The news that battery swap pioneer Better Place has gone bellyup garnered more media attention, but a recent announcement from Bosch is actually a bigger story for the EV infrastructure market. Bosch unveiled a new Level 2 home charger priced at just $449.
Bosch’s basic Level 2 charger costs a bit more than half that of the cheapest ones available at Home Depot or Lowe’s. The $450 Bosch PowerMax is a stripped down unit; at just 16 amps, it charges at 3.3 kW and comes equipped with a 12-foot cord, which means its likely customer is a homeowner who parks her EV in her garage. Still, the next step up is a 30 amp charger with an 18-foot cord, priced at $593. Currently, the cheapest Level 2 home chargers start at around $750 (the Leviton and Legrand chargers, for example).
Price War Ahead?
Bosch’s move could mark the start of a price war in the EV charger market. It seems likely that Bosch’s competitors in the basic home charger segment have taken note. At this price, the PowerMax will compete against Level 1 chargers, which typically cost under $700. Level 1 will still be attractive for customers who don’t have a 240V outlet available and don’t want to pay the installation costs. But a charging rate of up to 3.3 kW, versus under 2 kW, for a charger that costs the same or less will be very appealing.
It will also be interesting to see if this unit, at the higher 30 amp levels, attracts interest from fleet owners and other commercial customers. In the United States, to date, the Level 2 commercial charging market has been dominated by equipment like ChargePoint or Ecotality units that offer intelligent charging capability, network interfaces, and RFID card readers. Some commercial customers need these capabilities, but there is also a market for stripped-down chargers, especially for fleet operators or even for workplace charging. Navigant Research has been talking about the need for simplification in the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) market for awhile, and Bosch’s charger is a move in that direction.
Finally, this move could indicate another trend in the EVSE market: hardware companies that focus on manufacturing EVSE at the best price possible, while other vendors focus on software innovation or service models. This would be similar to the smartphone model, where Google offers the open source Android system, which can be incorporated into any (non-Apple) handheld device. Essentially, EVSE manufacturers would be widget makers, while the companies that specialize in understanding the needs of the various EV customer segments continually innovate in the types of services or software that are offered with the EV equipment. This model would allow the market to develop gradually toward systems such as vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-building capability, as the fleet of PEVs expands and makes such systems more attractive. For now, however, simplicity is better suited to the current state of the PEV market and can help the market grow by offering lower cost charging equipment.
Tags: Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, EV Charging, Smart Transportation Program
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