Roadmap to Car 2.0: How to Build Better EV Apps

A flood of apps that make use of the iPhone’s built-in GPS and accelerometer to serve car drivers on the go has already started to gush forth: Honda’s Compare Your Drive to Insight (which monitors speed, braking, acceleration and fuel economy) to iGasUp and so many others for routing you to the cheapest gas. But electric vehicles require connectivity to the web and data “over and above what gas engines require,” as Ford Motor Co. (s F) director of connective services Doug VanDagens told me this week for an article over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required) about how to build better apps for plug-in cars.

Apps can use data — about topography, traffic, battery status, vehicle health, infrastructure availability, driving behavior — to help orient drivers in the nascent world of electric mobility, both in and out of their vehicle. That’s part of the idea behind Car 2.0, or the intersection of vehicles, communication networks and the electrical grid.

But not all apps are created equal. At least six key variables are likely to drive an app’s “stickiness” in the EV market after the initial cool factor of smart phones and vehicle connectivity wears off, according to Oliver Hazimeh of PRTM Management Consultants, who directs the firm’s North America automotive segment and clean mobility initiative (including work on the recent policy paper from the Electrification Coalition).

I’ve gone into further detail over on GigaOM Pro, but Hazimeh suggested that some of the most successful apps for the upcoming generation of plug-in vehicles will likely to be super fast, offer services needed outside the vehicle (such as charge point reservations), feature an ultra simple interface optimized for voice controls, and integrate with vehicle communication systems like General Motors’ (s GM) OnStar or Ford’s Sync (s F) as seamlessly as they do with your home or work computing platform.

We’re still in early days for plug-in vehicles, and for the trend of new apps and app stores being fueled by the automotive market — and we may see other technologies, such as augmented reality, gaining increasing importance in the world of EV apps down the road. But as analyst Colin Gibbs wrote on GigaOM Pro back in August, “If you’re just using GPS or cellular triangulation to deliver content and services to users based on location, you may already be a step behind.”

Photo courtesy of Apple and Audi