Exclusive: Electrify America Chief Provides Update On EV Charging Build-Out

FEB 2 2019 BY BRADLEY BERMAN 82

The plan for a new, massive network of ultra-fast chargers faces challenges. But it’s on track, according to Electrify America.

I recently spoke with Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive, about where things stand with Electrify America’s efforts in California and across the country. The photo above is Palazzo presenting at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Based on multiple conversations with Palazzo and others at Electrify America, I believe the company is earnestly moving forward with its plans as quickly as possible. The company officially started building at the national level in May 2018. When I spoke with Palazzo a few weeks ago, he said, “We already have 63 stations in place on the national level.”

But the company has also encountered delays in California, opposition from competing charging networks, and hard-earned lessons about where to best install charging stations.

Despite the learning curve, Palazzo confirmed that by June 30, 2019, Electrify America expects to cumulatively have 300 stations on highways and at 184 metro stations, mostly 150 kilowatts, across the United States. “That means more than 2,000 dispensers by the end of our first cycle,” he said.

Only Two Percent Of The Job

Palazzo pointed to delays in California due to more rigorous oversight by the California Air Resources Board, as well as an onerous permitting and installation process. “The funnel to build a charging station is extremely long,” he said. “At the very beginning of a site acquisition, you go into permitting, which in California is an average of 55 days.” Palazzo said that finding the right locations that serve as highway connectors, and negotiating with site owners, can also be challenging and time-consuming.

Among its other learnings, the company discovered that it’s not cost-effective to install stations at multi-family dwellings. Instead, building 150-kW chargers at nearby metro stations,  grocery stores, hospitals or schools could serve hundreds of drivers – rather than a handful of drivers living at a condo.

A November 2018 staff report from the California Air Resources Board indicated that Electrify America’s investment through 2025 would only satisfy about 2 percent of the state’s EV charging needs in the state. Palazzo agreed with that assessment.

“The same holds true at the national level – despite the $2 billion investment from Electrify America,” he told me. “If you combine our contribution with EVgo, ChargePoint, SEMA Connected, EV Box, and you name it, then you arrive at about four to six percent of the need. So the question I have to the space is: Who will cover all the rest?”

The high-power, multi-dispenser stations being installed by Electrify America are expensive by industry standards. I noticed in the company’s documentation that these stations cost as much as $1 million each to launch. Rich Steinberg, the director or marketing and green cities for Electrify America, confirmed the high cost.

When I asked Steinberg (who previously worked on electrification at BMW) if the stations cost $1 million, he said, “Easily.”

Steinberg added that the locations have one DC fast charger and multiple other dispensers. “Could it be $2 million?” I asked. Steinberg replied, “I’m not the expert on that, but the targets are between a half and one million dollars.”

350 Or Bust

Electrify America, which is in regular dialogue with all the EV makers, has insight into the timing for cars that can handle higher charging rates. They are primarily from European, Korean, and Chinese automakers. “If you build up 50-kilowatt stations now, then it’s very likely that you will be obliged to update that station no longer than 12 months,” said Palazzo. He explained that the emerging charging technology requires Electrify America to offer 150- to 350-kW charging.

Whether or not other players are similarly obliged, and the timing, is of course up to those companies. But Palazzo said that site hosts have the ability to choose multiple vendors. Electrify America does not require exclusivity for its sites.

Palazzo encouraged a lot of players to compete in the EV charging industry. He justified Electrify America going into some locations that already have charging stations because those sites currently have 50-kW dispensers. He said property owners want to “future-proof the networks to be able to charge at 350 kilowatts.” Palazzo emphasized that cars able to charge at 350 kW “are coming in the next one-and-a-half or two years.” The ability of electric vehicles to charge at 350 kilowatts could add 200 miles of extra range in about 15 minutes.

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82 Comments on "Exclusive: Electrify America Chief Provides Update On EV Charging Build-Out"

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I wonder if any of these are coming to southwestern Ontario Canada ..

Electrify America will not install chargers in Canada.
That would be Electrify Canada’s job. They are just getting setup so details are slim at this time.

So there is some hope there as well . Thanks for the info .

Ask Electrify Canada. Different outfit. No joke.

Yes by this map it looks like there will be some in southwestern Ontario. https://www.electrify-canada.ca/locate-charger

Good to see they have a website now, and some locations planned! Similar layout to Tesla, Concentrated in the Southern Ontario and Vancouver-Calgary corridor.

Like asking will bacon come with my ham & eggs. The answer is probably no, but ask your waitress/waiter anyway, and see what they say.
Just like Canada, they may say well you can side order it.

We’re all aware that Canada is just an economic surrogate of the U.S. But in this case it’s called Electrify America … thus it would of greater offense to bring this to Canada … so it’s been renamed “Electrify Canada” or “Canada Electrique” for the Frenchies.

gotta funnel those $2b to somebody quickly somehow. Then the money runs out early and its ‘who will cover the rest’.

Can’t wait for tesla supercharger network to up the charge speed for my Model 3 from 118kW to 180kW

You make it sound like you and your Tesla can’t benefit from other charging networks…

I doubt the model 3 will even support 180kw, on Bjorn’s video it throttles to less than 80KW at 50% charge

It reaches the peak of 118 kW at ~10% soc and goes fast down from ~40% soc. At 60% soc, it charges at 80 kW already. If it can’t maintain the 118 kW peak, how can it keep or reach a higher one?
If it had the capability to charge at 180 kW, it would use the current SC speed of 120 kW to 80-85% soc.

RE-350KW: good luck with battery life, charging at 10 C-rates.

And LOL, 1 million dollar EVSEs. Michael is correct. It looks like Electrify wants to use its 2 billion, quickly.

It definitely not going to cost a million dollar! I am electrical engineer. They try to cheat justice department.

Good point because typical 8-stall Tesla Supercharger sites are usually $300k each 8-stall site. I read many of these EA sites have 2 or so stalls.

Electrify America sites are all four stalls minimum.

and 6 stall maximum.
If they install 485 stalls and that makes 2k chargers, that’s barely over 4. So minimal at best, and no 40-50 charger stations, nor 10,20,30. Etc.

No, for example place north of Atlanta has 10 stalls, 8 150 kW and 2 350 kW. The one in San Francisco Premium Outlets has 10 too.

Each 350 kW may be equivalent to up to 3 120 kW, or up to 5 paired stalls like Tesla uses. Assuming upcoming cars that can take advantage of faster charging of course.

And you may need substation upgrade to handle extra power, it costs a lot.

4 to 10 stalls for phase 1, with minimum of 2 of the 350 kW stalls.

A minimum of 2 350 kW chargers at every location, I don’t think so.
Average will be 4.5 with the major proportion being 4.
That’s my conjecture, based on what they have done so far, and not on what they say they are going to do.

True, especially level 2 AC chargers are nothing much more than a transformer. Only DC faster chargers need converter and storage battery/capacitors. Either way it’s not costing that much.

Yes it sounds expensive, but what is the price for the property? Depending on location that can be very costly or cheap.

E.g. to buy an underground parking space in center of Luxembourg city: 150K € and that is for an open space of 5×2.5m + access by car.

So many questions were not addressed. Why is EA having so many communication problems with there chargers and what are they doing about it? When are we going to get an app that allows us to check on the status of chargers and remotely active chargers?

Many of chargers are virtually unusable because of communication problems. Customer Service is ineffective in getting the chargers to work for customers. People are starting to get upset with how EA is managing the network.

Texas LEAF, I totally agree. If anyone would take the time to look at any volume of check ins on PlugShare they would totally see and concur that there are dreadful issues with basically all Electrify America fast chargers.

They contracted with greenlots for all the communications.

Greenlots was a terrible choice, and known for service issues. They were just bought out by Shell.

I am surprised nobody talks about charging in parallel. Have all chargers capable of 175 kWh and put two plugs on the car. Given that fast charging stations are under-funded, the focus on more than 150 kW charging seems sort of silly. Other than the Taycan, and I don’t really see there being more than a 2-3000 of those floating around before 2022, most of the current cars do some serious tapering at 50-100 kW charge. I would like to see someone explain how big an AC compressor you would need to charge at 350 kW up to 80%. My guess is that 350 kW charging is more of gimmick than feasible with current battery.

Bad idea. First it is technically expensive for a manufacturer to install two plugs on the car. If it was an option would you pay an extra $3000? Second, imagine how pissed off people would be when they arrive at a 4-unit station and all chargers are taken up by two cars.

LOL, like the Tesla Semi was seen taking up 5 charging stalls at once.
But no, the two ports are not meant to be used at the same time. One is for 22 kW AC charging.

Spreading som fear, uncertainty and doubt.

So the EA network was born out of VW’s nefarious activities, and is now having problems moving forward (permitting, competition, etc)? And somehow each location is $1 million+ dollars? And yet somehow Tesla has build a couple thousand locations for WAY less than that? Seems a bit strange. I hope to see it work out, a rising tide lifts all boats, and having charging options-o-rama is good for everyone.

And they seem to be shockingly unreliable so far. Hopefully just growing pains.

Interesting how Tesla wrote the book on growing pains, yet there was never an issue with supercharging.

At least for the first few years, unlike EA Tesla did not have point of sales communication at the Superchargers. Also, when you support only a single company’s cars it is much easier and more reliable than providing a charger that has to work with all manufacturers and two different charging protocols.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

There can be compatibility problems, but their issues are not that. Their issues are systemic.

But it’s rather ironic to talk about compatibility challenges, with all the people talking about a single standard.

You have your head in sand. If you read through PlugShare posts you will find plenty of posts of individual changers and entire Supercharger stations being down. Superchargers have problems just like any other fast charger but Tesla does appear to be fairly conscientious in addressing the problems.

We have a large E.A. station being installed currently in San Antonio TX. This will be the first Fast Charging station in San Antonio. Looks like there will be at least 8 charging spots. Being installed at a WalMart parking lot 2 miles off of I-35. Seems like a good location, Big WalMart store, several restaurants, and even a bowling alley within a few minutes walking distance. Already posted on Plugshare.

FIrst fast charging station? Had to look. 2 in the burbs but I see your point.
Raleigh Durham MSA – 20 quick chargers
Population roughly equal (San Antonio 20% higher)

That is a wasteland of charging. I hate to say it but there is probably a reason for that. Even Tesla doesn’t have a charger there. I don’t know if we should be happy EA is doing that or sad that they are so foolish to build a QC there.

2 miles off an interstate is not great. Just doing a quick check of superchargers that I have been to – most are .5 miles or less off the interstate – often like the closest gas station off an interstate. The Charlotte one is annoying – it is 1.3 miles or 1.9 miles off the interstate (it is near an intersection of interstates).

Agreed, I would never go more than a few hundred feet off the road to a gas station unless I was desperate. I get annoyed when I get tricked into exiting for gas, then see the sign says gas 1 mile to the right. I hop right back on the interstate highway. Obviously for charging I would tolerate it for a while, but only until infrastructure was built out.

From article Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive, points out that building-out a national fast charge network is difficult, expensive, and takes time… “The funnel to build a charging station is extremely long”.

At the same time we often hear from certain Tesla’s competitors and the anti-Tesla crowd that it would be easy and inexpensive to duplicate the Tesla fast charge network… in a very short period of time.. like “very soon”.

Does not seem to square.

Tesla SC is built out basically as a loss leader, with making up for it by charging a premium for their cars. The SC network is a major marketing advantage for them.

EA can’t hide the cost behind selling vehicles. And it has to be profitable in the future.

At these prices they’ll never profitable.

That’s not really a true statement. VW was forced to build out the EA network. EA is currently charging as much as the market will bare but there is no telling when or if the EA network will make money.

By installing the 150 and 350 kW chargers they have leveraged EA into a marketing tool for the VW Auto Group. With the Audi eTron and the Porsche Taycan coming out in very near future, only the VWAG vehicles will be able to take full advantage of the ultra fast chargers. It will probably be at least a few years before competitors start selling cars that can accept ultra fast charging speeds.

Texas Leaf, I appreciate your contributions!

In a way it’s a good thing. At least they are doing something, despite being forced to do so. Though I neither respect nor trust VW, to do what they say they are going to do.

Does EA have to be profitable? I’m not familiar with the terms of VW’s settlement with the US & CA governments… I recall the large investment being mentioned (mostly in the charging network, some in EV-related research grants), which makes sense as being instead of a large fine.

However, actually operating a network is a very different play than a onetime investment. Is EA legally responsible for operating the network? If so, for how long? What happens afterwards? Is it a non-profit? Independent company? VW of America subsidiary? If the latter, VW might not want the responsibility & management attention overhead of a long term large Ops play, and be concerned they’d lose money on it — if so, what’s to prevent VW from investing exactly what the settlement calls for and not a cent more, and then close it down?

While for Tesla it was easy to secure the spots, EA has a more difficult time considering that some of these spots are already taken and the owners don’t want competition a few meters away.
How do you think a Model S owner would feel if he would start charging at the same time as a Porsche Taycan owner a few meters away?
The Taycan would reach 80% in just a few (~15) minutes while he would need to wait there for an hour.
And regarding numbers, EA and Ionity will almost match the Tesla network by the end of this year in the US and Europe but with much higher charging speeds. And there are also many other CCS station operators who are building along.

There are a few EA stations going up right next to SC stations and there are more than a few EA stations going up right next to EVgo stations . The markets are actually quite different for these stations so they aren’t really competiting. Hopefully the demand will be strong enough that we will need all these stations.

@BEVfan said: “…How do you think a Model S owner would feel if he would start charging at the same time as a Porsche Taycan owner a few meters away?…”
———-

Speaking as a Tesla Model S owner the answer is:

No problem… charge away!

Using a fast charge network for most EV owners is normally reserved for those occasional long distance trips in which case your stopping anyways to SPE (Stretch, Pee, & Eat)… you don’t care much what the guy parked next to you is doing.

Exactly. The new 150kW ChargePoint CCS on the Maine Turnpike service plaza in Kennebunk will literally be next to the Tesla superchargers. In fact, Tesla coordinated with the state of Maine to ensure that the lines were put in place for additional chargers when they got started. Online trollers who neither own Teslas nor any other EV make it seem like it is a battle. In reality, things work out much cheaper in the real world when we collaborate to get things done together and most real EV drivers understand that.

He’s making excuses! People! Don’t buy VW electric cars! They are chronic liars!

I still hold we would be better served and at much lower cost, to install L1/L2 everywhere people park. ABC, always be charging.

In go to work and the car is parked for 8 hours. I don’t need 150kw of power. Even an L1 would likely replenish my range used to get to work.

Different people, different needs. I only used a fast charger twice on the i3. One time to test locally, and later up in a mountain valley.
I usually charged at work, and a bit at home.

Agree on the L2 as an amenity everywhere. Winter time people may need more than a sub 2kW L1 charging. Perhaps a dual-headed 7.2kW power-sharing stations are the optimal solution. Perhaps just simple reliable EVSEs with no telematics are.

Notice that these EA chargers are being installed along long distance routes. They also work for locals maybe without home or work charging. L1/L2 is great for local commuters, and I agree all that you really needed for local traffic, but it is utterly useless for long distance.

With 150 kW plus charging, long distance travel is quite easy. All the new VW ID models seem to charge at 125 kW or faster, which is great.

The primary deployment of EA’s chargers is as fast travel chargers for long distance travel. Onboard L2 charging is crippled by the speed/power limitation of onboard charger. 7.2 kW will never have recharge rate faster than 30 miles recharged per hour.

While I agree that a future charging infrastructure based around parking spots makes sense, it’s impossible to know why, or how long, or how much power each vehicle that pulls into the space is going to need. For each EV that will be parked for 4 hours and needs 50 miles of recharge, there will be another that is parked for 20 minutes and needs 100 miles of recharge in that 20 minute timeframe.

Flexible DCFC can serve both use cases. Consider a 96 kW DCFC that serves 12 parking spaces. It can deliver 8kW to each of 12 full spaces which is better than most L2. It can also deliver 96 kW to a single vehicle, recharging at nearly 400 MPH, which easily delivers 100 miles of recharge in 15 minutes.

L2 is too limiting. All future public charging infrastructure should be DCFC based with shared power among multiple parking spaces.

ga2500ev

“All future public charging infrastructure should be DCFC based with shared power among multiple parking spaces.”
Why? That’s very limiting, due to the expense of the DC chargers and the expense of the scale of the electricity supply (which might rarely be used).
One size doesn’t fit all. Destination chargers — think hotels, airport parking, theme parks — never need to charge at fast rates; they’re not location people ever stop at briefly on the way to somewhere else. They always spend at least hours there (overnight at a hotel, 4-5 hours at an amusement park). There’s never any need for DC charging there, so why invest the cost?

PlugShare documents high rates of charging failures. In three attempts at Manchester TN, one failed completly and two took an extra 20 minutes of debug to get a charge.

Bob Wilson

The issue seems to be mostly with the payment terminals. Most reviews I see sometimes require a phone call and a reset to get a station working. Hopefully the mobile app which is supposed to launch in the Spring will help with this and they can work out the other software related bugs quickly.

While they got undisputed leaders in therms of charging speeds, they are very close to becoming leaders in the numbers of high speed charging stations.

So they have 63 chargers in place now and in five months they are going to have 300 stations on highways and 184 metro stations? In NC there are several EA stations which seem to be finished but have not been turned on to use. Some for more than a month. And really hoping the I-95 corridor south of Richmond, VA gets more love.

There are actually over 200 stations operational and in construction. The 63 number is just operational stations but that number is more like 90 and changes every day. As we saw with the Columbus, TX station, some stations seam to pop up overnight fully operational so EA may have a lot of stations in the works that we don’t know about.

If you use the Electrify America filter on PlugShare so that you only see EA stations, the EA build out looks quite impressive. I have little doubt that EA will have almost all the stations at least under construction by the June deadline. Whether most of the stations will be operational and usable is another question.

350 kw charging seems a bit of a waste of money to me. Seems to be a legacy of ICE drivers saying I can fill my tank in minutes and I have to do that or the world will end. I can leave on a full charge every morning takes seconds to plug in not 5 minutes stood there at a petrol station in the cold and rain then another 5 minutes queuing up topay £70 for the privilege. 2 years in an EV and never needed a 1 million dollar charger, spend the money somewhere else. It will come eventually but I don’t think it’s a priority now.

I think it is top priority to focus on DCFC, I won’t buy a BEV without at least Model 3 LR level charging, and 350 kW to 500 kW is almost as fast as gas for long distance travel.

Without those features I buy a PHEV. Autopilot, supercharging and OTA updates are why Tesla doesn’t really have any competition.

The new generation of DCFC stations separates the dispenser from the power block, akin to Tesla’s Superchargers, and makes the power blocks scalable, you can have one, two or even three of them feeding a dispenser. The dispensers themselves can be equipped with cables capable of various amounts of power and charging interfaces, with 250A+ cables being liquid-cooled. So when a charging provider invests in a new charging infrastructure they want to deploy the scalable ones and work their way up as the need and finances arrive. EA and Ionity have the finances and have a mandate to support all EVs. They are also rather optimistic with the lifespan expectations of these stations, with 10 or even 15 years being quoted. The old generation DCFC stations is barely making it to 5 years, which begs the question you pose, will we have enough high-powered EVs in just five years to take advantage of the 350 kW deployments today.

Interesting… Why is the lifespan so bad? I’d have expected the charging station to last significantly more than a petrol pump, not less — very few moving parts. Obsolescence aside due to increasing charging rates, I’d have expected lifespans of 15-20 years to be easy to reach.

Multiple factors are in play. Most DCFC stations are deployed out in the elements, have complex electronics and cooling, and get abused by the users. The cables and plugs are especially vulnerable, get dropped on the ground, driven over, plowed in with snow, or get in the way of landscaping. Charging networks may rely on the station hosts and local contractors who are poorly equipped and motivated to take care of the stations.

A prime example of what is wrong with so many EV enthusiasts and their comments. “I don’t need it/it works for me, so no one else does.”

Good for you, only using your car for short distances.

Many of us use our vehicles for long distances. When you’re driving 1000km a day it’ll be very useful to be able to charge your car in a short space of time.

Yes, home charging is important, no, it’s not the answer to everything, and faster charging will become more important as EV’s become more popular and larger/different vehicles are available. Charging a 64kWh Kona may not be an issue, charging a 200kWh pickup with a large trailer behind…?

Also worth considering. In theory you need half the charging stations if you have 350kW chargers instead of 175kW chargers, because a car takes half the time to charge (assuming the car electronics are set up take that additional charge ability.

350KW charging will kill the battery quickly.

I think you forgot to write the rest of your absolute statement.

Very enlightening. I knew DC fast was absurdly expensive, but wow.

The maintenance network needed to service these stations seems to be the real sticking point. With the razor thin margins for car charging you can’t really afford to fly technicians around to fix these, but a local electrician is also not going to be able to fix them. Add to that the remote nature of where most fast charging needs to be installed and you start to have some real headaches. Imagine if EA would’ve had to replace every water-cooled charge cord from their shutdown this week. New cords would have to be engineered, manufactured, shipped, installed and tested. How long will the pumps for these water-cooled units last, especially when you turn up the heat with 350kW???

I was really confused why Shell bothered to buy Greenlots. I think most charging is being designed, deployed, bought and sold by people who don’t drive electric cars. I can’t imagine Mr Pallazzo driving an e-Golf. Electric cars require a paradigm shift, and the only company fully embracing that shift seems to be Tesla.

There are industrial electricians all over the place (pretty much any location with a large building/work space). Training local industrial electricians to deal with local chargers won’t cost much and would solve the issues.

Parts would have to be shipped to them (assuming non standard pieces/spares not available locally) but that can usually be done overnight or within a day or two.

What is interesting is that there such a big fuzz about fast charging every time while 95% of the kilometers that are driven could be loaded at slow chargers at home. I am not sure if more operators of these fast chargers realize that. But the market is not that big.

Due to bigger batteries this market may shrink even further. I wouldn’t be surprised if 99.9% of all drives are shorter than 400-500 km. This means that the market may at one time actually become near zero, especially taking into account the current electricity prices at these fast charging stations.

It’s clear there’ll eventually need to be a lot less fast chargers than there are petrol pumps today, but it’s far from zero. There are still a lot of petrol stations along motorways, and along less traveled rural roads. People will still need to recharge on vacation trips, business/commercial drives (repairpeople etc.)

It does not sound like there is any incentive to do anything except spend the court-ordered money as quickly as possible, a kin to ripping a band-aid off, the quicker the better. Going one step further, there is incentive to botch this rollout. A “bad” (locations, reliability,etc) network could mean that VW and Co get to sell more ICE cars for a longer period of time.

Please ask electrify america chief what is Florida’s status on VW settlement?