With Legal Settlement Winding Down, EVgo Network Now Officially Sold to Vision Ridge Partners (Update)

JUN 23 2016 BY MARK KANE 46

EVgo separates from NRG

EVgo separates from NRG

Vision Ridge Partners has announced that it has closed its acquisition of charging network EVgo from the energy provider, a deal which has been in progress over the past month.

EVgo will now become an independent charging infrastructure operator with ambitions to be nation’s leading fast charging network.

According to press release, EVgo operates some 665 fast chargers in more than 50 top metro markets.

The subsidiary EVgo was founded as a settlement of a decade long legal battle fought by parent NRG’s former self – Dynegy, which did not honor long-term power contracts/over-charged customers during California’s 2001 power crisis.

Update (June 23rd):  An earlier version of this story stated that NRG’s legal commitment was now fulfilled, however after speaking to a representative of Vision Ridge that is not the case, and some outstanding issues are still present, stating:

“NRG continues to have settlement obligations, and Vision Ridge will be working with NRG to meet them.”

In 2012, a $120 million dollar settlement was reached, of which the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) had NRG allocate $100 million to set up an extensive charging network in the state.

The deal struck (to be completed by December 31st, 2015) included:

  • $50.5 million to fund 200 Freedom Stations sites  – each to have at least 1 DC fast charging location and a L2 unit
  • $40 million to fund 10,000 “make-ready” electrical installations, with at least a 30 amp service for L2 or L1 equipment, convertible within 24-48 hours
  • $9 million investment into advanced charging technology and all-electric car sharing programs.

Under Vision Ridge Partners, EVgo now intends to expand nationwide, which could result in decent multi-standard (CHAdeMO/Combo) charging network (hopefully in new 150 kW versions rather than 50 kW).

No deal terms where disclosed, but its fair to say they got a heck of a deal compared to the total NRG investment, as the energy company has been looking to rid itself of its infrastructure network since it was rolled into new spin-off/subsidiary “Green Co” on January 1st, 2016.

“Vision Ridge Partners, a climate action-oriented investment firm, announced today that it has closed on its major investment in EVgo, the nation’s leading public fast-charging network for electric vehicles. EVgo will now launch as an independent company, focused on expanding its charging network and leading more drivers to purchase and use electric vehicles nationwide.”

“Today’s closing marks the beginning of a new strategic expansion of EVgo’s fast-charging network. Since its development, EVgo has worked closely with automakers like Nissan, BMW, and Ford to develop a vehicle-centric customer experience. These partnerships have brought customers faster charging speeds and more charging locations, allowing EVgo to operate 665 fast chargers in more than 50 top metro markets across the country. In 2015, EVgo’s public high-speed charging network delivered more than 21 million electric vehicle miles, saving nearly 900,000 gallons of gas and offsetting nearly 10 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

As an independent company, EVgo will strengthen and expand industry partnerships to give drivers even greater access to EVgo’s dependable fast chargers, which can deliver a nearly full charge to nearly any vehicle on the road today in less than 30 minutes. NRG Energy, Inc. will also remain a significant partner in EVgo, supporting the ongoing growth of the electric vehicle charging industry, and continue its commitments under the California settlement.

Vision Ridge’s investment in EVgo will provide the company with the additional resources and expertise needed to take the company to the next level in sustainable transportation. This includes positioning EVgo with more than $100 million of infrastructure funding to expand its nation-leading charging network. Today’s announcement strengthens Vision Ridge’s leadership in building the future of transportation, advancing electric vehicle adoption, and demonstrating that sustainable projects can deliver impressive financial returns while preventing further impacts from climate change.”

Reuben Munger, Managing Director of Vision Ridge said:

“As the nation’s leading charging network, EVgo is uniquely positioned to build the transportation infrastructure of the future. With new guidance and resources from Vision Ridge, and in close partnership with cities and automakers across the country, EVgo will expand its charging network even further—eliminating range concerns while reshaping the way people travel.”

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46 Comments on "With Legal Settlement Winding Down, EVgo Network Now Officially Sold to Vision Ridge Partners (Update)"

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It was money losing while with NRG, it was money losing after spin off. If it continues to be money loser after acquisition, things won’t be good for EV.

Given that 200 miles range EV will have less need for DCFC, it would seem money losing will become even worse. And if they raise prices, that will make EV less attractive, and even less use, a death spiral. I hope they have some sound plan to mitigate.

I disagree.. the business model is probably fine. The problem is lack of customers, due to slow growth of EV sales. Sure with 200 mile EVs, people won’t need to charge on the go as often. But there will always be the need to charge sometime. So the hope is that with exponential growth of EVs, will come growth of customers wanting to charge.

Look at it another way. Imagine trying to get into the charging station business 20 years from now. You’ll find yourself thinking “Gee.. I wish I had gotten into this 20 years ago when nobody else wanted to be in this business.”

Affordable 200 mile range cars means more need forfaster chargers to not wait forever to refill. You won’t refill as often when staying local a lot, but when you do speed counts. Especially if you don’t own a charger in your garage, apartment renters etc…

Shhhh…. you’re not allowed to point out that people who drive cars might live in apartments, condos, military bases, universities, retirement homes, etc.

Also, everybody knows that red blooded ‘Muricans commute to a job every day.

Only homeowners with commutable jobs should be on the road… and they can charge at work and home, so everybody else should just burn has.

….or, have long range EVs with really fast chargers, like Tesla (I didn’t say that out loud, I hope).

‘Murica don’t need no fast chargers!!! Trump 2016.

I don’t think there will be many apartment dweller going for EV if the only way to charge is DCFC. Unless you can charge at home, EV is awful compared to gas cars, or even FC. Initially, there will be very few apartment / condo dwellers going for EV, but will increase significantly as more home chargers are installed. Of course, that’s a big IF, not when.

Then you run into the same problem; DCFC will be used very rarely.

As for Dump, Dump-Dump should be the new mantra in ‘murica.

So the ones that do don’t matter? What about thet people that are not at home, but on the road?

The problem is profitability. If they’re constantly losing money, they will eventually run out, and bankruptcy.

THANK YOU for mentioning renters. They are half the population and have been locked out from access to EVs in almost all cases.

Speed counts but 100% vehicle coverage counts more.

Few major drawbacks for DCFC
– LESS than 15% of vehicle on the road use a given DCFC format (Tesla, Chaedemo, Low Power CCS, CCS all compete)
– MAJOR cost increase for utility install vs AC formats (esp now that utilities don’t have to cover upgrade costs as common treatments in California). Let’s not forget demand charges of $1000/mo starting with the 1st charge.
– MUCH more expensive equipment.

Better near/mid choice is Full Rate Level 2 (since it can go to 80 Amps) or appx. 19.2KW. That can be used by 100% of vehicles on road and selling today, be usable within existing electric services AND are much much cheaper to buy and operate.

Faster AC is happening as you look at new vehicles. Constantly creeping faster and faster AC…. M≡ is 11.5KW, BMW i3 is 7.4KW, Chevy Bolt is 6.6KW, etc etc

They are both needed… DCFC and destination charging.. and of course the largest chunk of yearly charging: at home charging.
However I beg to differ on the economics of public destination charging (not home/apartment charging) being better than DCFC. If the number of cars served and kW dispensed is figured, DCFC infrastructure is actually more economical. But yeah, apartment charging like what I see you are offering is great!! Very needed, and something that I would enjoy being involved in myself.

Check this out if you haven’t already:
http://fastned.nl/en/blog/post/the-fastned-freedom-plan

The current economics for building out charging infrastructure are broken. Look at the history of Blink stations to see an extreme example of what is wrong: A government grant is used to build charging stations and the company takes a profit on the installation. At this point, its all losses, so the maintenance is minimal, stations are broken for weeks or months without repair, because there is no incentive to keep them functional, they cannot charge users enough to cover what it would cost to keep the uptime high, so they pay for a token maintenance which results in lots of out of service EVSEs. In addition, if the company is trying to make some money, they cluster the chargers in urban areas, rather than trying to create a ‘highway’ to another destination (because those highway chargers out in the middle of no-where have zero chance of seeing enough traffic to pay for themselves). The contrast here with Tesla could not be more stark. Tesla considers its supercharging stations to be part of the feature of the car, and users pay for it up front when buying a Tesla. It’s customers are buying the network, so it specifically places them… Read more »

Nice synopsis Brent. It definitely is not profitable for pretty much any fast charge business nowadays in 2016.
Yeah, Blink has its problems, just one of them being that they allow some of their stations to be owned by the host, and therefore its the hosts responsibility for maintenence. I’m not aware that EVgo does that. It really comes down to the company having a strong vision and commitment regardless if government funding is used or not. Regarding government run infrastructure, IMO it may work at destination places like parks, but as part of an intercity network, NO WAY. For that a committed fast charge company needs to build and run them. Government and automakers can contribute funds to a company like EVgo and it can work well.

How often do people drive over 200 miles without charging compared to 80 miles range EV? Based on my usage pattern (which is more than normal), it’s less than 1/10th. Then they’ll need 10 times the current level of demand just to be like today. And how long will they be losing money before that level of demand is reached?

But if there’s 10X the cars, the problem will be crowding. Demand will not be even and key locations and times will make for bad experience. Imagine you need to use DCFC couple of times a year (ie, holidays), and each time result in long waits; that will sour EV experience.

I hope they have better plan(s). Sticking to today’s biz plan is going to be money loser.

If there are affordable long-range BEVs they’ll have _lots_ more BEVs around, and they’ll be more likely to be driven on longer trips (as long as the cars take advantage of the battery capacity to increase charging power).

As the number of cars increases, coverage and capacity can be closer to usage, which can be covered by a combination of up-front, subscription and per-use fees. But for now, with low numbers of short-range BEVs and slow DCFC the chargers are really just for back-up use, usage fees will never cover the costs and it’s not surprising that they need help from manufacturers to cover installation and management cost.

Given that most people drive under 50 miles a day even with 500 miles range gas cars, I don’t see proliferation of longer range EV will change that. As I mentioned, what will likely happen is that people will want to charge on those rare times when they go on holidays when all the other people also want to charge, probably going to similar locations. Then those will be heavily overcrowded when you actually need to use DCFC in those rare times. That will make for poor EV experience.

You can see this effect already with Tesla. Few months ago, there was a HUGE line at CA supercharger with dozens of Tesla waiting to charge, and Tesla having “valet” service. Now multiply this by orders of magnitude, and the problem will be severe to the point of being unusable.

I would like to see them succeed as I LOVE SparkEV and being free of gas. But I just don’t see it working if they do things the way they’ve been doing (or even Tesla’s been doing). That’s why I hope they come up with some better way.

Well, seasonal overcrowding might be handled with something as simple as a natural gas generator with a fast DC charger attached.

No permits,no huge demand fees for the rest of the year when it will not be used, no extra large transformer, no chargers sitting idle getting vandalized, etc.

I was it a rural gas station over the Memorial Day weekend that happened to have a DC charger. The gas station was jampacked the entire time I was there,even though there wasn’t civilization for many miles in any direction.

Short of temporary equipment, I don’t know how else to handle these peak EV loads. Here’s the expensive way to do it… a huge hydrogen fuel cell powering one or more DC chargers.

The nat gas generator idea is great, except you still need to have it sitting there idle most of the time, which is wasting money. But if that’s a cost effective solution, I wouldn’t mind it at all, unlike some who are so anti-fossil fuel that they wouldn’t consider anything like that.

I’m hoping better way will come along, whatever that is. And I agree, H isn’t the answer. Might as well drive gasoline car if I’m going to “fuel station” all the time.

Why would the generator be there at all? Rent it.

Renting might cost even more.

One way to reduce expenses would be to piggy back a BEV fast charger to an electrolyzer and fuelcell at an H2 fueling station where the electrolyzer and fuel cell are already being used by the electric utility for grid balancing and storing excess renewable energy as hydrogen.

Germany is already putting electrolyzers and fuel cells at H2 fueling stations for grid balancing and making H2 when there is excess wind or solar renewables and negative pricing. Using these electrolyzers to also to fast charge BEVs would provide their owners with a third income stream after fees for grid balancing and negative pricing.

https://fuelcellsworks.com/archives/2015/08/24/thuga-power-to-hydrogen-gas-plant-enters-the-balancing-market-in-germany/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/530331/germany-and-canada-are-building-water-splitters-to-store-renewable-energy/

Fuel cells as backup power generator replacement are getting track nowdays with commercial customers. They take little space, are silent and may allow to skip environmental permits as no burning is involved. But really who is going to buy them just for rare holiday use? It would cost a fortune to charge if you add wasted capital cost. I know Tesla did used some generators at some charger location at peak time. But at wide scale it looks really lame for cars that are sold at double price for imaginary environmental benefits.

As you are at it, why wait half an hour or more at expensive DC charger, when you can refill the same hydrogen in 3 minutes for on-board fuel cell? At least until some magic battery is invented, that is 1000 cheaper than current Li On and don’t loose power when charged over winter, just like natural gas or hydrogen storage.

If I go on holidays I will take my EVSE and (hopefully) plug into my accommodation over night. Probably no need to queue at a charge station.
EV is a paradigm shift, you charge all the time wherever you can, not hold a tank full of gas and refill periodically.

It’s supply & demand. As more EV’s come online, there will be more demand for fast charging capabilities. That said, right now we do not have enough supply of EVs on the road to demand more fast charging stations per location.

Consider that none of the current networks have convenience stores. They are solely reliant on what they make off of each charge session. In many cases this is very little. But the cost of equipment, maintenance, insurance, labor, etc., are considerable. It is going to be hard for any charging station company to be profitable for the next 5-10 years.

Exactly!! Well said.

But some convenience stores do have fast charging, like Royal Farms and Sheetz here in the Mid-Atlantic.

There aren’t that many EVs around at the moment, relatively speaking, so there are relatively few customers. This will change with time of course but it will take a while, during which they will likely still be losing money.

With 200 mile cars I guess that the market would expand. With 80 mile cars people prefer to only use it for local trips and use a fossil car for longer journeys. With a 200+ miler the need for a gas car is much less and many will use the 200 mile car for everything.

Right. Next gen fast charge networks will do just that, and EV drivers will be confident to use them with the same reliability and convenience that exists now with gas stations.

If my interactions with EVgo’s accounts management/billing departments are any indication, their new parent won’t have much more success than NRG did…unless they overhaul pretty much EVERYTHING.

100% agreed! My condos have contracted with EVGo to provide charging facilities for me and I have been on free-vend mode for almost 2 years because they can’t figure out how to bill correctly. I was getting billed for times that my car wasn’t there, the charger would not activate with my RFID badge, billing was rounding up to the next hour, double charges… it was a mess!

Their business practice is not to be desired from the consumer perspective. As I set my timer during DC charging session, they actually tried to count the moment you start the authentication process as “plugged-in” time and start their count for times charging 10 cents per minutes for charging. So your 30 minutes session would normally run 34 minutes of charging being billed. This is in addition to the monthly plan fee.

I wonder how that will affect EVgo here in Texas?

This will be interesting to see the Private EVgo network make money as a going concern. They are the most expensive electrons in the Southern California area, along with the latest charging equipment. Last month was the end of EVgo free level 2 charging next to their DC fast charging network in my area. Was nice while it was available at the PV shopping center.

If I owned the system I would cut prices from $9.99 to $4.99 for a quick charge to raise demand. A lot of railroads and canal companies did this in the 1800’s and in a lot of cases demand doubled.

Yes, that would work great if the cost wasn’t higher. I always love the “crying foul” EV drivers… maybe they should just charge $1? Or free!!!!

So, it was the most expensive while you were sucking down the free electrons?

I see at least a dozen electric ares in my area now every other week. And these cars are all different. Right now though there has been no large build out of electric car infrastructure.

With this story I wounder could this be the hold out for why there is no massive construction.

Hopefully they can finally setup chargers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

There are two government grants issued for that route:

1) Mohave Air Quality Management District

2) California Energy Commission

“With NRG’s legal commitments to California behind it”

Uh what? They haven’t actually built 200 stations yet, have they?

You are correct there is a few more hurdles to go. Story was just adjusted to reflect…also with statement on the subject from Vision Ridge. /thanks

I worry what this means for the stability of the network. They had a full system outage for nearly an entire day earlier this week. Hopefully that does not become a regular occurrence.

EVgo has some problems in their billing plans. I had FREE NCTC but they said it ran out after 2 months, all others are 2 years. They never informed me when it ran out and sent a big bill.
You can’t see you charges until they send an end of the month bill.
They charge extra if you plug in more than 1 time an hour so trips are impossible. also many other issues.

Hmm.. $100 million could build 500 or more next gen locations. At least two fast chargers per location with at least one being 150 kW is imperative. Some locations may have both as 150 kW chargers. This should be the expected norm going forward starting in about two years from now IMO.

The current California Energy Commission grant for “north-south corridors” requires one “50kW” charger and equipment to handle a 125kW charger.

Exactly Tony! Good example.

Will EVgo finally get its own mobile app for Android and iPhone?

Very good question. That along with some other things… with at least one of them being the possibility to charge for 10-20 minutes without paying $9.95. A per minute rate together with a per kW rate would be the best IMO. This is what Charge.net does in New Zealand.
As markets mature the most common and effective pricing is by the minute. In Norway this is the case.