Briefing: EV Charging Infrastructure Moves Ahead, in US and Around the World

The Trump administration is doing what it can to prop up the internal combustion engine, including slashing Obama era fuel standards and revoking California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which for many years has allowed the state to set its own efficiency standards.

While these moves may be good for traditional car manufacturers, they’re decidedly bad news for the planet’s climate. Is it also bad for the growth of electric vehicles across the U.S.?

Experts say probably not. And it definitely won’t put the brakes on the global expansion of EVs, which grew to more than 3 million worldwide in 2017 and, by some projections, will total more than half a billion by 2040. We are seeing not just the expansion of EV production lines, but the building out of charging infrastructure, in residential and commercial areas around the world and, yes, even across the U.S. That all looks set to continue.

The U.S. currently has ~60,000 charging outlets available at workplaces and in other public locations, according to the Electric Vehicle Charging Association. However the majority of EV charging is currently done at home, and some have estimated there are ~475,000 total charging outlets in the U.S. including residential chargers. If the U.S. is going to meet its Paris Accord targets, the country needs to add more than 330,000 public charging outlets, and some 14 million new plug-in EVs, by 2025, according to the Center for American Progress. And the Edison Electric Institute predicts 4.4 – 5.5 million total charging ports will be needed by 2025. Hitting those numbers will require about $80 billion worth of investments in EV charging infrastructure by that same year, Navigant Research says.

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Some of that investment is already underway, including in the U.S., in spite of the administration’s assault on fuel efficiency standards. Here’s a look at some recent fundings and other developments regarding EV charging networks.

In August, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality tapped EVgo to build and operate a statewide public EV charging network, with a priority on DC fast chargers. The program is being funded in part with $94 million that the state received through the Volkswagen emissions testing settlement.

Also in August, Honda, eMotorWerks and Southern California Edison launched a new smartphone app that calculates the ideal time to charge a vehicle, taking into account the driver’s schedule and the availability of renewable energy. The app will use pricing signals, collected by eMotorWerks. to figure out when the most renewable energy is available at the lowest cost.

In July, Volta Charging, an advertising-supported EV charging network, raised $35 million in Series C funding from GE Ventures, Invenergy Future Fund, Activate Capital Partners and others. Volta has an existing network of 1,000 charging stations that are open for sponsorship, and hopes to reach 2,000 by year-end.

Trucking fleets are starting to embrace EV charging as well. Last month, for example, UPS started testing electric heavy-duty trucks from start-up Thor, while also ordering 950 Workhorse N-GEN electric delivery vans. A month earlier, ChargePoint acquired fleet energy solutions provider Kisensum.

State governments and utilities are also boosting their efforts around EV charging infrastructure:

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown has set a state-wide goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on California streets by 2030, as well as a target of 250,000 zero-emission vehicle chargers, including 10,000 DC fast chargers, by 2025.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission in May approved more than $760 million worth of EV charging projects by the state’s three investor-owned utilities. It’s said to be the single largest state-level investment in EV charging infrastructure to date.
  • New York’s state government and the New York Power Authority have pledged up to $250 millionthrough 2025 for EVolve NY, an initiative designed to expand EVs across the state. It calls for the installation of up to 200 DC fast chargers on interstate highways, ideally making such a charger available every 30 miles.
  • New Jersey’s largest utility, Public Service Enterprise Group, says it will spend $300 million to build up to 50,000 charging stations across the state, including at workplaces, along highways and in residential areas.
  • Electric utilities in Maryland are proposing to spend $104 million to build 24,000 EV chargers across the state.
  • Late last year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved utility Eversource’s proposed $45 million charging station program. Plans include almost 4,000 Level 2 stations and 72 DC fast-charging stations.

 

Across Europe:

European governments aiming to hit the European Union’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 are giving a significant push to the electric vehicle industry with a range of incentive programs. Countries that are working to encourage EVs include Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

Austria, France and Germany have set very ambitious targets for the number of EVs they want to see on roads by 2020, and those goals may be tough to achieve.

Meanwhile, the UK government announced in July a new EV program that seeks to have at least 50% of all new car sales in 2030 be be ultra-low emission; such cars total about 150,000 on British roadways now. The government has already committed to investing £1.5 billion ($2 billion) in ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.

The UK will also put about $530 million into the new Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund, which will provide financing to companies that produce and install charge points.

Germany’s Ionity, the new ‘ultra-fast’ EV charging network being developed jointly by BMW, Mercedes, Ford and Volkswagen, deployed its first charging station in April. The goal is to have 400 ultra-fast charging stations, averaging six charging ports each, by 2020.

Allego announced an even bigger EV charging network called MEGA-E, which will consist of 322 ultra-fast chargers and 27 smart charging hubs in at least 10 European cities. The EU is helping to finance the network.

Traditional oil and gas companies are also making investments in EVs, particularly in Europe.

BP predicts electric vehicle sales will surge by 8,800 percent between 2017 and 2040, making it an attractive business for oil companies as demand for gasoline and diesel vehicles is forecast to slow. To that end, BP said in July it will spend about $170 million to buy Chargemaster, the UK’s largest EV charging company, with plans to add the technology to its existing network of retail gas stations.

Last October, Shell acquired NewMotion, Europe’s largest EV charging provider. A month later, Shell reached an agreement with Ionity to offer charge points at 80 highway gas stations across Europe.

Don’t Forget About China:

China will continue to be the largest EV market in the world through 2040, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with strong growth: 777,000 “new energy” cars were sold in China in 2017, 53% more than the year before, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

That momentum will continue to attract major EV manufacturers, and it’s also helping the expansion of what is already the world’s largest EV charging infrastructure market. China has more than 440,000 charging points already, and plans to build a network of 12,000 charging stations to meet the power demands of an expected 5 million EVs by 2020, according to the China Electric Car Charging Technology and Industry Alliance.

Foreign automakers are hungrily eyeing the Chinese market, too:

  • BMW has committed to further expanding its charging networks in China. By the end of this year, the company plans to install more than 80,000 public charging poles in more than 100 Chinese cities.
  • Tesla is expanding in China too. At the end of last year, it had 1,021 “superchargers” in operation. The company has reached a deal to open a new gigafactory in Shanghai, which will produce both Tesla cars and lithium-ion batteries.
  • Volkswagen and Daimler have also announced plans to open Chinese EV production facilities this year.
  • In June, Faraday Future, an American start-up that is mainly backed by Chinese investors, raised $2 billion from Evergrande Health, a division of Hong Kong-listed Evergrande, to build EVs in China.

 

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