Who’s Likely to Acquire ECOtality Assets? Could it be Nissan?

4 years ago by Mark Kane 9

ECOtality fast charger with CHAdeMO plugs

ECOtality fast charger with CHAdeMO plugs

Nissan LEAF using ECOtality Blink DC fast charger

Nissan LEAF using ECOtality Blink DC fast charger

After ECOtality filed for bankruptcy, this question immediately came to mind – who will take over the company or acquire its assets?

First of all, there are some problems with the ECOtality infrastructure, like troubles with AC points to charge at a rate over 3.3 kW.  That, coupled with ECOtality’s shaky business business model, leads us to believe that the price put on ECOtality won’t be all that high.  Second, how will one make ECOtality profitable?

Recently, Nissan agreed to provide a “delayed draw loan” to ECOtality for up to $1.25 million dollars to keep the company operational until auction happens. Maybe this is a sign that Nissan is interested in buying the infrastructure (at least the DC chargers) and make it available to all Nissan LEAF owners just like Tesla did with its Superchargers?

Of course, this scenario won’t play out easy and there are many differences between Nissan’s charging network and that of Tesla, but who knows, maybe it’s Nissan’s goal to get those CHAdeMO chargers from ECOtality? For sure, no other automaker will be as interested in the DC CHAdeMO chargers as Nissan.

The second thought is ABB, that in 2011 invested $10 million in ECOtality to become a manufacturing partner and supplier of parts. Then, in 2012 invested another $5 millions for ECOtality’s Blink Network operating platform licence. For ABB, it should be easy to incorporate ECOtality DC chargers into own network. In Europe, ABB already has a nationwide network of fast chargers in a few countries, so maybe they will try to set up a network in the US too? The problem here is that ABB isn’t typically an operator of the infrastructure.  ABB is a manufacturer, so ABB would need to find an infrastructure owner/operator for this to work.

A third option could be Car Charging Group that previously acquired several smaller companies, but never a big (in terms of charging points) one like ECOtality.  Care Charging Group worked in cooperation with Nissan to get DC chargers installed, which seems to indicate they may be interested in ECOtality’s quick chargers. The problem is that Car Charging Group doesn’t earn money on its services, even after installing around 1,000 points.

Or maybe there’s someone else out there who would be interested in ECOtality assets?

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9 responses to "Who’s Likely to Acquire ECOtality Assets? Could it be Nissan?"

  1. David Murray says:

    I just hope whoever takes over replaces all of the blink stations with something more reliable. The Blink stations are a horrible design. Besides the fact that the break all of the time, the way the cord wraps around and is supposed to dock in the center NEVER works right unless you want to spend 20 minutes screwing around with the spool of cable to get everything to fit right. Most people just leave the end laying around somewhere. In the event you DO get it to dock correctly, you can clearly see the wear that is endured by the outer rubber sheath of the cable. That’s an electrical shock hazard waiting to happen. Ohhh.. and their J1772 adapters are TOO LONG and hang too far out of the car, which is a trip hazard, increases the likelyhood someone or something will ram into the J1772 adapter possibly breaking it or the car’s charge port, and last but not least they are just not elegant.

    1. io says:

      [citation needed]

      Whatever bad experience you might have had — or more likely, merely read about — is just not the general case.

      I use a Blink L2 every day, it’s what I have at home. Somehow I manage to dock the J1772 connector back in place in less than a second, it fits right in. Actually I find it easier than Chargepoint’s, which you have to insert exactly at the right angle (not that it matters, both are pretty trivial).
      The only sign of wear after over 600 uses are small scratches on one side of the dock, the side I slam the connector back onto when I leave in a rush in the morning. Minor dings on the connector itself as it got dropped dozens of times (my young kids want to “help” me), and on one occurrence, driven over.
      The rubber stress relief at the base of the connector, the cable etc are all in great shape, and I’ve not seen something different on public Blinks either.

      I also use a Blink L3/DCQC maybe twice a month (well, until last week at least). Save for some issues when they just came up, over a year ago, they worked great for me — they’re FAST.

      Every once in a while, someone is already charging. I’ve come to appreciate the Blink dual-port design a lot: without it I’d have to wait for that other driver to come back and unplug their vehicle (unless a note explicitly allows it, I highly prefer not to touch someone else’s car), and not everyone does so diligently. Great feature.

  2. io says:

    “For sure, no other automaker will interested”

    Mark, you forgot what you wrote just a few weeks ago? How sad. Let me help:
    http://insideevs.com/toyota-nissan-honda-and-mitsubishi-agree-to-jointly-development-of-charging-infrastructure-in-japan/

    And those are just a few; full list here: http://www.chademo.com/wp/members/

    1. Steve T says:

      I don’t think Blink has any Chademo chargers for sale in Japan.

      1. io says:

        What I meant to illustrate was, those car-makers all realize the benefits of a common, manufacturer-agnostic, quick-charging network, and are working together towards this goal.

        This logic is not country-specific.

        Anyone who can count can verify that, unlike what Mark implied, more manufacturers support CHAdeMO than any other quick-charging protocol (link above), so yes, I’d say that a lot more companies than just Nissan are following this one closely, and hopefully will act in a concerted fashion.

    2. Mark Kane says:

      No. This is some error :(. I didn’t wanted to say that only Nissan could be interested.

      1. io says:

        Ok, that explains why the original sentence looked a bit funny; I see you’ve now fixed it:
        “For sure, no other automaker will be AS interested” as Nissan.

        Ah, that makes sense now. Yes indeed! Thanks

  3. scott moore says:

    mmmmmm free fast chargers for Leaf…..

  4. Dave R says:

    The real value of Ecotality isn’t in the DCQC chargers or the J1772 L2 charging stations, the real value is that the hard work of finding hosts and getting the stations installed has been completed.

    Ecotality’s Blink charging equipment is unreliable at best (at least out the public – at home I’ve only had a few minor issues which were resolved and has since been rock solid).

    The QC stations are notoriously unreliable, especially right after they are installed. It seems that it takes a couple months of futzing with them before they are made reliable. Never mind that they are a monstrosity and eyesore with their huge physical size, useless big screen TV, loud music (yes they have speakers!) – not to mention that you are only looking at half of the equipment – there’s a huge cabinet that goes with the station, too. Despite having two CHAdeMO plugs, only one plug can be used at a time which limits the usability – ideally the plugs would be more like Tesla Superchargers where both can be active at the same time and whoever plugs in second gets whatever power is remaining.

    Even the L2 stations are unreliable – I’d guess that somewhere between 15-30% of them are inoperable at any time – either just dead, or unresponsive touch screens. Not to mention the plug overheating issues that have cropped up as well.

    So since the existing public equipment is likely to have to be swapped out anyway eventually, I don’t see a ton of value there. But the locations and agreements are valuable.

    And frankly – I really hope that whoever takes them over doesn’t make them free. Free stations always get abused by people who take advantage of them and over-use them. Some sort of nominal fee is required to minimize this. Never mind that it isn’t sustainable in the long run.