The Best EV Mobile App Is Not Tesla's

Automakers are no longer going to be judged just on the basis of their sheet metal, horsepower and mileage ratings. They also will be judged on their software, or as some would have it, their user experience.

This is especially true for electric vehicle (EV) makers. According to a new study from J.D. Power, EV owners are more than twice as likely to use an automaker’s mobile app than are owners of internal combustion engine-powered (ICE) vehicles.

Frank Hanley, senior director of global automotive consulting at J.D. Power, commented:

[EV] owners are looking for different features in a mobile app. With charging infrastructure still being developed and range anxiety having a significant effect on customer behavior, tasks like checking the battery level and monitoring the charging process are high priorities for EV owners.

According to J.D. Power’s Electric Vehicle Mobile App Study, the top five EV mobile apps are Kia Access, FordPass, Porsche Connect, myChevrolet and MyHyundai. Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) ranked sixth because “Tesla’s app has not changed significantly for many years, and other manufacturers are offering apps with greater functionality.”

Despite the relatively ancient functionality of Tesla’s mobile app, it is “resonating well with the brand’s owners and, in terms of speed for remote control functions, the app still proves to be the industry’s benchmark.”

Among the key findings of the study is that EV owners “are even less willing to pay for using a manufacturer’s mobile app than ICE owners.” But EV owners who report being highly satisfied with their car’s app “are more likely to consider paying.”

One significant difference appears to be that Tesla’s app is free while Kia Access is free for five years and then costs $59 to $199 annually, depending on the features the owner wants. For its hybrid-electric models, Porsche Connect offers a navigation and infotainment package free for a year and $205 annually thereafter. Likewise, the Car Remote Package is free for five years and then costs $110 a year.

Another key finding is that some EV owners discovered that features available for ICE vehicles were absent in the EV mobile apps. Both Mazda and Volkswagen removed functions from their EV apps that are present in the apps for ICE owners.

Fabian Chowanetz, manager of automotive consulting at J.D. Power Europe, noted:

It’s critical that manufacturers devote proper resources to developing apps that truly fit the needs of new EV owners. 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.