By September 15, 2017 Read More →

Companies compete to build European EV charging stations

EV charging stations

Morgan Stanley says that between 1 million to 3 million public EV charging stations will be required in Europe. elmtronics.co.uk photo.

Fewer than 100,000 EV charging stations in Europe

Power utilities, big oil companies and tech start-ups are squaring off in a battle to establish themselves as kingpins in the growing and ever-changing business of EV charging stations.

“It is a bit of a landgrab now to win this sector,” Tim Payne, chief executive of British charging start-up InstaVolt told Reuters. Payne’s company has raised 12 million pounds and plans to install 3,000 charge points across Britain by 2020.

Automakers, including Tesla, Porsche and BMW have increased the distance their cars can travel on a single charge.  As EVs become more common and they have longer range, car companies are concerned about the lack of charging infrastructure in Europe and the UK.

Ralf Speth, Chief Executive Officer at Land Rover Jaguar recently asked “Where is the network of charging points that will be required? Indeed where is the power and the grid?”

ChargePoint and Engie say they are planning to build pan-European networks where high-voltage fast-charging stations will allow EV owners to recharge their car batteries in under a half an hour.

Payne’s InstaVolt has come to an agreement with some filling station operators in England to rent land for their charging stations.  The filling stations see benefit as more customers visit their shops at the sites and they earn a margin by selling power through the chargers.

According to Reuters, InstaVolt and ChargePoint struck a deal in May to install about 200 of the US company’s ultra-fast chargers at locations nearby busy roads across Britain.

Global financial services firm Morgan Stanley estimates that by 2030, between 1-3 million public EV charging stations will be required in Europe.

The company says while utilities are naturally suited to the industry, “The winning business model is up for grabs,” it said.

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The International Energy Agency says there are currently under 100,000 public charging stations available and only about six per cent of those are fast-charging.

In March, French utility company Engie bought Netherlands’ EV-Box, one of Europe’s largest maker of charging stations which has been profitable since it began operations.

“We expect hundreds of millions of annual revenue from EV-Box in a few years,” Thierry Lepercq, head of innovation at Engie, told Reuters. According to Leqercq, revenue from Engie’s EV charging stations is expected to mushroom by a factor of 20 in three to five years.

In 2016, EV-Box had sales of 16 million euros.

Some oil majors have announced pilot projects for EV charging stations, but are not seen as serious contenders in the battle of the charging stations as the business itself would curb demand for oil, their chief product.

 “People like Shell and Total talk a lot, but nothing happens. We are putting the grid connection in place,” Michiel Langezaal, founder and chief executive of Fastned told Reuters.  His company has 63 EV charging stations in the Netherlands.

Automakers see charging stations as a loss-leader used to convince customers that EVs can be used as both daily drivers and long-range vehicles.

US automaker Tesla operates a proprietary charging network across Europe and is mainly located at hotels.  Critics say the network is not large enough to handle demand.  In the Ile de France region around Paris, there are only a handful of “superchargers”.

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