CarCharging Group: With the Blink Acquisition, We're the Biggest
We’ve reported that the CarCharging Group has taken the prize, buying ECOtality’s Blink Network out of bankruptcy for $3.335 million (topping Tellus Power's $3 million bid). But now we’ve talked to Michael Farkas, the company’s Miami-based CEO, about why he made that acquisition—and how he sees the charging market shaping up in the near term.
Farkas says he got a great deal. Asked if his company, which also recently acquired Chicago’s 350Green, Beam Charging and EVPass, is expanding too quickly, he had a fast answer. “When we pay a penny and a half on the dollar for ECOtality’s charging assets, we’re expanding too slowly.”
No, Trade Blink for ChargePoint
Responding to a ChargePoint offer of up to $2,200 in trade-in credits to defectors from Blink, Farkas offered a similar swap for dissatisfied owners of ChargePoint units. “It would blow your mind, all the issues with ChargePoint,” he said.
Of course, Blink chargers have their issues, too, including the fire experienced by Brad Berman of PlugInCars.com, connectivity problems and some overheating cords, but Farkas said they will be dealt with promptly by his team. He said only a couple cases of fire have been confirmed, with a third unconfirmed.
The Biggest Player?
CarCharging Group is now the dominant player in the U.S. market, Farkas said. He counts 13,500 stations in his network, located all over the country. “If you include some chargers we own that are on the ChargePoint network, then we’re bigger than ChargePoint,” he said, adding that the company is also dominant in 480-volt fast charging, with 100 installed (and up to 300 planned). “There are only a couple hundred out there at this point,” he said.
ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano responded, "We’re the largest non-residential car charging network out there. CarCharging Group is a customer of ours, and we all want the market to succeed at the end of the day."
Farkas was also candid about the company’s bottom line. He said profitability isn’t likely until the end of 2014, or maybe in 2015. The stock was trading at $1.27 at presstime.
$2.50 an Hour, or 49 Cents per kWh
Farkas also cited current pricing, which varies somewhat due to the cost of electricity locally. In states that don’t allow charging by the kilowatt hour (still the vast majority) CarCharging wants $2.49 to $2.99 an hour. In the dozen or so states that do allow it, the rate is 49 cents per kilowatt hour.
“It’s ridiculous that we can’t charge by the kilowatt hour everywhere, when the Nissan LEAF charges at 3.3 kilowatts and the Telsa Model S at 7.2,” Farkas said.
The company sees expansion at drug store locations as a great way forward. "CVS and Walgreens are some of the best places to put chargers," he said. "Everybody stops there." CarCharging has 400 Walgreens chargers, in part through its 350Green acquisition. "We're doing another 400," Farkas said.
Finally, Farkas said that Blink will become an open network, available to any and all hardware providers that want to use it as their back-office system. “We 100 percent support open networks, and we’re agnostic as to hardware providers,” he said. “Blink will be open to any user.”
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