GM Exec Says Transition to Electric Vehicles is Right Around the Corner; Charging Infrastructure Needs to Catch Up


Chevrolet Volt Charging Up

Chevrolet Volts Charging Up

General Motors’ Head of Consumer Affairs, James Bell,was discussing commercial use of electric vehicle at 2013 Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) Conference in early June.  As Bell stated, electric vehicles are ideally suited for commercial application, especially for small businesses and fleet operators.  Bell suggested that now’s the time for the commercial sector to get more into vehicles powered by battery.

Chevy Spark Charging Up

Chevy Spark Charging Up

Quoting Bell:

“Not only do people see great economic opportunity here, but they also pick up on the fact that these vehicles are better for the environment and reduce our dependency on oil.

Truth be told, commercial buyers usually opt for electric vehicles for one reason: to cut down on operating costs.

Bell further stated that the overall transition to electric is just around the corner and noted that some well-know corporations, such as Bosch, are starting to invest big in EVs.  Bell says that it takes commitment from corporations like Bosch to show that electric vehicle are here to stay.

But one necessary element is largely missing, says Bell.  That’s infrastructure.

Bell says that an expansion of the public charging infrastructure will ease the minds of potential consumers and make for an easier overall transition to electric vehicles.

“It isn’t really car news as nearly as much as it is infrastructure news, as I will be able to buy an electric car and be able to find charging stations around my town as I am able to find gassing stations today.”

This need-for-more-infrastructure statement is something we continually come across now and, even though most charging will occur at home, we understand the importance of public chargers.  Not only do they allow current EV owners to travel further, but they also show the general public that there is indeed widespread support for electric vehicles.

Source: TRNS

Categories: Charging, Chevrolet

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24 Comments on "GM Exec Says Transition to Electric Vehicles is Right Around the Corner; Charging Infrastructure Needs to Catch Up"

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I agree public charging is key. It gives people the feeling of a safety net. But possibly the biggest factor is that people see the cars plugged in and charging. So it raises awareness among the sheep that there are these amazing things called electric vehicles that are actually on the road and they aren’t golf carts.

In addition, we don’t want to overbuild either – seeing a parking lot full of empty EV charging stations would be bad PR for proponents of EVs, especially if they were paid for with tax dollars or received incentives from the government for those stations.

The optimal strategy is to build the infrastructure (transformers, conduits, etc) for the charging infrastructure, and then add stations as necessary.

I wrote a blog post the other day about how to site EV charging stations –

I know if you go to charging stations in LA are malls, they are almost always full. I hardly ever get to charge at the Santa Monica mall anymore because there are so many EV’s there. They have 6 stations and they are always full. That used to be the case with the 32 charging stations at LAX, but now that they don’t offer free parking, its probably not that bad anymore. I think they need to build out the high demand areas so they can adequately meet peoples needs. Most parking garages in Beverly Hills have two chargers and they are usually both taken when I am there.

For peace of mind, what is important is the availability of DC quick-charging actually. Slower charging, not so much.

Having to sit an hour on L2 because of an unexpected errand 10 to 20 miles beyond range isn’t exactly my idea of a safety net. I don’t think many would find this acceptable.
Doing the same in 5 minutes… now yes, that’s workable.

Also, to convince people that EVs are cool, nothing like putting them at the wheel. All the colleagues who first heard I got my Leaf were picturing something cramped, riddled with experimental tech and complicated controls — basically for geeks only.
Looking at it closer, or sitting in it, first 2 things they realize is “Hey, it’s bigger than I thought. And it’s… a normal car!”
Then comes a thrilled “Huh, so quiet! Spooky!” as they start gliding silently. Finally they dare pushing a little harder on the accelerator: “wow, this thing can really take off!”. “Amazing, so smooth!”. Mind blown everytime. Mission complete 🙂

(Then I tell them that the PV system which powers it costs me $2 for 100 miles…)

Why doesn’t ChargePoint or Blink partner with McDonalds or Starbucks, and start cranking out chargers everywhere? There’s a lot of places I would opportunity charge if they just had a charger.

I agree they should start partnering with food establishments, hotels, and malls. They need additional business models quick before another company sets up exclusivity contracts to supply charging stations at these locations.


But does it make sense to have a “slow charge” station (240V, 3.3 or 6.6kW) if you’re only going to be at McDonalds or Starbucks for 15-20 minutes? Whats the utility of that, 5-10 miles? You’re better off installing a DC fast-charge station at fast-service places like fast food or a coffee shop. Then you have to line up the demographics – the McD’s crowd doesn’t likely own electric vehicles.

Places like shopping malls, hotels, movie theaters, etc. all would benefit from charging stations because the demographics more closely align and you have time to get a useful charge in the vehicle (and the company running the charging station can better monetize the transaction).

There are two McDonalds in my area that are on Chargepoint and Blink systems. However, most people probably spend 30 minutes or less there, how beneficial will that be? I would rather have more charging stations at longer term locations such as hotels, shopping centers, movie theaters, municipal parking lots, etc.

The likes of McDonalds and Starbucks will partner when a 220 Volt EV plug drops in price to that of an electric dryer, or oven. Level 2 EVSE is not rocket science and shouldn’t cost much more than GFI (Ground-Fault) plug.

“Truth be told, commercial buyers usually opt for electric vehicles for one reason: to cut down on operating costs.”

Not so fast. A lot of companies are looking for green cred.

GM can start by upgrading the existing Volt, ELR and Spark EV chargers to 7.2 kW to take full advantage of the existing infrastructure, which may not be considered sufficient, however it is substantial, and it is growing. Then they can continue by partnering with an EVSE maker or a charging network provider to install additional stations, and more importantly maintain the existing ones in working order. Third, they can help by educating the public, institutions, and government officials about EVs. Last but not least they can put pressure on their dealership network to do the same.

But we already knew all that.

GM can be either part of the problem by using the public charging infrastructure as an excuse for not selling more plugins, or it can be a part of the solution by doing something about it.

EREV do not need any public charging to be dense. Pure BEV like TESLA do not need charging stations arround towns but few on interstate roads.Therefore I do not understand such exageration of issue. TESLA is going to build 100 fast charging stations covering needs of TESLA customers over all US on interstate roads. There are hundreds of milions night charging plugs which will serve perfectly for BEV owners. Why GM is not making something similar but intsead talking public charging inside towns which are not needed?

“Why GM is not making something similar but intsead talking public charging inside towns which are not needed?”

You mean just like small town gas stations aren’t needed? On my drive to Florida this summer it would have been nice to stay at a roadside motel/hotel that offered charging so my Volt’s battery would self condition and be fully charged in the morning.


I agree on Hotel/motel charging station could be slow ones and do not require big investments. I think it will appear since hotel owners will find benefits of attracting additional customers. It is under discussion introduction of national standard on this subject since investments are quite moderate.
On other hand slow charging during lunch will not help much and fast chargers costing much more.
Chargers at offices could be slow ones as well. IMO this will start naturally as soon as emplees start asking for them. Here some regulations could be beneficial. On other hand we should bear in mind the largest benefits of electrification comes from night super offpeak charging and daytime should be more supporting emergency type. Elon Musk proliferates such opinion and I completely agree with him.

EREV’s like the Volt are more attractive when you can opportunity charge after 40 miles. BEV’s like the LEAF become more attractive/useful as well. It’s not always about need. Do you need a gas station on every corner of every town in the US, no, but it does give you peace of mind knowing they are there. And allows you to refuel when convenient.

I totally disagree. There are many metro areas that need local charging. Some areas may be spread over a 50 miles area and 120 mile range (or less) EVs need it.

Wait. There was something on some site… oh, I know. It was THIS SITE.

No, the charger infrastructure doesn’t need to be improved to increase EV uptake. The article above showed that. We need less-expensive EVs.

There’s that “need” word again. It’s very early in the EV game. The more people are exposed to public chargers and seeing other EV’s charging, the more they start asking questions and start becoming comfortable with EV’s. Price (and other factors) are also variables in EV adoption. I agree w/the summary at the end of the article you linked.

“The right price, combined with the charging infrastructure, should lead to success.”

Need is in the eye of the user. One only has to look at EVSE data collected by over the past two years to find where EVs prefer to charge. Greater than 80% of charging (juice) is consumed at home residence, with less than 20% from public infrastructure. Typical session charge at a station is just over 8 kWh for both 8000 Leafs & Volts in the study. (1/3 of Leafs, & 1/2 of Volts battery capacity) Data the charge station perspective: Level 2 stations deliver a charge session once every 8-10 days; DC Quick Chargers average 4-8 charge sessions per day. (These are region/city averages as individual station data is not publicly available). While a DC Charge station may cost 10x of an AC EVSE, usage data show they more than make up by delivering more charge sessions (& juice) faster. Long term the cost of building and maintaining charging stations will be less with fewer sites. Currently there is over 100,000 EVs in U.S.; about 20,000 AC Level 2 charge points, and about 380 DC Quick charge points. Beyond this, Tesla’s SuperChargers will provide 80% coverage of continental U.S. by 2015, expanding to 98% coverage by 2016.… Read more »

So you think CA sells the most EV’s in the U.S. because?
My guess is the 1,339 electric charging stations has something to do with it.

And Nissan has the sales data to prove it.


I disagree. I think that CA sells the most EVs because they have the largest population, and it is a population with a higher income and drawn to the latest trends on technology. They are also keenly aware of environmental issues, and willing to spend a little more for a cleaner form of transportation.

Agreed with Brian. California also remains one of the couple states where the various EVs become available first — or sometimes, exclusively.

The extra 2500$ EV rebate in CA probably helps things a bit too. It now pushes the base Leaf down to an incredible 19k$.

California has the most EVs because:
1) We have the best selection of EVs because all the compliance cars are sold here and often not elsewhere
2) We have a lot of environmentalists
3) We have a lot of Silicon Valley engineers that love electronics
4) We have expensive gasoline.
5) We have a $2500 state incentive
6) We have carpool lane access for EVs
7) We have a lot of people with a lot of money to pay for EVs.

And the biggest reason why California has the most EVs? Compliance laws. California always tries to legislate the laws of economics, and will fail miserably this time too.