The days of the internal combustion engine in Europe appear to be numbered, as the governments of the UK, Germany, and Norway all plan to end petrol and diesel car sales in the coming decades. The newly empowered replacement market of plug-in EVs (PEVs) continues to rapidly grow, and a trifecta of industries (energy, fuels, and automakers) is jockeying for position in powering PEVs.
Fuel company Shell gobbled up EV charging company NewMotion earlier in 2017, and it announced a partnership with Daimler, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen in November 2017 to install the group’s Ionity EV chargers at Shell locations across Europe. In September 2017, NewMotion signed a deal to provide access to its network of EV chargers to the customers of France’s Total. Competing oil major BP has been in talks with automakers to offer EV charging at its fuel station in Europe, according to Reuters.
Tie-ups between fueling station operators and PEV makers and charging companies make sense since the number of cars in need of petrol will only shrink in future years, so both are looking to provide similar services to PEV drivers rather than concede market share. Ultra-fast charging, at 300 kW or greater, makes sense at these locations since many PEVs will be able to get an 80% (or greater) charge in 15 minutes or less, during which customers can buy snacks, grab fast food, or take a bio break. (I presented on this topic to at the recent NACS Fuels Summit Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina.)
Power to the PEVs
European utilities rightly see PEVs as the greatest opportunity to increase load, and the somewhat flexible nature of EV charging allows for managed charging to balance the natural peaks and valleys in electricity supply and demand. Germany’s RWE was in early on EV charging and sells charging infrastructure and other EV-related services through its spinoff company Innogy. Also based in Germany, E.ON is deploying a fast charging corridor from Norway down to Italy in partnership with e-mobility service provider CLEVER. Global sales of direct current (DC) fast chargers are expected to reach 70,000 units annually by 2026, according to Navigant Research’s newest report on DC fast charging.
French energy company ENGIE has also been active, acquiring charging infrastructure company EV-Box in March as well as investing in e-scooter company Gogoro in September 2017. E-bikes, e-scooters, and e-motorcycles need to replenish energy as well, and we’ll likely see more companies offer more than light duty vehicle charging services.
Italy’s Enel reached across the Atlantic to acquire eMotorwerks, an EV charging services company that is also working on vehicle-to-grid integration services. In the UK, a consortium including energy companies National Grid, British Gas, ScottishPower, and ESB is researching the potential for integrating PEVs into operations across the UK.
Down the Road
The EV charging market remains highly fragmented with many small players. Utilities and energy companies have recognized that the stakes (and revenue potential) are much higher with ultra-fast charging and the rapid expansion of PEV models for sale. Making a profit by marking up electrons has proved challenging for startup companies. Energy companies with distribution networks and utilities that understand high power delivery believe they are well-positioned to manage power delivery through EV charging assets. Combining EV charging with other home energy management services is a desired business model for automakers, generation, and distribution companies alike. They will, however, face competition from the US’ largest EV charging network—ChargePoint—which has been fundraising to expand its European operations and has received investment from Siemens, Daimler, BMW, and others.