How quickly the battery-electric-vehicle market takes a firmer hold in the U.S. and around the world remains debatable, though many industry insiders now consider it a question of when, not if.
But even if the market grows at the most conservative pace forecast, there is likely to be a shortage of publicly available chargers to help keep those vehicles moving.
Electrify America, the infrastructure-building operation created by Volkswagen of America as part of its diesel-emissions-scandal settlement, will spend $2 billion on developing a public charging network in the U.S. over the next 10 years. But even that huge investment – by far the single-biggest outlay industrywide – is unlikely to cover more than 10% of the public-charging demand in the key market of California by 2027, even if BEV sales increase only modestly over that span.
Most automakers and charging-infrastructure developers agree there is a direct relationship between consumer affinity for BEVs and the availability – and visibility – of public charging. One won’t grow to its potential without similar expansion of the other.
A new report from Wards Intelligence, “Putting the Charge in Electric Vehicles,” concludes both sectors are working to live up to their end of the bargain. OEMs have committed billions of dollars to support a massive wave of new-generation BEVs, with longer-range, faster-charging batteries, as well as to back installation of ultra-fast public chargers. Those on the infrastructure side also are investing in more charge points, upgrading their hardware and future-proofing their plazas against further advancements in technology and market demand.
All this comes with enormous risk, the report points out. Moving too quickly on building charging infrastructure could result in a network of white elephant service plazas and a lot of red ink for the companies that built them. Moving too slowly is likely to seriously stunt demand for electric vehicles, putting massive OEM investment at risk.
“Putting the Charge in Electric Vehicles” takes a close look at the strategies automakers, suppliers and service providers will follow as they try to grow the public charging infrastructure, with a particular focus on emerging and next-generation BEVs designed to take advantage of it.
Although these still are early days when it comes to public charging development, the report notes several trends firmly under way:
- Led by the German automakers, the shift to higher-speed charging has begun and will proliferate worldwide as new-generation battery technology becomes available and investment in BEV development continues.
- Fast and ultra-fast charging infrastructure will be focused along highways and in major metropolitan markets – with most of the early investment centered in the relatively high-volume BEV states of California and the Northeastern U.S. In Europe, expect these networks to be most prevalent in northern markets where BEV sales are highest.
- OEMs making the biggest contribution to BEV development and charging infrastructure include the Germans, Volkswagen Group, BMW and Daimler, but other automakers are increasing activity in the sector as well.
- Backed by automakers, Electrify America and the IONITY joint venture involving four automakers will be huge forces in shaping the public charging infrastructure in the U.S. and Europe, respectively, over the next 10 years, as well as linchpins in the success or failure of BEVs in the marketplace.
- Although automakers and suppliers are developing a new wave of Li-ion battery packs with more sophisticated cooling and management systems, no one knows for sure how BEV batteries will withstand the rigors of repeated ultra-fast charging, opening the door to possible customer-satisfaction issues in the future.
- The charging infrastructure should get a boost from the commercial-transport industry, where fleet operators have a better opportunity to plan routes and position charging stations strategically, control the charging regimen and absorb the cost of battery wear and tear.
Included in “Putting the Charge in Electric Vehicles” are verbatim Q&As with key industry executives, results of an exclusive Wards Intelligence industry survey and a detailed global forecast for BEV production to 2025.
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