Navigant Research Blog

Variety is Critical to Growing EV Charging Market

John Gartner — November 14, 2013

To increase sales of EV chargers, should the equipment be speedier? Slower? Smarter? Simpler? Smaller?

These are the questions that electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) companies are addressing as they design the second generation of chargers.  With plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) selling by the thousands each month in the U.S., EVSE companies are exploring new options to spark demand for residential and commercial charging equipment, and to differentiate their equipment from their competitors’.

Navigant Research’s recent report, Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment, which forecasts that more than 400,000 charging stations will be installed by 2015, highlights two areas where manufacturers are embracing variety: how quickly they can charge a vehicle and the level of built-in intelligence.

Not Too Slow, Not Too Fast

The first wave of DC fast chargers emphasized the fast aspect, with most companies offering 50-kilowatt (kW) chargers that could provide a battery electric vehicle (BEV) with an 80% charge in 15 minutes.  However, high speed charging can have serious financial implications for the building owner, if it occurs during times of peak power.  To avoid these demand charges, which can cost a company hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single ill-timed EV charge, several EVSE manufacturers are offering “fast-enough” chargers.  These DC chargers can provide power at up to 20 to 25 kW, and are significantly less expensive to purchase and install, which will make them attractive to a larger audience.

Even at these slower rates, most people will be able to get back on the road in 20 minutes or less, since EV drivers generally don’t wait to be running on empty to recharge.  For example, according to the latest data from the DOE-funded EV Project, the average 20-minute DC charging session in the state of Oregon provided a smidge less than 8 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, which is about one-third of a Nissan Leaf’s battery capacity.

Simpler is Better

ABB will be among the vendors at the EVS27 conference in Barcelona next week, which I’m attending, showing off a 20-25kw DC charger, with their new Terra 23 unit that can charge vehicles that use either the CHAdeMO or SAE’s combined charging system (CCS) standards.

Tesla Motors, on the other hand, has gone with uber-fast charging with its Supercharger network, which offers 120-kW charging.  Tesla is using its 32-station U.S.  charging network as a marketing tool that’s free to Model S owners – but not available to other EV owners.

For consumers who are looking to buy an EV charger for their home, the options are getting simpler, smarter, and less expensive.  The price of simple Level 2 home chargers, which eschew advanced networking communications features that add significant cost, has dropped from more than $1,000 to $500 or less.  Bosch and Clipper Creek are among the companies currently offering sub-$500 Level 2 EVSE chargers.

EVSE provider Etrel is pushing for greater sophistication with its charging equipment.  The company will premiere a new home charger at EVS27, a web-enabled system that can be programmed online or via a mobile phone to charge when electricity is favorably priced.  Also during EVS27, the CHAdeMO association will hold a meeting to discuss the latest advances in intelligent fast charging applications.

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