Part 2: EV Charging Stations – Software

As we covered in last week’s blog post,  more drivers are purchasing Electric Vehicles (EVs) over conventional gasoline and diesel powered cars.   Accordingly, a market has developed around the supply and installation of the charging station hardware.   With only 300,000 EV’s on the road, the market is still small, but it is rapidly growing.  There has been a 3000% rise  in EVs since 2011! (Elkind, Ethan, 2017) To further increase their sales, some automakers are now partnering with charging service companies to provide a comprehensive service offering to their customers.

As charging station hardware has developed, so too have the business models for public charging stations.   Public EV charging stations fall into three primary categories: (1) non-network, pay as you go, (2) networked, subscription based, and (3) free (Berman, Brad, 2014). Companies who provide networked charging stations advertise the following benefits:

  1. If a driver is part of a network he/she will have a membership which dictates the price of charging.  This can benefit drivers with discounted rates compared to out-of-network drivers.
  2. Network stations are easy to find.  The network providers maintain databases and maps of the stations which allows the EV driver to find the closest available station instead of driving around to find an open charging station. A non-networked charger is not part of any connected map; it is a stand alone piece of equipment and cannot transmit or receive information.
  3. Network stations have remote support for EV drivers. Support agents can remotely unlock a charging station and also monitor and maintain the stations. This cannot be done for non-networked charging stations where a technician has to troubleshoot problems in-person
  4. When a driver is part of a network of chargers, they are able to join a waitlist when there is a demand for charging. The charger hosts track the use of individual chargers and prevent drivers from monopolizing chargers.  Non-networked chargers do not have similar systems in place, so, except by increasing the hourly rates to charge, they are limited in their ability to control wait times.

The amount of time required for full charge is a critical feature for an EV owner in their selection of charging infrastructure.  This rate is determined by the electric vehicle and the charging station technology.   Charging stations fall into three categories:

  1. Level 1 is the standard wall outlet. It is the slowest charge level requiring 8-15 hours to fully charge a vehicle.  Due to the slow rate of charge, these are rarely installed in public.
  2. Level 2 is the typical EV plug that homeowners frequently install in their garage. Many public charging stations are Level 2 chargers. 3-8 hours are required to fully charge a vehicle.
  3. Level 3 (DC fast charge) – These charging stations are the quickest means to recharge a vehicle. It takes typically 20 mins to 1 hour to fully charge a vehicle. An example for this would be the Tesla supercharger.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two of the larger EV Charging Station Networks.  Both are comprised of Level 2 and Level 3 chargers. (Berman, Brad, 2014)  ChargePoint owns chargers at both residential and commercial properties.   Their network includes a proprietary energy management software, a mobile app, full installation services and ongoing maintenance.  They have partnered with companies throughout the supply chain including hardware manufacturers such as Eaton and Schneider, automakers such as BMW and Nissan, resellers, local installation and maintenance partners.   

EVgo is another “full service” company. They too design, manufacture and support the technology for their charging stations, but they primarily deploy Level 3 chargers for businesses.  This has made them have the largest network of public Level 3 chargers in the nation (Ayre, James, 2017). EVgo has also become competitive by offering BMW and Nissan EV drivers charging incentives for being a part of the EVgo charging network.

Currently, “full service” companies are dominating the market, but the electric vehicle industry is still in its infancy. As the demand for EVs continues to grow, and EV’s become mainstream, there will be new technical, financial and policy-based innovations that will shape the market.   

References

Elkind, Ethan. “California Needs More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations to Keep Pace with Demand.” The Berkeley Blog, 25 Sept. 2017, blogs.berkeley.edu/2017/09/25/california-needs-more-electric-vehicle-charging-stations-to-keep-pace-with-demand/.

Ayre, James. EVgo Opens Its 1,000th DC Fast-Charging Station In US. 6 Dec. 2017, cleantechnica.com/2017/12/06/evgo-opens-1000th-dc-fast-charging-station-us/.

Berman, Brad. “The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks.” PluginCars.com, 8 Jan. 2014, http://www.plugincars.com/ultimate-guide-electric-car-charging-networks-126530.html.

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