PlugShare: A Mobile App for Friendly Electric Car Charging

Would you let a random electric car driver plug into a spare outlet at your home, or vice versa, charge your plug-in car at a stranger’s house? That’s the idea behind a mobile app called PlugShare (app link) that’s launching Monday with the intent to create a mobile social network around people and companies willing to share their plugs and EV owners looking to charge up anywhere they can get electricity.

PlugShare was developed by a few months-old startup named Xatori, which is the brainchild of Stanford alums and founders Armen Petrosian and Forrest North. Petrosian formerly worked at battery startup Amprius, and North worked first at Tesla (s tsla), then founded electric motorcycle company Mission Motors. The founders both led the Stanford Solar Car team and managed to round up an all-star advisory board for Xatori including PayPal (s ebay) and Slide co-founder Max Levchin, and Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning.

PlugShare is the first mobile app developed by Xatori, which describes its mission as “to create innovative software for electric vehicles and the enlightened electricity grid,” (to learn more about EVs and the grid check out our Green:Net 2011 event on April 21 in San Francisco). PlugShare is available for the iPhone (s aapl) and can now be downloaded via iTunes.

Here’s how PlugShare works: Users can sign up for free and see all the available plugs — from shared plugs to public charging stations — on a map for any given region. You can either opt to share your plug on the network, or not, if you don’t have one or don’t feel comfortable doing that. Plug sharers can give as much information as they want, like a phone number and email, and EV owners that are interested in using their plugs can contact them and start charging up.

The envisioned user is likely an EV enthusiast who is looking to support the very nascent market of electric cars and public charge spots. Petrosian and North think the network and app could help usher in a positive experience around the first wave of early adopter EV owners, and also help beat back range anxiety (the idea that EVs only have a limited battery range and will run out of juice and leave you stranded). “There’s an artificial barrier to electric vehicle charging. There’s outlets everywhere,” Petrosian told me in an interview.

While the idea of distributed, friendly plug sharing is novel, I’m not exactly sure how many people will actually want to share their plug. There’s the cost associated with the battery charge (only about 15 cents per hour, but still), and also the fact that you could be welcoming a stranger to your home. In addition, charging EVs with standard outlets takes a pretty long time (like 12 hours), and not many people have official charging ports installed at their homes quite yet. An EV owner that tops off a battery at someone’s shared plug while they’re on an errand, would probably just get a few extra miles of range.

What do you think? Would you share your plug or participate in this social network? Check out the video for a demo of the app:


For more research on electric vehicles and energy management check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):