I recently returned from the EVS26 Conference sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association. My goal was to see how Oregon compares to other regions and introduce myself to a plethora of charging station providers as a resource to help them in their business development and sales in the Pacific Northwest. The quick profile might read like this- 47 Countries, 200 Exhibitors, Plenary Session speakers like Bob Lutz and Brian Wynne, ride and drive opportunities for twenty PHEV/BEV vehicles and thousands of delegates from every continent. Its easy to get jazzed from that degree of energy and stay jazzed for months.
My lessons learned:
For the first time the auto manufacturers share the same customer with the electric utility and charging station provider; the customer experience crosses all these business boundaries and one bad experience with one translates into a bad experience with all of them- in legal terms we call this joint and several liability.
Auto manufacturers are playing defensively with the EVSE/EVSP folks and each other by delaying and re-doing the charging connector standard for the DCQC. While CHAdeMO is the current installed connector, the resistance to it by all the other major auto manufacturers except Nissan And Mitsubishi seems designed to slow the roll-out and stay ahead of the infrastructure in order to control it. It also signals market share in-fighting as GM tries to prevent Nissan from a commanding early market lead. I am not pleased with the double connector aka combo plug because it is cumbersome, unwieldy, and women will not be able to handle it easily. I also see the outcome of this defensive play as not promoting the value of standardization but rather the value of one product over the industry. Can we afford to derail progress in infrastructure? The real question is -What’s wrong with the CHAdeMO standard? Has GM really answered that?
Oregon is well positioned relative to the other states- it will have 80 DCQC along its I-5 travel corridor by the end of the summer and be in a position to jumpstart other EVSPs besides ECOtality when the ARRA funding runs out. It will create sufficient backbone to allow gap-filling by L2 Public chargers along its more heavily traveled spur roads. Its regulatory streamlining continues to offer quick, cheap infrastructure permitting. PSU’s Electric Avenue project shows how clustering creates buzz and an opportunity to learn about everything from signage to EVSE/Car communication issues. Oregon is in a leadership position relative to other states and can begin sharing lessons. Governor Kitzhaber is due to release his Future Energy Plan on June 1st, which is anticipated to further buttress state political support for transportation electrification.
EVSP have not yet demonstrated what the successful business plan will be for charging. Many of them have overly aggressive hourly or monthly subscription rates relative to the amount of kWh to be purchased. People will pay for fast charging and convenience, but the EV Project data shows many are relying on level one charging much more commonly then was originally forecast. In fact, according to Britta Gross of GM, the Chevy Volt owners are charging their vehicles more than Leaf owners, perhaps reflecting their desire to avoid initiating the gas generator on board. Will vehicles onboard technology continue to increase charging speed such that L2 become almost as fast as DCQC? Do consumers want to just keep billing simple and pay as they go? Do they want networks and subscription based plans? When the public funding ends for infrastructure, who will be left standing?
Nissan sold 27,000 Leafs worldwide last year, and projects another 40,000 this year. Thereafter, it will reach capacity of 150,000 units per year when its plant in Tennessee opens in a few months, all of which should eliminate the supply issue for dealers and really test consumer interest and dealer marketing. At the same time there will be 45 PHEV/BEV models released over the next two years, including the all electric Ford Focus, Audi e-tron and BMW. With the range of choices, consumers can feel confident that this technology is road worthy and here to stay.
Battery costs/efficiencies will improve by 7-8% per year. Battery technology remains the biggest hurdle to cost-effective pricing, although the new MSRP sticker will show fuel savings equivalents for the first five years of use. This means you will see that the Leaf can save you thousands of dollars in gas over the short-term and help you to see how the upfront costs pencil.
European countries are pulling away. Norway has 1000 leafs in circulation and they comprise 2% of all new vehicle sales. Lisbon, Portugal has over 500 public charging stations. Amsterdam’s new Car2Go fleet has over 300 BEVs and wants to see its EV reputation eclipse its reputation for hash bars and prostitution(!)
And lastly, I want to attend the next EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain in November 2013!