350Green Acquisition Shows Path of Public EV Charging Industry

By · July 18, 2012

350Green Public Charger

CarCharging Group announced yesterday it has plans to acquire 350Green LLC, a rival public charge provider with roughly 600 stations spread across 20 markets. Together the networks would combine to create the largest public charging network in the United States, with more than 1,000 total stations encompassing most major domestic plug-in vehicle markets.

The two companies have found their greatest success in forming private partnerships with properties ranging from malls, to apartment complexes, to pharmacies. Both companies have agreements with Walgreen's to provide charging for of the drug and retail chain, which announced plans last year to install public stations at 800 of its locations nationwide.

"This partnership will be highly advantageous to the EV charging industry and will contribute significantly to the overall growth of the market," said 350Green CEO Mariana Gerzanych, in a prepared statement.

Slow to Take Off

Prior to yesterday's acquisition, the public charge network market was crowded by a list of players including 350Green, Car Charging Group, Ecotality, NRG Energy, Coulomb Technologies, and Better Place. These six main providers employ a variety of revenue models, including pay-per-minute, subscription, and free charging (offered as a form of promotion for local businesses).

In most cases, plug-in drivers are offered the option to pay on the basis of how long they remain connected to the charger, costing as much as several dollars per hour. But since most electric vehicle owners do the vast majority of their charging at home, the cost proposition of using a public charging station can be discouraging, particularly for drivers who rarely test the lower end of their cars' battery capacities. In some cases, the cost of charging at a public station can be as much as 10 times higher than charging at home during off-peak utility hours―making an EV more expensive to drive than many fuel-efficient gas cars.

The two publicly-traded companies in the market, CarCharging and Ecotality, have both seen their stock fall precipitously since debuting in 2010. Ecotality has fallen from a price of more than $6.00 per share to a low of less than $0.50 this week, while CarCharging has fallen from a high of $7.00 to its current price of $1.30 per share―and there's little evidence to suggest that the rest of the industry is doing all that much better.

The Case for Consolidation

If there is a promising path ahead for the for-profit public charge industry, it may come after a series of mergers and acquisitions like yesterday's. A lack of uniform charging rules and fee systems can be a deterrent to drivers who already see public charging as useful, but not entirely necessary to the daily use of their vehicles.

At this stage, many EV owners have to navigate multiple charging networks, each with its own membership plans, rates and RFID cards. Lack of standards and interoperability can create obstacles for EV drivers. As one example, a recent Ecotality study posited that the lack of standard public charging station signage deters usage. The equipment employed by the various charging networks can vary. Last week's report that GE's Wattstation chargers can do damage to Nissan LEAFs led to calls for a more standardized charging experience in general, and could hurt some drivers' confidence in plugging in anywhere but the familiar confines of their garages.

Strength in Numbers

The silver lining for the public charging industry is that despite somewhat disappointing sales so far this year, the plug-in vehicle market is almost certain to grow for the foreseeable future. That growth will bring a slow and steady stream of new drivers—an expanding market of customers wanting more and better public charging opportunities. These circumstances may require a shift, from a relatively large field of struggling companies trying to find a workable business model, to a shorter list of companies who have the scale and resources to make it easy and cheap for EV drivers to charge in public.

Comments

· James Bean (not verified) · 2 years ago

I'm really surprised that some one hasn't combined the parking meter and the charging station. Municipalities would probably jump on that!

· Spec (not verified) · 2 years ago

How do these charging companies make money? I would suspect a lot of the stimulus money has dried up. And state & local governments don't have extra money to throw around. And they can't be making much money on the very few EVs out there.

I just don't understand the business model.

· · 2 years ago

@Spec,

It has yet to be seen if they will make money. Here in Syracuse, all public charging is $2.40/hr. With my 3.3kW charger, I might as well be filling my Insight with $10/gallon gas. I won't be paying that much unless I have no other choice. IMHO, L2 charging is better left to those who want to make it FREE in order to attract customers. L3 charging, on the other hand, is a different story. I would be willing to spend this much extra for the convenience on a longer trip.

· · 2 years ago

I agree with Brian. I would choose a shopping center or restaurant that had free charging over a place that does not have free charging. I would not pay the equivalent of $10/gallon and be stuck at wallgreens for several hours if I can just continue to drive on $3.50/gallon gas in my Volt.

· · 2 years ago

I don't see the usefulness of a level 2 charger on the road and they said that level 3 (fast charging) hurt the battery.

· · 2 years ago

@gorr,
You're right that level 2 charging below about 16 kW is hardly worth the effort on road trips, however, there is no evidence that Level 3 actually hurts any of today's batteries. I have a friend who level 3 charged 2 to 3 times per week for about 6 months and there is no sign of degradation to her battery. If you only level 3 charge occasionally when doing long trips, it will probably be barely noticeable..

· Robert Dion (not verified) · 2 years ago

At least and at last, they will start paying what they owe so long to their employees.
I think that it's good combination, and hope that with these circumstances they will have the decency to pay their debts.

· · 2 years ago

@gorr,
The usefulness of public L2 charging is not so much "on the road", as "at your destination". If you are parked in a mall parking lot for a few hours while you eat/shop/catch a movie/etc, you can pick up a few miles which makes a difference. If you're "on the road" and in the middle of driving to a destination, I agree - stopping for L2 charging makes zero sense. I hope noone ever plans on that (although I would rather do that than have a tow truck escort me home).

· 1st Place (not verified) · 1 year ago

Dont do anything with this company....They dont pay there bills!
They are scammers!

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