EV Charging Station Companies Worried VW Settlement Could Marginalize Them

AUG 10 2016 BY MARK KANE 58

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Companies currently engaged in the electric car charging infrastructure business are now worried about fallout to their businesses due to the huge Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement, which includes $2 billion investment to promote EVs nationally ($800 million in California).

Clearly the EV industry that was the big winner in the Dieselgate settlement, but the huge amount of dollars now heading to the charging infrastructure in the US could significantly disturb the charging station market of today.

Industry players are now a bit worried to say the least on how VW might be allowed to allocate this cash – as $2 billion in sudden funding towards the betterment of EVs is a market disruptor… and of course, they all want a piece of VW’s action.  As a result, 28 companies and associations with interests in the segment have now banded together to ask the government to set up an system to dole out the money to everyone.

“While charging station companies called the money a potential “game changer,” they worry that if it is misspent, it could hurt competition.

“The agreement shouldn’t pick winners and losers, especially given that this emerging market transition will in no small part define 21st century transportation,” twenty eight companies, including ChargePoint, EV Connect and Electric Vehicle Charging Association, said in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department on Friday.

The letter, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, said an independent administrator is key to ensuring that the program treats all industry participants, regardless of business model and technology, fairly.”

The letter also adds:

“The program should be structured to benefit drivers in California and across the nation, not enable the settling defendants to enter or influence the markets for (zero emission vehicle) charging and fueling equipment and services.”

So, is maintaining the status quo in the charging business the best idea?

Should part of the $2 billion be used in such a way where the main priority is the charging providers, “regardless of business model and technology”?   Or rather is this a chance for a “independent administrator” to be set up to do what is best for the EV charging infrastructure itself?

VW has not commented on the statement by the charging companies.

source: Reuters

Categories: Charging, Volkswagen

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58 Comments on "EV Charging Station Companies Worried VW Settlement Could Marginalize Them"

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What would really be smart is ChargePoint or another one of these companies to contact VW to form a partnership with them. VW funds a massive network for them and in return VW plugin owners will get a charge for free card.

Everyone wins with this and VW won’t be bothered maintaining the points for years to come when they break down.

FYI VW does have a stake or share in ChargePoint already.
Also FYI many ChargePoint stations are often the responsibility of the host or installing party to maintain. It depends on the agreement.

No, not everyone wins, ChargePoint wins! And that’s exactly what this group is saying they don’t want to happen. Even if individual charge station suppliers might love to be the lucky winner, they can agree collectively that it’s better left open to competition, rather than risk having the whole pie go to one of their competitors.

Unfortunately the group in question the EVCA is literally run by chargepoint… They don’t want the competition because they realize their tech is woefully outdated

Please, not ChargePoint. Their software licensing model is costly and outdated, translating to outrageous pricing per kWh in many cases.

Several chargers of ChargePoint are more expensive per KW/h that filling up the car with Gasoline, here in DC, sometimes the KW/h could reach 30-45 cents. Welcome the competition, electricity shouldn’t be more expensive that gasoline

I just hope some of this infrastructure money goes to parts of the country where there is little to none. I guess do to economics and the fact these companies need to stay in business, they focus all of their stations along the West coast. But we need a nation wide infrastructure.

I agree and I travel mostly in western Oregon and Washington where charging is largely available. To get to eastern Oregon/Washington using I-84 along the Columbia river there is a huge charging desert unless you have a Tesla. It is corridors like these which need some stations and also some expansion at existing locations.

David Murray said:

“I just hope some of this infrastructure money goes to parts of the country where there is little to none.”

Speaking as someone who lives in what those who live on the coasts disparage as a “flyover State”, I’d love to see all of the money go to places where there’s no charging infrastructure.

But realistically, for-profit EV chargers should only be built where there is sufficient demand to support them. What’s the point of building EV chargers out in the boonies where they will hardly ever be used? If they’re built there, the owner won’t bother to maintain them, because they’ll be money-losers.

Spending the money to build EV charge points in areas with little PEV traffic will just be wasting that money.

Depends on who you talked to. Look at how many SC location are pretty much in the middle of no where yet they are important to Tesla success.

It is NOT a $2 billion investment in charging infrastructure.

It is:
Invest $2.0 billion over 10 years in zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, access and awareness initiatives.

Much of that money will go to the awareness and education, workplace charging programs, etc. Some will wind up in the Fuel Cell camp.

Companies hoping to turn a profit by installing L2 equipment (or even 24 kW DCFC) and hoping people will pay to wait around to complete a charge are backing a losing horse.

In regards to the business case of L2 chargers:

The L2 charger will more likely be paid for by whoever wants to attract people by offering free charging.

Makes sense for businesses, employers, parking providers etc. I am not going to pay for using the L2 chargepoint charger at my local gym since I can charge at home cheaper.

But at some high profile locations with long stays and already high cost for entry like Disneyland, Universal studios etc people don’t mind paying an extra $10 for topping off their long range electric vehicle with an extra 100 miles while being busy for many hours. I certainly did not mind when I was paying chargepoint for that at universal studios and was very happy it was possible.

I would venture I pretty good guess that next gen 200+ mile EVs will use Level 2 about 1/4 of the public charging they do, the other 3/4 being fast charging. So having Level 2 destination chargers available is great, but a robust next gen 100-150 kW fast charge network is a must since it will most certainly be used more than Level 2, and is actually the ultimate safety network that’s reliably there to use when needed on the highway and when the Level 2 is in use, blocked by ICE cars, out of order, or… not even existent at the destination you are going.

And this is what a next gen network will most likely look like:

http://www.insideevs.com/op-ed-next-gen-fast-charge-networks/

I think that many of new installs will not be level 2; rather, they will be low-power CCS.

Well I doubt that. Look at what kind of charging the only 200+ mile EVs (Tesla) are utilizing today. To me that shows what kind of infrastructure we will see in the coming years. What kind of practical usage will a 24 kW fast charger get from a next gen EV?
Now that’s not saying we won’t see some here and there as we see being used already today, but what kind of EVs are using them? Just a thought 🙂

I see L2 stations in a very different light. I think these are often very misunderstood. Keeping in mind that they cost an order of magnitude less than a DC fast charge station, they are perfect for locations where people already intend to spend an hour or more.

I agree they aren’t that great if they are the only option in the middle of nowhere for travelers. However, even a reliable L2 station is preferable to NO station which is the norm right now.

I would add that a reliable DCFC station location is better anywhere else other than destinations. In other words, the chargers needed for traveling between destinations are not Level 2, but DCFC. To a plug in hybrid driver fast chargers are obviously of no concern, but for any longer distance EV its their fuel source when traveling.

Past maybe $3-4, or ~$.25/kwh, a whole day at a level 2 charger becomes not worth it, for the car owner. That’s the revenue ceiling. The Level 2 cost ceiling, from the perspective of parking lot owner/operators is maybe $10/day, for the growing number of cars that can arrive and soak at 6.6kw all day. This is where L2 is more of a “feature” at private $20-50/day parking lots, than it is a business model on its own. In Boston, it is showing up in >$500/month garages, and shrinking in public spaces.

Grocery stores and Malls aren’t functional places to call Level 2 infrastructure a success.

Yup. Probably the best places to have Level 2 are: overnight accommodation, parking garages, event destinations, and at or near an eating place.

I like the L2 chargers at the theaters. 2 – 2.5 hours gives me quite a few EV miles.

I agree, Gary. And things like slow DCFC and hydrogen are perfect ways to spoil the nut.

Supercharging is the potentially profitable oasis (@>=100kw). So, since this may be the only viable profit model after the 2bb is spent, an Administrator should exist to prevent the squander on an extension of Audi’s H2 program, etc., etc.

Loan guarantees have to be paid back. 2bb can help fund the types of credit and grant programs that get past the capitalization hurdle. Its not the watt costs killing the horse. Its the hardware, the space and the install costs. In other words, the “one-time” costs that the 2bb could help most with. Past that, my guess is Level 3 charging could thrive.

Yes, agreed Gary:

What was rehashed in a former article is that probably only a small percentage of these $$$ will be used for Electrified Cars.

I’m curious as to whether anyone is going to be ‘Officially Upset’ at VW group for making their AUDI large V6 Diesel used in several of their brands’ models that shut down ALL EMISSIONS controls after 22 minutes, since they’ve systematically determined that emissions tests only last 20 minutes.

Repeating myself, its no wonder so many children got sick in London and Paris with these ‘officially sanctioned “Clean Diesels” ‘ driving around.

You would at first blush think many more lawsuits and penalties are in VW’s immediate future, of course, unless they are “Too Big To Jail”.

Remember that the White House has also unlocked $4.5 billion in funds to be used for loan guarantees for expansion of the EV charging infrastructure.

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1105141_u-s-to-offer-4-5-billion-for-electric-car-charging-stations-via-doe-loan-guarantees

But, those loans have to be paid back, which is pretty tough to do in an industry that’s struggling to find steady profit streams. If they charge too much for electricity, nobody will use them and they will never make a profit. If they charge too little, they struggle to make a profit.

BINGO, the income will not be enough to cover property taxes.

Actually, if I’m not mistaken the charging location sites are usually not owned by the charge provider.

Blatant rent-seeking.

VW is going to unpimp your charging stations.

Vee Dub in da house.

There goes the neighborhood.

Here’s my suggestion: Set up an independent 3rd party that builds EV charging stations for this money in different places, preferably where they are lacking the most and/or make corridors through the USA. Then let established EV charging companies place bids on these stations to buy them. Stations placed in low value locations would probably be underbid effectively creating a market driven subsidy. High value locations on the other hand will sell at cost or more, making high value locations less subsidized or even a profit. Money gained from this system should of course be used to build even more charging stations until the money runs out.

How about Federal agency that manages interstate highways is charged with installing and maintaining DCFC on busy interstate highways. Users are charged a fee that pays for electricity and maintenance.

With no profit motive, there’s no motive to maintain the chargers. There is already a growing problem with free public EV chargers being out of order in many places, for this very reason.

I saw a news item a few years back about an isolated tiny town whose only gas station had closed. The community took up a collection and installed an automated, not-for-profit gas station so they wouldn’t have to drive to another town to fill up. Unfortunately, my Google-fu failed and I can’t find any online story about that.

If there are to be EV charge stations that aren’t profit-driven, then that should be the model used. That is, a local group supporting the installation and maintenance of the EV chargers… and not a federal or State bureaucracy, which has no vested interest in making sure the chargers are maintained.

I really don’t see much of significance happening that way. Rather thru government grants private network operators will install and maintain a good portion of the charging infrastructure. The trend is there now, (like the $9 million grant this Spring for the CA corridors) and I see it continuing in the future.

No I prefer them being run privately. Governments shouldn’t run businesses.

“The agreement shouldn’t pick winners and losers…”

People always whine about that when government subsidies are involved. “Ohhh! It must be fairly distributed.” Well no, life isn’t fair. That’s something you should have learned while growing up.

“…is this a chance for a ‘independent administrator’ to be set up to do what is best for the EV charging infrastructure itself?”

Exactly. It’s high time the passenger car PEV industry received a true, universal charging standard, rather than competing formats like we have now.

Looks to me like this money from VW would be the perfect opportunity for the government to establish such a forward-looking standard, since the various EV makers haven’t managed to agree on one.

Ideally, that should be in place soon enough that Tesla can use the standard for the Model ≡.

Universal Standard? File it under AGH
(ain’t gonna happen).

Why is CCS not that standard? Adopted by all major NA and EU automakers except Tesla, now adopted by Hyundai as well for Ioniq. Nissan and Tesla are the only significant holdouts, and nothing they have said recently suggests that they are closed to adopting CCS on future models.

The CCS plug is ridiculously complex and much, much larger than needed. Reminds me of this joke: “A camel is a horse designed by committee.”


But if they would redesign their plug, perhaps CCS should become the standard, moving forward. They do have plans for future, upgraded charging for higher current, I think?

CCS is by far the cheapest quick charging plug since it requires only 1 connector at the car, and you have to have a J1772 in this continent, or a Mennekes in Europe anyway.

Its no wonder why it is so popular and many manufacturers are supporting it.

Chademo may be currently the popular ‘winner’ but in view of its high cost, I wouldn’t bet on it staying that way. The cost is not only the connector on the charger – the cost is also the additional facilities on the car, as a for instance, those sub-compacts which have separate latched doors for both J1772 and Chademo.

If you have the choice of installing one Jack or two, what would you do? It is true that currently Tesla uses only one, but it is proprietary, and is not compatible with its former offering, the TSL-01.

Yes, up to 150kW and eventually 350kW, but with the same connector design. Why should they delay this further to make a connector that you find aesthetically pleasing? Chademo is complex (9 pins), having circuitry on the vehicle that can detect AC vs DC and rerout automatically (Tesla) is complex.

I still think Model 3 will get a CCS port and adaptor for the existing supercharge stations. It’ll just be too tempting for Tesla to resist getting on board with infrastructure deployments supported by government and essentially all other automakers.

Mustang_sallad said:

“Why should they delay this further to make a connector that you find aesthetically pleasing?”

Perhaps I’ll change my mind when I learn more about this point, but at the moment it seems to me the CCS plug is much larger and more awkward than it needs to be, which means the port on the car has to be much larger than it needs to be, which limits where it can be placed and perhaps increases the cost, apparently for no good reason.

Tesla’s plug is much smaller, yet carries more current. So why is the CCS plug so large? Is there any good reason for that, or is it — as I suggested earlier — the awkward result of a design by committee?

You may as well argue about the need to redesign VHS, and BetaMax was much better. We should really make new VHS version, just like BetaMax!!! :/ How about looking at calendar? It is 2016 now, not 2005. The plugs are already designed and finalized many years ago. Bigger has advantage of being able to support higher amperage and voltage reliably and in backwards compatible way. E.g. planned 350 kW. Current 50 kW or 150 kW is not full potential of CCS or Chademo plug geometry.

Agreed. Tesla is already at the limit of what they can push through their compact connector, and is having to play with experimental things like liquid cooled cables. That, and their connector relies on detecting AC vs DC and redirecting as needed, adding complexity and hence cost to the car.

zzzzzzzzzz said:

“Bigger has advantage of being able to support higher amperage and voltage reliably…”

Wrong. Look at that picture of the CCS plug again. How much of the surface area of the plug is actually the contacts? Very little.

It’s a bad design.

Increasing the surface area of the pins, or using blade connectors instead of pins, would be another reason to redesign the plug. I think it’s inevitable that eventually it will have to be modified to carry higher current, as EV charge times keep dropping and higher charging current is needed.

You are really great armchair engineer 😉 I’m not going to educate you, I have no hope.

“Larger and more awkward than it needs to be” Ok, please design us a connector which is merely an addition to the existing j1772, to minimize cost at the car, since in general there will be far more cars built than chargers. The CCS only has 2 additional pins per vehicle – last time I checked you kinda need 2 wires to charge a battery directly. The connector has an easy to negotiate shape that can be easily oriented to the male plug on the car, as easy as the j1772 used at home. Also, it has a simple latching mechanism that will resist freezing in very cold weather. Unlike the times I had to use a hair dryer (and of course run an extenstion cord in addition to the cord for my 220 volt tesla charger) to unfreeze the charging cord from my roadster since the complicated TSL-01 would easily freeze at relatively moderate temperatures and it was several minutes worth of bother just to disconnect the cord. People also in the past have also had issues with the door or button on Tesla’s modern S and X connectors. People in general don’t care about what the charging cord… Read more »
Bill Howland said: “Ok, please design us a connector which is merely an addition to the existing j1772, to minimize cost at the car, since in general there will be far more cars built than chargers.” A requirement that hardware has to be backwardly compatible is often a poor engineering decision. You mentioned VHS vs. BetaMAX; how well would it have worked if DVD players were required to be able to play VHS tapes? Future charging needs will require higher current, if we’re ever to reach the goal of charging PEVs for 300+ miles of travel in only 5-10 minutes of charging time. The current design needs to be thrown away, and a totally new design suitable for higher current needs to become the standard. I’m not an engineer, but it seems to me that flat blade connectors, providing much more surface area than a round pin, would be the proper thing to use for a plug, rather than the round pins in current use; a round shape minimizes the surface area, which is the opposite of what’s needed. Look at, for example, the high current connector on the Tesla Model S’s battery pack. That obviously uses two blades which… Read more »

It’d be nice to see Audi and Porsche deliver on their seemingly endless line of concept cars, then roll out a national fast charger network with the 2 billion dollars. It’d be nice if it can be used for a modest fee by anyone but I think I’m dreaming.

Apart from utility based charging, I’m not sure there is a viable business model for charging by 3rd parties. It’s just so cheap to charge at home. For a third party there isn’t much margin so the $/kWh price has to be high. This low price means that other than occasional charging when you get caught short or charging along interstates for the intrepid few who think BEVs can handle long distance travel, it’s hard to see the demand.

Ultimately I can see the utilities providing charging infrastructure for condos and apartments. For them it’s just demand at retail rates. Other than that it’s going to be a very hard row to hoe.

Which is a long way of saying I don’t think the VW settlement is going to have a huge impact on the profitability of businesses trying to offer charging. Even gas stations don’t make a ton of money on gas.

DonC said:

“Ultimately I can see the utilities providing charging infrastructure for condos and apartments. For them it’s just demand at retail rates. Other than that it’s going to be a very hard row to hoe.”

This has occurred to me, too: That utilities might have sufficient incentive to install EV chargers, because it would increase the amount of electricity they can sell. Potentially, it would increase that quite a bit.

However, I haven’t tried to do any cost analysis of that, so I don’t know if there is really an attractive business model there.

One thing I think would greatly speed deployment is if everyone would adopt the EV-Line approach to charging: The EV would carry a portable “smart” EVSE which would control the charging outlet, which would be equipped with a simple wirelessly controlled off/on switch. No need for an expensive EVSE at every charge point with this system, and the smart EVSE would be wirelessly connected to a service for monthly billing.

Seems to me that would sharply reduce the price per charge point, which should make it much easier for entrepreneurs to make a profit installing and maintaining them.

What is clear is, after being stung by trying to get away with something, they won’t be buying large quantities of garage-assembled EVSEs, Like those from (example) EMW.

I think all this is much ado about nothing.

This comes from a company that could make easily twice the Supercharger network in a year if they wanted to (for their eGolf), without posting a loss. They have the resources and the engineering to do this yet they did not.
This comes from a company that prefered to LIE year after year and cheat instead of doing whatever they are doing now, to fix those cars.

so because of the text , I think they will install 10-100 or so L2 CCS chargers, they are going to show you those in all the commercials, alongside polarbears and some wind turbines and bragg endlessly about their green credo, while pushing Passat hybrids with 8 mile of EV range, and eventually 100k+ Porsche E.

And now the interesting part: 2B for Ev charging AND EDUCATION bla-bla bla.
I think there’s the proverbial catch. They will give most of the money , other than the said 10-100 L2 chargers , to companies “promoting” charging, NGO groups, gulf-buddy owned non-profits etc.

They will be required to submit proposed spending plan every 30 months and there will be approval and supervision. It is not going to fly so easily for them. Not all money will go to DC chargers of course, but it much of it. Current Tesla network book value is 0.18 billion only, so you can do much more for full billion.

2B / ~35k per L3 station (they could get it for less) is about 60 THOUSANDS stations.
They could do it and with this easily make charging a non-problem in NA. They WON’t.

Because it is not in their interest , they will pass-along the money to “education” oriented companies who just happen to be owned by friends of friends.

In Ontario, Canada, the province has designated just $20,000,000 (20 Million $), and that is targeting about 200 L3 Chargimg Stations, so if all 10 Provinces did the same, that would be $200 Million, and if the states is 10X more Population (and roads) than Canada, this $2 Billion would be just about the perfect budget, if it was used by next Summer to fully expand L3 Charging stations in the USA, including Alaska and Hawaii, plus Puerto Rico, etc!

Such a boost could be done with all Multi Standard CCC/CHAdeMO L3’s, with maybe 80% of them the current 50 kW units, and just 20% of them in 100-150 kW Charging capacity! If 50 kW units can be upgraded later to 100 kW, if the local power supply could manage it, that would be fine – as it would provide a good basic blanket coverage at up to 50 kW, plus some key High Traveled Routes with 100-150 kW, for the few EV’s that can benefit now!

Instead of trying to build EV Charging itself as a profit center, I believe it should be tied to food services, accomodations, and other current profit centres, as a perk or benefit!

The only company I know of, that seems to be building charging station business correctly is, FastNed solar-roofed rapid charge stations in the Netherlands.
http://insideevs.com/fastned-charging-network-featured-on-fully-charged-video/
The reason I feel they’re doing it right is because they install a solar roof in addition to charging stations. A grid tied charging station like that, in most parts of the U.S., can collect revenue on sunny days even when no one is charging.

If VW does roll out charging stations they would be smart to have them under solar roof/canopy.

NPNS! SBF!
Volt#671

Collect revenue when no one is charging, sort of.

It will be revenue if you ignore the initial investment of the solar panels and inverter (400VAC + output?).

This is the same “economics” that home solar users use: “my electric bill is $0!”. Yup, after a USD30,000 investment, in fact your monthly electric bill could be zero. That “math” doesn’t show the return on investment.

Big fan of rooftop solar, bigger fan of proper ROI calculations. Utility scale solar IS competitive in many part of the world, I don’t think the roof area of a parking space (~240 sq ft) (40 panels?) gives you enough surface to install an economical system.

A shortage of charging stations at workplaces and multi-unit apartment dwellings is seen as a key hurdle to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.