Will EV charger network support surging customer demand?
Photo courtesy of Meridian.
The electric vehicle market continues to grow at a rapid rate, driven by customer demand for the technology's fuel savings and environmental benefits. The global EV market is projected to post a combined annual growth rate of 30.8 percent between 2017 and 2025, according to Market Research Reports.
A recent Axios/Survey Monkey poll found that more people are interested in buying EVs than currently own them, indicating future growth for EVs. Sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid EVs totaled about 200,000 last year, representing slightly more than 1 percent of the nation's 1 million auto sales.
Government, utilities and EV manufacturers are all investing in EV charging infrastructure to support the rising EV market.
Michael Farkas, executive chairman of Blink Charging, an owner and operator of EV charging stations, told investment newsletter Impact Alpha earlier this month that he expects EV charging stations to become a massive business. He said that anyone with a building or a parking lot will be able to offer EV charging stations. Multistate retailers, such as Walmart, are already installing them in their parking lots.
Is investment sufficient?
Several industry observers have said, however, that more investment is needed in the EV infrastructure for these optimistic projections to materialize.
According to Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley said in a report last October that an insufficient EV charging network could snag the industry's expansion. Morgan Stanley said that $2.7 trillion is needed to build an ecosystem to support 526 million EVs worldwide.
In the Axios/Survey Monkey poll, a majority of consumers said they would be either somewhat (30 percent) or very (30 percent) inclined to buy or lease an EV, and cited the lack of available charging stations as the No. 1 reason why they choose not to do so.
Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers who did not purchase an EV gave this reason, followed by cost (41 percent); preference for gasoline (37 percent); lack of service centers (28 percent); concern about environmental impact of hybrid batteries (16 percent); insufficient mileage (9 percent); don't need a car (5 percent); or waiting for self-driving cars (2 percent).
"While doing research, we noticed the lack of infrastructure available for EV cars," said Chris Gilder, CEO of Meridian, a kiosk manufacturer that has introduced EV charging kiosks. "The desire to provide this product stemmed from us looking to use EV vehicles as a company." EVs are becoming more affordable and the number of miles per charge is increasing substantially, Gilder noted.
Property owners and managers, commercial tenants, utility companies, government and EV charging equipment manufacturers and operators all have a role to play in advancing the EV infrastructure.
Partners support infrastructure
In April, Electrify America, a program created by Volkswagen Group of America to promote zero-emission vehicle technology, announced installation of EV chargers at more than 100 Walmart locations in 34 states by June 2019, more than doubling the number of EV charging stations at Walmart stores across the country.
The Electrify America network will consist of more than 1,400 DC fast-charging dispensers at nearly 350 charging station sites across the U.S. In addition, Electrify America will build approximately 1,300 charging stations at workplaces and multi-unit dwellings in 11 metropolitan markets.
Earlier this year, automakers and several northeastern states announced "Drive Change. Drive Electric," an initiative to increase electric car use throughout the Northeast. The campaign will focus on the benefits of electric cars and advancing consumer EV adoption. It will highlight the availability of EVs, tax and purchase incentives, a rapidly expanding network of charging stations, and economic benefits such as fuel cost savings.
Some states are offering grants, rebates and tax credits to companies that install charging stations.
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, already offers thousands of EV chargers. Drivers can charge their vehicles at shopping centers, fueling stations and restaurants within a half-mile of highway interchanges.
Charging station providers face choices
EV charging station providers will need to make decisions based on cost and customer experience, Meridian's Gilder said. For example, the choice between alternating current and direct current electric charging stations. AC charging stations supply current to the vehicle charger and provide 15 miles of electric range per 30-minute charge. DC charging stations supply current directly to the vehicle battery and provide 80 miles of electric range per 30-minute charge.
EV charging station providers will also need to account for installation cost, functionality, weatherproofing and getting power to the site, Gilder said.
Meridian, for its part, recently developed fuseEV, an interactive or noninteractive, eco-friendly self-service EV charging station. FuseEV includes a 240V, 32-amp Level 2 EVSE with a 25-foot charging cable and an interactive or noninteractive touchscreen that allows users to engage with digital information while waiting for their car to charge.
The fuseEV is available as a standalone hardware solution, that integrates either with custom software, or with Meridian's self-service software.
"FuseEV is an EV charging solution that also provides ROI opportunities for companies and organizations looking to implement charging stations," Gilder said. "It can be used as an informational tool, alert tool and advertising portal."
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Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.