to have taken out certain functions from their electric vehicle apps that can still be found in the apps for gas-powered vehicles. Other electric vehicle apps were also difficult to navigate and far from intuitive, according to the study. 

"It's critical that manufacturers devote proper resources to developing apps that truly fit the needs of new EV owners," said Fabian Chowanetz, manager of automotive consulting at J.D. Power Europe. 

"Porsche Connect is just one example of a premium brand making up ground after having redesigned its first-generation app. With these automakers on the cusp of launching so many new EV models, they must be ready to adapt their apps to owners' needs and invest in improving the digital experience. If not, loyalty and retention are at risk." 

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