Rapid Access International, Inc.
With the introduction of the first commercially-available electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States this year, companies are working hard to install EV charging stations throughout the country. Leading the way in this effort are large cities on the US east coast such as New York as well as eco-friendly cities on the west coast such as San Francisco. Additional cities at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution include Anaheim, California and Austin, Texas where charging stations have already been installed in preparation for the delivery of a new generation of electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf later this year.
The Chevy Volt, which comes with an electric battery and a gasoline-powered engine to increase its range, is scheduled to arrive in showrooms this fall, perhaps as early as November. It is expected to cost $41,000.
Nissan’s Leaf, is scheduled to debut a few months later. The Leaf is totally battery powered and will carry a price of about $33,000. Both cars are highly anticipated and the public is excited about this new era of electric vehicles. But how will these cars be charged and serviced?
A leading provider of charging station technology in the US is Coulomb Technologies, which has announced a US$37 million program to install charging stations across the US with the initial markets of Los Angeles, Sacramento and the San Jose and San Francisco Bay area as the first recipients of the new technology. The State of California has invested heavily in funding for the charging stations and the California Energy Commission has awarded Coulomb Technologies USD$3.4 million to install charging stations in the biggest cities in California. Coulomb Technologies plans to install approximately 5000 EV charging stations across the US in nine regions.
With the expected release of new electric vehicles to the commercial market later this year, the infrastructure for the development of charging stations -- and also places where electric vehicles can be serviced or maintained -- are in great demand. Coulomb Technologies is certainly at the forefront of this trend and they are building not only networked infrastructures in the US, but also in Europe and globally. At the moment this network is focused on major global cities. The main product delivered by Coulomb Technologies is the ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations which offers electricity in a range of voltage from 120 Volts to 240 Volts with the capability to handle up to 500 Volts in capacity. The company also provides web-based portals for hosts (means providers of services to EV-based vehicles), fleet managers, drivers, and utilities. Now, there are opportunities to obtain distributorships for charging stations and this is a new kind of investment opportunity in the US. By October 2011 ChargePoint America will provide 4,600 public and private ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations throughout the US. The number of charging stations per region is allocated based on demand with higher demand expected in the eastern US urban areas as well as cities on the west coast including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. All data from the ChargePoint America project will be collected digitally and recorded for analysis by Purdue University and Idaho National Labs for future trends and strategic planning of a future EV based automobile market in the US.
Source: www.chargepointamerica.com and interviews with ChargePoint executives.
Other companies developing EV technologies are ECOtality and the Eaton Corp. Together all these companies are involved in developing various parts of a network that will include tens of thousands of charging stations over the next 12 months, according to the Electronic Drive Transportation Association.
The EV charging stations, like that offered by the ChargePoint Network, are network-enabled and this means they are able to communicate important energy reporting usage data to a central analysis point. We were unable to verify the exact software used to handle the reporting of the energy usage or the maker of the equipment for the management of the charging functions. It is likely there is an opportunity for sophisticated Japanese technology in circuitry, electricity charging, etc. to be of interest in this market. The network functions and advantages include:
The market for EV technologies is just at the beginning stage. The obvious challenge is that much of the infrastructure for electronic vehicles is not yet built, so new users of electronic vehicles may not have much choice at this early stage in locating a place to charge their vehicles. In larger cities such as New York or San Francisco, this may not be a difficult problem, but in smaller cities like Austin, Texas it may proved more challenging.
The time it takes to charge an EV battery can be relatively long. Recharging units come in three levels. Level 1 is a 110–120 volt unit that takes eight to 10 hours to recharge a vehicle, while level 2 chargers are 220 to 240 volts that can charge a car in four to six hours. Level 3 charging uses 440 volts and will only be available for service stations and other commercial applications. Owners of electric vehicles will have home-based charging units that receive electricity from their home energy provider. ECOtality is currently selling a unit for the home that costs about $1,200. Cost of the actual electricity use varies by region and the pricing set up by the local electricity provider.
In October 2007 the Mayor of San Jose (Mr. Chuck Reed) introduced San Jose's Green Vision, which sets 10 goals for environmental protection and economic development. This 15-year plan proposes: creating 25,000 Clean Tech jobs; building or retrofitting 50 million square feet of green buildings; installing 100,000 solar roofs (1/10 of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1 million solar roofs for California initiative); reducing per capita electricity use by half; becoming a zero waste city; recycling and reusing 100 percent of the city's water; and moving to 100 percent renewable energy. One of the major components of the Green Visions is the development of a “Green Mobility” program. As a result, San Jose has embraced the use of EV technologies for transportation and is in the process of installing several charging stations.
Source: City of San Jose.
Some of the prominent “green-focused” companies in Austin, Texas such as the headquarters of Whole Foods have already started installation of Coulomb Technologies charging stations for their customers at their branch locations. Other large US retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and other big retail outlets also plan to install charging stations for their customers in order to meet the demand of the new and evolving EV market.
The future of the EV market in the US looks bright with lots of new opportunity for investment and development of new products and services. The $37 million ChargePoint America program is made possible by a $15M grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy. The infrastructure for the EV market charging stations is directly related to government federal and state-level funding and investment in green technologies and this has led to the creation of new jobs while reducing harmful emissions and global warming.
Sources of this article include:
US Department of Energy
Interviews with Coulomb Technology executives and ChargePoint America Staff
Interviews with Ms. Helda Rodriguez, NovaCharge, LLC.
City of San Jose, California
City of Austin, Texas
Electronic Drive Transportation Association
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