EV Charging Market Growing More Complex

By · August 04, 2010

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New players, more shapes and sizes, and ever-changing business models—the market for EV charging supply equipment (EVSE) is remarkably complex for an industry that is still in its infancy.

At last week's Plug-in 2010 conference in San Jose, ten companies displayed EV charging equipment of various shapes and sizes. The announcements made during the four-day event included new partnerships, new products aimed at consumers, and the arrival of new players.

Each EVSE manufacturer has a slightly different spin on their revenue mix, including what percentage of money will come from consumer subscriptions, single transaction sales, marketing services, or services aimed at charging equipment operators and utilities. Some companies' business models have changed several times during their brief histories, a familiar theme in the post-Internet era of fluid product strategy.

The Major Players

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Coulomb Technologies, an early EVSE player, is now de-emphasizing hardware manufacturing and has opened up its ChargePoint Network to competitors Siemens, Leviton, and Aker Wade. The company is focusing on deriving revenue from managing charging equipment through its network.

Eaton Corporation, an $11.9 billion company that manufactures stationary and transportation power equipment, recently entered the EVSE market and is focusing on providing equipment and software tools that enable fleets and other companies to customize EV charging based on their individual applications or communications equipment needs. Eaton has teamed with grid infrastructure services company GridPoint, so that data from its EVSEs can be aggregated.

Ecotality, which is managing $115 million in DOE funds to set up charging networks in 16 cities, finally unveiled its residential and commercial charging equipment. By looking at the design of the "Blink" charging stations, you can see that the company is going after the consumer market aggressively, as contrasted with some competitors that are going with a more industrial look. President Don Karner made it clear that the company believes it can derive revenue from consumer services beyond EV charging when he boldly told me that the "Blink will be to EV charging what the iPhone is to mobile phones"—a platform for delivering applications and services.

The Outliers and Up-and-Comers

Better Place, a Palo Alto company that has been contracted to provide EV charging and battery swap services in Israel and Denmark, doesn't manufacturer hardware and is the only company in this market that is not backing fast DC charging of EVs. Better Place is expanding beyond consumer services and developing services for predicting and managing energy loads for utilities.

Also presenting EVSE at Plug-In 2010 were Leviton, BTCPower, Aerovironment (which has partnered with Nissan to provide charging equipment for the upcoming LEAF), Liberty PlugIns, and startup Plugless Power, which as its name implies is developing inductive charging equipment.

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Growth and Change Lie Ahead

There are a few dozen other companies developing EVSE, and while Pike Research expects the market to grow to a $372 million in the U.S. in 2015, not all of these companies will be around as independent entities at that time. Revenue from consumer and utility services will slowly ramp up relative to the cost of the equipment being installed. New successful business models will emerge, but the next few years will be "sausage making time" when the market gets very messy before something useful comes out the other end.

New to EVs? Start here

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