Electric vehicles are bound to change the global gasoline industry, which is at three trillion dollars a year today. In the last few years the electric vehicle (EV) industry has matured. Today, plug-in EV (PEV) markets are growing four times more than the hybrid vehicles. To stakeholders in the EV ecosystem (such as auto manufacturers, charging network operators, electric transportation service providers, car owners, and more), the big question is not whether EVs will 'catch on', but it’s a matter of time: when will our society move to driving alternative vehicles.
To attract drivers to E-cars, the 'fueling' challenge is part of the value proposition consumers face. Making it easy and simple for drivers is also a key factor in mass adoption. At the same time, we need a full spectrum of various standards and more 'intelligent' stations that provide integrative solutions. Consumer education is also a challenge: How to educate people to become aware of EVs, of charging stations availability and options, how to operate an EV, the maintenance requirements of the vehicle, etc.
In retail, the charge station is becoming a 'token' in efforts to attract shoppers. Property owners and retailers are coveting installation of charge stations in front of their business in order to attract more spectators. Retailers report that EV drivers spend three times more time in their store than non-EV drivers. Waiting on the car battery to charge may mean spending more time and more dollars at a near-by store or mall.
At VERGE San Francisco last week, panelists discussed the public EV infrastructure ecosystem, the need to focus efforts on 'making' the EV ownership experience easy, and providing integrative and seamless solutions, along with standards development.
The panel included Terry O'Day - Vice President - NRG EV Services/NRG eVgo; Ray Jenks VP - Business Development at Recargo/PlugShare; Jason Wolf - Co-founder and CEO at CollaboratEV; Richard Lowenthal - Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer at ChargePoint; moderator was Ben Holland - Director of Deployment Policy and Strategy at Securing America's Future Energy.
The panel discussed current charging infrastructure deployment efforts, advancements in charging technologies, and models of network integration. The EV market is growing. While most of the early adopters resided in single family homes, today, the makeup of EV owners is changing and has expanded to include urban areas with all types of residencies. Installing a charge station in a single family home wasn't an issue, but multi-family dwellings, rental apartment buildings, condominiums, etc., present different housing models. Where and how these drivers are going to charge their vehicles, when there are several unit owners or a landlord with a number of tenants.
New charging models are emerging. For example, both Tesla and Nissan offer customers who purchase their EV a charging program through an annual membership. The program is offered free of charge (for charging the car battery) in the first year. Tesla initiated a similar program for their Fast chargers and Nissan offers membership through eVgo. This model of 'going direct' from the auto manufacturer to consumer seems to encourage prospective EV owners, and may help alleviate range anxiety.
There are also claims that the membership model may not be successful, especially when charge stations are overly utilized in today's markets. ChargePoint view point is that the membership model can work well in an under utilized infrastructure. Perhaps solutions may be simplified, where manufacturers focus on the 'OEM car relationship' and there'll be a separate 'Service provider relationship' for charging.
When it comes to ordinance of charging stations, municipalities are ahead. Regulation addresses the installation of charge stations at residencies, at public places, the workplace, retail, and more. Although new buildings code is advancing to include a greener perspective, we still need to address the existing and vast real estate. We will continue to have a combination of charging options, such as Level 2 (220 volts) and Fast (or Super) chargers. The idea is that not all the LVL 2 stations need to be replaced. For example, LVL 2 is useful for drivers who have several tasks on a particular ride. In this scenario the driver can charge the car while shopping, in a class, at the gym, etc. the LVL2 model also works well when the driver is asleep. This type of multi-tasking is called the 'parking meter model'. The Fast charger is more of the 'fast-food model': the driver wants to charge quickly. For example, when stopping for a short break on a trip, going to the theater or to a scheduled engagement, a doctor’s appointment, etc.
Based on drivers' preference, various charging options, at different costs and in different locations, need to be available. Obviously, we will need more great electric cars offerings at better price points to attract more drivers.
1. NRG eVgo - http://www.evgonetwork.com/
NRG eVgo provides electric car charging solutions directly to electric car owners and businesses serving the EV charging needs of residents, tenants, employees or customers. Evgo has charging networks, payment plans and a station locator.
With a purchase of a new Nissan Leaf, eVgo offers a plan for free charging in the first 12 months.
2. Recargo/PlugShare - http://www.recargo.com/
Recargo is a software and services company that provides guidance to drivers and industry to support the adoption and growth of plug-in car technology. Through the PlugShare mobile app, by utilizing a directory of over 20,000 charging stations in the US and Canada, drivers can locate local charging options.
Recargo has recently introduced payment options.
3. CollaboratEV - http://www.collaboratev.com/
An independent roaming and clearing company that enables charging operators to simplify and enhance the EV driver's experience and drive further growth of the EV industry. CollaboratEV provides seamless interoperability and clearing amongst multiple EV charging networks, allowing EV drivers to charge anywhere and use a single authentication credential, where all usage is aggregated to one bill. EV drivers will be empowered to charge at a station of their choice regardless of where they are or what network they belong to. Benefits: removes the need for multiple memberships in several EV charging networks and allows long-distance travel.
4. ChargePoint - http://www.chargepoint.com/
With a 65% market share, ChargePoint has an online network of EV charging stations. The stations are connected to a cloud-based software, enabling station owners or employers to manage their charging operations. Drivers utilize a mobile apps to locate charging stations and check for availability, with a real-time status.
This week, ChargePoint was named to the 2013 Top 100 Global Clean Tech Companies by by Cleantech Group. The company has more than 13,500 charging locations and their open network is utilized by many leading EV hardware makers.
5. VERGE San Francisco by GreenBiz.com - http://www.greenbiz.com/events/verge/2013/10/san-francisco
VERGE brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, and leading public officials to explore the opportunities and technology advancements in energy, buildings and transportation.