Fierce Competition at Charging Stations for EVs

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DeLune and his ilk, the 1%, thinks very dif­fer­ent­ly than the 99% — those whose cars are pow­ered entire­ly or par­tial­ly with fos­sil fuels. The 99% dri­ve pret­ty much wor­ry free because gas sta­tions are pret­ty much every­where. But the 1% act dif­fer­ent­ly. They down­load pop­u­lar smart­phone apps to pin­point the near­est charg­ing sta­tion, and still they near­ly always wor­ry about whether they have enough pow­er. On the free­ways, in the HOV lane, they are less like­ly to exceed the speed lim­it because it drains the bat­tery faster. The result is they slow HOV-lane traf­fic and are draw­ing the ire of the gaso­line-pow­ered HOV lane occu­pants, not just those who nev­er liked the free pass bat­tery-pow­ered and hybrid vehi­cles got in the first place.

Com­pe­ti­tion is fierce for these free charg­ing spaces because they are thin­ly spread among con­ve­nience stores, malls, park­ing garages and lots. Charge­Point, one of the larg­er charg­ing net­works, has grown from 5,254 ports at the begin­ning of 2012 to more than 15,000 now. A per­son starts charg­ing a car on that net­work every 10 sec­onds. Com­pound­ing the avail­abil­i­ty prob­lem is that even some charge­able hybrid own­ers take advan­tage of free pow­er, mak­ing it even tougher for the bat­tery-pow­ered cars. Get­ting some­thing for noth­ing is prob­a­bly a uni­ver­sal human trait.

Now how­ev­er, a solu­tion might be in sight: Noth­ing new, just the price sys­tem. In the past year, Charge­Point says the num­ber of free ports on its net­work shrank from 80 per­cent to rough­ly two thirds. And a fur­ther decline is like­ly. Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO told the Reg­is­ter, “If you talk to me in six months, it’s prob­a­bly going to be 40 (per­cent).” The num­ber of charg­ing sta­tions could grow faster if their own­ers were able to off­set some of the costs, break even, or even make a prof­it.

And Tes­la is com­ing to the res­cue of its afflu­ent own­ers. It’s build­ing a net­work of pro­pri­etary charg­ing sta­tions that will only serve Tes­la vehi­cles. A bonus is that wait times for a full charge are dras­ti­cal­ly reduced — to about a 150 mile range in 30 min­utes, some­thing that could take as much as 10 hours at a low-pow­er sta­tion. The hoi-pol­loi dri­ving cheap­er elec­tric cars will have to seek oth­er solu­tions. And Tes­la own­ers will be back in the HOV lane, so to speak.

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