PlugShare Reveals Status of EV Charging, Via Charts

By · April 27, 2015

Station Installations by State, 2015-Q1

Station Installations by State, 2015-Q1. Levels 2 and 3, all types of connectors. (Source: PlugShare Quarterly)

PlugShare, the leading provider of information about public electric car charging stations, today announced that it will make detailed data about EV infrastructure available on a quarterly basis. The fee-based service, called PlugShare Quarterly, will deliver the data in the form of a gallery of 16 charts and graphs. The first set of three teaser images already indicates a number of important trends in public electric car charging.

A heat-map, “Station Installations by State - 2015-Q1,” reveals that some states where EVs are popular might have plateaued on public charging stations. Oregon jumps out from the map with only 24 new charging station installations during the first three months of 2015. We need to see data for another quarter or two, but it appears that Oregon, historically one of the most gung-ho for EV infrastructure, could be slowing down.

It’s not surprising that California installations in Q1 2015 were much higher with 436, as EV adoption there continues to rapidly expand. With Oregon, we could be seeing the first signs that the early period of rapid growth for public Level 2 chargers is starting to flatten—with the shift in focus moving towards workplace, multi-family and DC quick chargers. At the same time, the fact that Massachusetts ranks fifth for new stations, with 50 locations, shows that other states that have lagged behind on public charging have started to ramp up.

DCFC YoY Installations by Standard, 2015-Q1

DCFC YoY Installations by Standard, 2015-Q1. (Source: PlugShare Quarterly)

The PlugShare Quarterly graph for “DCFC YoY Installations by Standard, 2015-Q1” is even more revealing. DCFC stands for DC fast charging, the means by which EV drivers can use 500-volt stations to replenish 50 to 100 miles of driving range in about 30 minutes. It turns out that Tesla, a private company with a closed proprietary network of chargers, is growing faster than all other DC fast charging protocols combined. Tesla’s Supercharger network, standing now at about 1,135 stations compared to only about 500 a year ago, has surpassed CHAdeMo, which grew from almost 730 stations to about 1,100 in the past year. Meanwhile, the controversial SAE Combo Cord, which was trumpeted as a major innovation, is moving at the slowest pace. The number of compatible fast chargers using that protocol, primarily for German and American electric cars, is below 200.

Free vs Paid Locations

Free vs Paid Public Electric Car Charging Locations. (Source: PlugShare Quarterly)

The third teaser chart from the PlugShare Quarterly reveals that most public EV charging stations are still free. More than 63 percent of stations—even nearly five years after the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt hit the market—do not require payment. This calls into question, once again, the tenuous business model for public charging. Nearly all EV charging occurs at home where electricity is cheap and the plug is convenient. Therefore, there is a major disincentive to charge an electric car in public when a fee payment is required.

Most charging stations are not networked, and therefore by default are free. A communications channel is required in order to activate a membership card or credit card transaction. For stations that are restricted to specific users, for example employees at a business or customers at a dealership, more than three out of four stations are free.

Some will argue that free stations are the key to growth, while others insist that robust EV charging opportunities will come about only if there’s a profit to be made—a difficult proposition considering the low cost of electricity. Due to the economics, and the number of non-networked stations, the solution at many locations for now is simply not to require any payment.

These are my interpretations of the data, not analysis provided by PlugShare. And that is the point of the PlugShare Quarterly service: for charging networks, automakers, cities and other stakeholders to draw their own conclusions from the most extensive set of data about EV charging.

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