Electric vehicles is one of the fastest growing industries in the world as automakers race for domination of this exciting technology. As a result, EV charging stations are popping up along highways, retail properties and business and industry locations at a rapid clip.
Globally, the EV charger market is projected to increase from around 1 million units in 2014 to more than 12.7 units in 2020, according to a report from HIS Inc., a research firm.
"As more EV models enter the market offering a wider variety of features and in various segments combined with increased range at lower price points, EV adoption will only keep growing," Darryll Harrison, director of global communications at ChargePoint, a global charging network, told Kiosk Marketplace.
ChargePoint's network includes more than 33,000 stations owned and operated by a range of businesses, including large corporations, retailers, shopping centers, parking lots, garages, hotels, automotive dealerships and others.
ChargePoint EV chargers can be found at service stations and other types of locations. Photo courtesy of ChargePoint.
The variety of chargers continues to increase as technology supports faster charging capability.
"The rate of charging is increasing quickly," Terry O'Day, vice president, product strategy and market development at EVgo, a charging network, told Kiosk Marketplace.
As with all new technologies, various technical standards exist in the EV charger market. Chargers come in a variety of sizes, charging capacities and technical specifications.
Charging speeds vary
The first generation of chargers were known as Level 2 stations, 240-volt systems providing 6.6 kilowatts per charging hour, or an estimated 25 miles of range per charging hour, according to a recent white paper published by Kiosk Marketplace sister site, Digital Signage Today.
In recent years, Level 3 chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, have emerged, delivering 19 kilowatts in about 30 minutes, around 80 percent of a full charge.
Tesla supports all charging levels, from Level 1 (a residential wall outlet at 110 volts) to Tesla's proprietary DC Superchargers, offering 170 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging.
EVgo recently teamed with electrification technology manufacturer ABB to deploy the U.S.'s first high-power fast charging station in Fremont, California, capable of delivering a maximum charging rate of 150 kilowatts, a charge that is three times faster than what is currently available. The system has the potential to reach charging speeds of up to 350,000 kilowatts with an upgrade.
Faster charging rates are expected in the future
Two automakers have announced plans to sell vehicles in the U.S. that will charge at even higher rates in less than two years. Additionally, five automakers have announced a collaboration to build 400 350,000-kilowatt charging throughout Europe.
EVgo is using its Fremont charging station to study utility impacts, installation standards, permitting, and building and safety requirements, O'Day said. It will also provide a demonstration platform for electrical certification committees and building code officials.
The company chose Fremont for the charging station because the area has the highest traffic in the EVgo network, making it a fit for the roll out of a next generation charging station. EVgo will install the new charger at a charging station at a Lucky Supermarkets store. The high-powered charger will not be open to the public.
EVgo recently broke ground on a second location for the new charger that will be open to the public, O'Day said.
Several factors support growth
Other factors besides evolving charging technology are shaping the acceleration of EV charging networks.
"The learning as to how the chargers are used in the field is growing, and the demand, regulatory and payment systems, all of those features are evolving," O'Day said.
Government regulation is a big factor in the growth of EV chargers. California has a mandate for major automakers that requires a percentage of all cars built to have zero emissions, O'Day said.
"That (California mandate) has been adopted now by 10 states which are some of the biggest car markets in the country," he said.
In addition, there are numerous financial incentives for both EV vehicle purchases and EV charger installations. Incentives are provided by government and utility companies.
"EVs are one of the few opportunities for utilities to boost sales of electricity in a manner which benefits the public at large and leads to significant environmental and climate benefits," ChargePoint's Harrison said.
"But in order to realize these benefits, utilities must actively engage to grow the EV market and assure adequate infrastructure for EVs," he said.
Charger costs vary
The cost for commercial EV chargers varies because of the different physical requirements, said Edgar Soto, an inside sales rep for AeroVironment, which manufactures Level 2 chargers. In addition to construction costs, there are permits and processing fees.
An EV charging station pulls its power from a nearby building or directly from an electric utility. When installing a charger, it is necessary to upgrade the existing electrical service equipment. It is often necessary to run a conduit to the parking area, replace the concrete and asphalt, and install additional equipment.
Most electric chargers, with the exception of Tesla, comply with SAE J1772, the industry standard, Soto said. Tesla does, however, manufacture an adapter to comply with the standard.
Business models vary
There are different business models for EV charging stations, according to EVGo's O'Day. The model used at a given site is based on the specific needs of the location.
EVgo designs, owns and operates its charging stations. The company develops each site, then operates the chargers as a service to EV vehicle drivers.
It costs $100,000 to develop each station, which includes two fast chargers and a Level 2 charger, O'Day said. The Level 2 charges at seven times the speed of the fast charger.
"We pull as much power in our charging stations as a Walgreen store pulls for the whole store," he said.
"We have a stringent set of specifications that we require for our (equipment) purchases," O'Day said. "But broadly speaking, most companies provide similar chargers to others in the market."
Tesla is unique in that it builds its own charging stations specifically for its own vehicles.
In some cases, the charger provider sells units to property owners that set their own prices and maintain the chargers.
ChargePoint uses a crowd-sourced, open network model that allows charging station owners to set their own pricing and access rules, as well as attract customers and employees with a valued charging amenity.
ChargePoint manages each stage of charging station design, development and production.
West Coast Electric Highway
The West Coast Electric Highway, a public network of charging stations located every 25 to 50 miles along I-5 in Oregon, Washington and California, offers thousands of Level 2 charging pedestals and dozens of DC fast chargers. Drivers can charge their vehicles at shopping centers, fueling stations and restaurants within a half mile of highway interchanges.
The network is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and allows drivers to charge all-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi "i MiEV" in 30 minutes or less. Each location also includes Level 2 equipment to charge most plug-in electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt.
Charge prices along the public network vary depending on the equipment vendor. Some locations charge by the time connected to the station, others charge a flat fee per use, while still others offer monthly subscription services for unlimited use.
The public network uses chargers from ChargePoint, AeroVironment and Blink Network.
Business models will continue to evolve in tandem with faster industry growth and more diverse charger capabilities.
/ Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.