EDTA Panel Discusses Charging Solutions

By · June 27, 2013

Nissan Fast Charger

The Nissan LEAF has sold more than 28,000 units in the United States since its launch here, and the pace of sales is accelerating. Expanded charging infrastructure has played a “huge role” in that growth, said Brendan Jones, director, electric vehicle infrastructure strategy for Nissan North America.

Jones was one of a three-member panel that also included Karen Glitman, director of transportation efficiency for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp., and Kevin Mull, vice president of business development, EV solution for Bosch Automotive Service Solutions. They answered media question through an online press conference sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

The takeaway? There are more chargers to choose from than models of plug-in electric vehicles right now, and no one has yet found a way to monetize public charging. For now, it will mostly remain free.

Nissan focuses on three areas in expanding infrastructure, said Jones: Home, public, and workplace charging. The majority of owners still charge at home with a Level 2, 240V charger. That fact makes aggressive expansion of public charging seem unnecessary, he said. But, in areas such as San Francisco where PEV ownership is high there is not enough public charging infrastructure, said Jones.

“Nissan needs to help alleviate that,” he said. The automaker has 263 DC fast chargers in the ground right now, mainly in areas where LEAF sales are high; it aims for 600 by March 31, the end of Nissan’s fiscal year, said Jones. Most of these installations will be DC fast chargers, but Nissan will use Level 2 charging “where it makes sense,” he said.

Nissan also has a workplace charging business-to-business team working with corporations to make sure their infrastructure is right for charging stations and finding partners for them to work with. It also educates companies about EVs in general, and Nissan is seeing sales take off in markets that last year weren’t strong such as Atlanta and St. Louis, said Jones.

Who Pays for the Juice?

Now that federal funding for installation of public charging has mostly ended, private funds are paying for most of the installation, he said. But who pays for the electricity that is used to recharge the cars? Individual host sites are prevented by law from selling electricity. Several business models are possible, suggested Jones. He didn’t elaborate, however.

Karen Glitman, director of transportation efficiency for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp., said that payment for the electricity varies on a case-by-case basis in Vermont. Glitman’s organization manages the Drive Electric Vermont program, which last week announced the formation of a green corridor between Burlington, VT and Quebec, Canada. The 138-mile corridor, which is under construction, will have 19 active stations. It is the first of several border crossing green corridors planned, said Glitman. “Travel is not constrained by political boundaries,” she said.

Private funds and utilities paid for most of the stations on the green corridor, said Glitman. As for who will pay for the electricity, many of the charging points are at retailers and there is a business case for having free charging at a store, she said. Studies show that EV drivers spend 300 percent more time in a store and are twice as likely to return, said Glitman, so the retailers themselves will likely be happy to foot the electricity bill.

Where utilities are paying for the electricity, a charge will likely be added in the future, she said. “The sense is this is a temporary condition with these network system and eventually a charge will be assessed.”

Bosch is focused on providing Level 2 residential charging because analysis shows that up to 80 percent charging today takes place at home, said Kevin Mull, vice president of business development, EV Solutions, for Bosch Automotive Service Solutions. Bosch recently introduced the $449 Power Max home charging unit, and has also partnered with Evatran Group Inc. to provide wireless home charging.

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