Google Maps just got a big upgrade for electric car owners

Android Auto showing directions in car
(Image credit: Google)

Slowly but surely the biggest navigational apps are starting to be a little more considerate of electric vehicle drivers. Google Maps on Android Auto is the latest one to remember that EV drivers exist, and will now stop suggesting gas stations to people who don’t actually need gasoline to get around.

Regular Google Maps owners will know all about the Categories menu, which offers shortcuts to commonly-searched locations. Restaurants, bathrooms, supermarkets and, you guessed it, gas stations. The gas station option typically sits at the top of that menu, even if you’re driving an electric car, but now Google finally got rid of it — and swapped in a charging points option instead.

Any EV driver knows that finding yourself running out of power can be pretty harrowing. Trying to find a charger in the vicinity can be difficult enough, but it’s even worse when you’re driving and trying to get your map to find the closest charging station. 

Having an easily accessible shortcut, and not being inundated with gas station locations, should make that situation a bit easier. Especially if you’ve already told Google Maps what car you have, what kind of charger it takes and what sort of charging speeds you want. Because there’s no use going to a charger that’ll take several hours to recharge, or has an incompatible plug. 

It’s worth noting that this change only seems to apply to Google Maps on Android Auto. Opening up the Google Maps app on my Android phone reveals there’s still a quick-launch category for gasoline, with no sign of any openly-dedicated EV features. Those are hidden away in menus, like always.

It’s a small change, and it doesn’t really make up for the fact Android Auto is lacking where deep electric car integration is concerned. A lot of modern electric come running software that offers many of the same smart features as Android Auto, including navigation. 

The main difference being that being installed on the car, rather than an external device like a smartphone, means it can access data from all the car’s systems — including battery percentages and range. That means in-car navigation can account for charging in route planning, and adapt to any changes that happen in real time. Google Maps on Android Automotive OS can do this. 

But progress is progress, and one day soon maybe we’ll get a version of Google Maps that can offer a bunch of better EV routing options. Until then any update that makes it easier to find an appropriate charging point is a win.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.