Navigant Research Blog

Examining EVs and Their Impact on the Retail Refueling Industry

— November 7, 2016

EV RefuelingI recently presented at NACS Show, the annual conference for the national association representing the convenience and fuel retailing industry. And by fueling, I of course mean liquid fuels. The more than 20,000 attendees of the conference included the operators of retail gas stations that help fuel the vehicle market, as well as the petroleum companies that supply them.

I spoke about the future of fuels in the United States, mostly related to electric vehicles (EVs). The primary message of my presentation was that EVs will be a significantly growing segment of the US passenger car market, but that petroleum will still be king in terms of total fuel consumed in the country through at least 2025.

While retailers operate because of our need to fill our tanks with gas or diesel, that is not what drives profit—that task falls to convenience store sales. Attendees emerged from the conference expo laden with samples from exhibitors showing the huge array of snacks, beverages, and other goods sold to drivers stopping for gas.

A New Model Needed

This model doesn’t work for most of EV charging. EVs fundamentally disrupt the fueling landscape since they shift the fueling dynamic away from centralized retail locations. Not only will most drivers just charge at home, but any away-from-home charging will only occur at places where the driver has already planned to go for an extended time. Basically, EV drivers refuel wherever they park for 2 or more hours. This means never—or in the case of plug-in hybrids, rarely—having to drive somewhere like a gas station to fuel. Once consumers are used to this new dynamic, it’s going to be a feature, not a bug, for potential EV buyers.

High-power fast charging networks are the one application where the retail fuel industry’s insights are highly relevant. Long-distance driving will require stopping for at least 10 minutes (or potentially 20-25) to recharge. Right now, fuel retailers are not focused on this as a market, as it’s much too small. But this is where their business model is most likely to be adopted, as fast charging stations will need to provide services to occupy drivers during their 10-25 minute wait. Food service seems the most likely option. And it doesn’t need to be the grab-and-go style of service found in most convenience stores—instead, it could be more akin to a coffee bar or café.

Although the fast charging network is still in its early genesis in the United States, it’s an inevitability. Automakers are committed to creating such a network, which can be created with as few as 722 sites, as Navigant Research found in its DC Charging Map for the United States report. While OEMs may well fund this network initially, that seems unlikely to be a permanent solution. These stations will need a viable long-term business model such as the one today’s fuel retailers have worked out. They could be valuable partners for this effort.

 

The EU Continues to Lead EV Charging Policy

— November 4, 2016

EV RefuelingThe European Union (EU) continues to be at the forefront of policies to spur plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging. Since 2014, EU countries have been under a directive requiring member states to develop a plan to install PEV chargers on a broad scale by December 31, 2020. Public and semi-private charger availability is extremely high in the Netherlands and Norway, with other countries like the United Kingdom, Finland, and Denmark having increasingly high levels of public charging networks. The EU is also leading on interoperability and roaming, which lets drivers easily access public chargers across many networks and multiple countries. This is a key feature if the growth in public charging is to lead to greater PEV sales—which is, after all, the EU’s real goal. This has led to Europe outpacing North America in charger sales in Navigant Research’s Electric Vehicle Charging Services near-term forecasts.

Now the EU looks to be pulling another lever for the charger market: a draft directive requiring new homes to be built with charging infrastructure. The draft directive reportedly says that any new or substantially renovated home will need to be equipped for EV charging beginning in 2019. It also indicates that starting in 2023, buildings must have one out of every ten parking spaces at a building equipped for EV charging.

This directive can help drive PEV sales for several reasons. First, home buyers will be made aware of EVs and EV charging by the presence of infrastructure in new homes. Secondly, having the infrastructure installed removes some of the friction that can hinder interest in PEVs among consumers, such as understanding how home charging occurs, whether it requires an electrical upgrade, and the potential cost of such an upgrade.

Details Yet to Be Determined

However, the devil is in the details, which are yet to come. A few key points:

  • This directive could well create a scrum among charger providers looking to gain some advantage through a mandate-driven market. The directive should avoid specifications that favor certain charging companies, which would effectively hand them the new home EV charger market.
  • It should also ensure that the requirements will allow for meeting the needs of an evolving PEV market. For example, longer range battery EVs will be increasingly prevalent and would benefit from higher power charger capability.
  • Coming innovations in charging should be considered. For example, how will wireless charging be accommodated? By the time this directive goes into effect, several OEMs will be offering wireless charging as an option with their PEVs. Will the directive attempt to encourage smart charging capability, or leave that to the end user? Smart charging will become increasingly important to manage growing EV loads, particularly in the 2023 timeframe when the parking space mandate would go into effect. Indeed, there could be opportunities for building owners to aggregate PEVs for grid services.

Combined with ongoing efforts in Europe to install more public infrastructure and fast charging networks, this directive should make Europe a surging market for EV charging, potentially outpacing North America beyond 2017.

 

How Will Wireless Connectivity, Vehicle Autonomy, and Electrification Converge with On-Demand Mobility?

— June 13, 2016

CarsharingIn the future, urban transportation is expected to be electric, autonomous, and on-demand. This is the vision that captures the major trends in mobility and is one that companies like Uber and Google already appear to be working toward. Navigant Research believes that on-demand shared transportation services—whether carsharing, ride-hailing, bikesharing, or even public transit—will converge with the major vehicle technology trends of electrification, wireless connectivity, and autonomous driving capability to create a low-carbon transportation system for cities over the next 25 years. Navigant Research has covered these trends in its recently published Transportation Outlook: 2025 to 2050 white paper and will discuss them further in a June 14 webinar, Changing Models for Urban Mobility.

Convergence Underway

This convergence is happening already. The first piece, wireless connectivity, is a key building block technology for a future where personal transportation transitions to mobility as a service. By 2025, Navigant Research forecasts that more than 1.2 billion vehicles globally are expected to be connected to their surroundings and/or to each other through either built-in or brought-in communications technology. At a baseline, these systems will provide real-time safety alerts and traffic notifications to drivers; the more mature and full-featured systems will support semi-autonomous driving systems. In this same timeframe, the number of vehicles equipped with some form of telematics will also grow rapidly. By 2025, most new vehicles in developed markets are likely to have telematics offering various types of services to the driver. Today, this type of connectivity is already central to electric vehicles (EVs), which have navigation systems that alert the driver to available charging stations and provide battery charge status updates.

The convergence is also already occurring between vehicle electrification and shared mobility. EVs are an increasingly popular option in carsharing schemes in cities. Indeed, city officials looking to control pollution in congested city centers are actively encouraging the use of EVs in carshare services. For example, officials in London pushed hard to bring to the city an electric carsharing scheme similar to the successful Autolib’ service in Paris; the new service opened in spring 2016. Carsharing services already see a greater percentage of EVs in their fleets than is found in the wider passenger car population. Navigant Research estimated that plug-in hybrids and battery EVs represented more than 15% of all vehicles in carshare services as of 2015. While these EVs are largely concentrated in a handful of services—such as the all-electric Autolib’, all-electric carshare companies in China, and in some of Daimler’s and BMW’s carshare services—EVs are expected to expand to many more carshare operations through 2025 and beyond. One reason for this is that carsharing will be a growing option for automakers to put certain types of cars into service—primarily fuel-efficient, electric-powered, and autonomous—and many OEMs are expected to operate these transportation services themselves as a way to offset reductions in revenue due to falling vehicle sales in urban areas.

Mobility as a Service

Carsharing is a key building block for the future of mobility as a service, and is now a well-established industry that feels familiar rather than new. But in fact, this business is at the early stages of major upheaval that will change the role it plays in urban mobility. First off, automakers are entering the market in earnest, and it is expected that almost all major automakers will be offering some type of shared vehicle service by 2025. A second disruptor is the rise of the one-way operational model. With drivers no longer required to return vehicles to the same parking spot where they picked it up, carsharing significantly expands its use case for city residents. Carsharing now can provide true on-demand mobility and be used for spur-of-the-moment travel needs and for shorter one-way trips than is typical for conventional round-trip carsharing. This new operational model makes carsharing more like the third major disruptor in the shared vehicle sector: the explosive popularity of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. While these two types of services can be seen as competing, they are better thought of as complementary, each offering a different type of experience for the customer. Carsharing acts as a replacement for owning a car, whereas ride-hailing is more directly a replacement for conventional taxi services. One-way carsharing and ride-hailing services may well compete for customers, but Navigant Research believes that the urban mobility model of the future will have both carsharing and ride-hailing.

Autonomous Opportunity

Both services probably will be early markets for autonomous driving technology, the final piece of this low-carbon mobility as a service model. It is likely that autonomous vehicles will initially be integrated into shared fleets in a controlled and regulated setting. Sites like central London, Paris, and Singapore are anticipated to be among the first. From 2025 on, a number of entities—including carsharing companies, taxi fleets, ride-hailing companies, and automakers—are expected to be operating autonomous fleets. In particular, automakers likely will embrace the autonomous fleet idea as an extension of their current involvement in carsharing schemes and will seek to incorporate them into their EV models. GM has announced it will begin offering autonomous Chevrolet Volts for its employees to drive at its Technical Center in Warren, Michigan in late 2016.

According to the United Nations, by 2050, as much as 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, and the individually owned vehicle will probably become a rarity in most large cities. The possibility that shared mobility may lead to less use of public transit has been an oft-cited concern among city officials and sustainable transportation advocates. A 2016 report by the Shared-Use Mobility Center found that services like carsharing and ride-hailing are actually complementary to public transit. The report, which focused on users in seven U.S. cities, noted that the people that use shared modes of transportation the most were the most likely to use public transit and to own fewer cars. Navigant Research also believes that, from 2025 onward, public transportation itself will become more of an on-demand service, which will use buses much more efficiently. Connectivity and data analysis will enable the efficient dispatch of vehicles to where passengers need them, keeping idle time to a minimum. These services can be fully integrated with the other types of on-demand options in the city, making multi-modal travel more robust and seamless.

 

Fuel Cell Vehicles Join the Carsharing World

— May 19, 2016

CarsharingGerman hydrogen company Linde is experimenting with a solution to the infrastructure problem for fuel cell cars. This summer, the company will launch an all-fuel cell vehicle (FCV) carsharing service in Munich. For this trial program, Linde is partnering with Hyundai to provide the fleet of FCVs. The service, called BeeZero, will have 50 fuel cell-powered ix35 crossover SUVs (known as the Tucson in North America), Hyundai’s current entry into the fuel cell market and one of only two FCVs commercially available today.

Linde is in good company in offering a carsharing service with zero tailpipe emissions, as a number of carshare programs around the world specialize in battery electric vehicle (BEV) fleets. In its 2015 Carsharing Programs report, Navigant Research estimated that around 20% of all carsharing vehicles in use globally were plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)—mostly pure BEVs. Most of these EVs are in a handful of programs where the EV is a part of the service’s brand identity. The most famous is probably Autolib’ in Paris, run by Bollore. The Kandi carshare service in China also uses a fleet of micro EVs. Both Daimler and BMW’s carsharing services have deployed the automakers’ EVs, but not exclusively. Daimler recently switched out all EVs for gas cars in its San Diego carsharing service; the reason given was a lack of charging stations. (It will be interesting to see if the cars are reinstated once utility San Diego Gas & Electric launches its EV charging pilot program.)

The Challenge of Charging

Charging is one of the challenges for battery-powered carsharing vehicles, and likely explains at least in part why few carsharing companies integrate BEVs into their larger fleet of gas cars. Even if chargers are available, there can be problems with ensuring they are properly plugged in and that the charge stays full.

FCVs operating in fixed areas have the advantage of requiring a relatively small number of strategically located refueling stations in a city while offering longer ranges than EVs. Navigant Research predicted the introduction of fuel cell carsharing services for this reason in our recent white paper on the future of transportation. This makes an easier pathway to market for FCVs than having to build a network of refueling stations to service private car ownership.

Longer Ranges

Linde is also promoting the advantages of the longer driving ranges offered by FCVs. The Hyundai ix35 has a range of over 350 miles on a tank of hydrogen. While this is indeed a key benefit of fuel cell cars, it will be useful to see how much of a benefit this is for a carshare user. Carsharing services have a few typical use cases: short inner-city trips (the kind being served by one-way carsharing operations); planned trips with slightly longer range needs; and long-distance trips, typically on weekends. The BeeZero service would presumably be used for the latter two cases, but long-distance travel might require use of a hydrogen fueling station at the destination.

Linde has said it will use BeeZero to gather information on “day-to-day fleet operations” of fuel cells and hydrogen that can be fed back into its hydrogen development efforts. BeeZero presumably also offers Hyundai not only with an avenue to deploy more of its fleet of fuel cell ix35s, which have seen limited uptake to date, but also a chance to take lessons learned into its FCV development efforts. In the long-term, it is possible to envision FCVs being deployed in carshare services sponsored by automakers and infrastructure providers in cities where only low carbon or even zero emission vehicles are permitted.

 

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