Cars

Published on June 15th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan

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What’s The Story With EV Superfast Charging?

June 15th, 2016 by  

One of the top things I criticize conventional automakers about is EV fast charging — or lack thereof. Well, since automakers and charging companies have adopted the term “fast charging” for rather slow 50 kW charging, what I technically push is “superfast charging” (I know, it’s a great “technical” term. To match it up with industry terminology a bit more, I’ve also termed it Level 4 charging.”) If this is all a bit new to you, here’s a brief summary of the key points as they stand today:

  • The fastest non-Tesla EV fast-charging stations out there can charge a ~200-mile electric car like the Chevy Bolt (if it has the capability) from 0–80% in approximately 1 hour, or 30–80% in approximately 35 minutes.
  • Driving for a couple of hours, and then charging for an hour, and then driving for a couple of hours, and then charging for an hour, just isn’t a convenient way to take a road trip. The story is probably even less convenient if you are stopping at shorter intervals to charge due to charging stations not being widespread enough to be placed exactly where you want them.
  • Tesla Superchargers are up to 120 kW in output capacity, and can thus charge a Tesla approximately twice as fast as the fast chargers noted above.
Tesla Supercharging

Tesla Supercharging stations expected by end of 2016.

Exciting as it may be, turning a 6-hour road trip into an 18-hour road trip isn’t likely to win over many people in the mainstream car market.

Faster CHAdeMO & CCS Charging Standards Compete With Tesla Supercharging

We’ve gotten word in the past year that the two open fast-charging standards (CCS and CHAdeMO) have increased their max rates to 150 kW, CHAdeMO doing so as recently as this past month. However, as far as I know, there isn’t a single superfast-charging station out there as part of a network drivers can use (presuming their cars are even equipped to make use of it), and there are no public announcements of companies planning broad superfast-charging networks. So, I contacted our good friends at Fastned, a charging network leader based in the Netherlands, to see if they had any knowledge on the matter that they could share.

The helpful spokeswoman for the company directed me to this recent article on the Fastned blog, which has a number of interesting tidbits in it, and is a great summary on EV fast charging in general.


 

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that there’s unlikely to be much movement on superfast charging until automakers have cars on the market that can make use of it, and such cars are in the works. Today, the Kia Soul EV is the only non-Tesla electric car that has a charging capacity up to 100 kW (the max is typically 50 kW), but the fully electric Hyundai Ioniq is supposed to have the same, and Volkswagen Group (including Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche) has made announcements that make it clear future electric models should have capability up to or even above 150 kW (the Audi Q6 e-tron planned for 2018 and the Porsche Mission E planned for ~2020, for example). Yes, Volkswagen is particularly popular on vaporware forums, but the plans seem legit, so let’s not be too cynical. Still, these cars are years away, and there’s no strong sign that the automaker is aiming to bring about a genuinely satisfactory superfast-charging network.

Oh yeah, something I don’t recall seeing previously is that the next-generation Nissan LEAF might be able to use 150 kW CHAdeMO superfast charging, but Fastned mentions this in the blog as well. Nissan has been heavily involved in rolling out a somewhat decent (depends who you ask) fast-charging network in the US and Japan, and one would presume that it would work hard to upgrade these stations to provide up to 150 kW.

… But Who Will Build The Superfast-Charging Networks?

Even if Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, etc., are planning long-range electric cars with superfast-charging capability, I’m quite skeptical that the automakers will work to develop a widespread, well-planned network that matches the Tesla Supercharger network. In the past, I’ve pushed automakers to simply partner with Tesla (Tesla has welcomed the option with open arms), but there’s no sign they want to cede the victory to Tesla on this matter, even if it means offering their customers less-than-adequate products. Of course, as I wrote the other day, these automakers actually want the transition to electric cars to happen slowly, so this comes as no big surprise.

electric-project-tent-t-fastned-knorrestein-nl-full Fastned Charging Station

Fastned and the free market to the rescue? The remaining option is that outside companies will build the convenient, superfast charging networks customers desire. This is a daunting task, as capital expenditures for these high-power charging stations are not at all small, and siting + permitting are also huge challenges. I know many people think that there isn’t a strong financial business case for such an effort. However, Fastned is in this game for the long haul, and it is doing great work to help enable our electric future. From the blog:

“Many Fastned stations are already prepared for 150 kW chargers. We have grid connections that support charging four cars simultaneously at 150 kW. Our other stations can easily be upgraded with a larger grid connection as well. More capacity can be added in the future by introducing on-site battery buffering and/or by further increasing the capacity of the grid connections. The layout of our stations is already designed for maximum throughput of cars.”

Of course, timing is key here. As I said, these are huge investments. You don’t want to put the cash forward 3 years before it’s useful. Also, you need the actual chargers to be available (I’m sure companies like ABB are working on this, but I have no idea how far they are from having a product on the market). On these matters, Fastned adds:

“We expect to install the first 150 kW chargers at Fastned stations in 2017, depending on introductions of cars with 150 kW capability by the car makers and the availability of these high powered chargers.”

So, there’s Fastned, which is based in the Netherlands and expanding into Germany and maybe other countries in Western Europe. But what about the USA? What I’ve heard so far on the matter is … crickets singing.

The fast-charging networks for non-Tesla cars are already criticized quite a lot for the charging stations not being placed in the most convenient locations for long-distance travel (like, on dealership lots far off of the Interstate that are locked up at night) and for pretty bad reliability, meaning that you can’t be that sure a charging station you go to use will actually be in service. Do I have a lot of confidence that superfast-charging stations from the existing networks will be placed in better locations and more reliable? Well, not really.

I would call on automakers to step it up and try to build something akin to the Tesla Supercharger network, but I just don’t see them doing that. I would push the companies behind current charging-station networks to step it up, but I honestly think they are just walking too much of a financial tightrope right now to be able to do much here. I would push Fastned to bring its model to the US, and have done so, but know that’s not an easy solution either, especially financially. We aren’t left with many other options, though, so I will do all of these things, I hope you will do so as well, and I also plan to launch a push for one more potential option already touched on above (but, admittedly, just about as unlikely as any of these solutions). Do you have any other ideas?

Any critical dots I’m forgetting to connect?

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.



  • kallen

    So maybe this is the place to discuss a question I’ve had about the Bolt’s charging ability. As I understand it, the Bolt could not be fast-charged at (150kw) even if GM it to because the car can’t accept that rate of charge BUT does anyone know if that is a battery limitation or on-board charge controller limitation? Its a crucial question as the battery is unlikely to be retrofitted until after it wears out but the on-board controller might just lend itself to an upgrade.

  • dogphlap dogphlap

    Here’s a thought.
    If charging for SuperCharger use were done on a per use basis most people would probably just pay for the occasional long trip i.e. Christmas and Thanks Giving which would not be sustainable since the sites still need to be maintained for the full 365 days a year and there would be insufficient money to expand the network at the same rate that Teslas are sold.
    Enter surge pricing as pioneered by Uber.
    Horrible idea, I much prefer a one off or annual charge and restrictions for local use maybe with an option for local use being available for those who have no off street parking/power point but at an additional cost.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think the smart solution would be to build in the cost of the supercharger system into the price of every car. I’m guessing the cost is about $200/EV.

      Then include enough free uses to cover most driver’s ordinary long drive needs. Ten uses per year? Figure out what most people really need, it won’t be that high. Add in a few more dollars that would be required to buy a large enough share in a wind or solar farm to produce the electricity.

      And then make annual “unlimited use” packages available. Run a taxi or delivery service? Have no place to charge where you park. Pay some fixed amount for 50, 365, 730, whatever charges per year.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    “The fastest non-Tesla EV fast-charging stations out there can charge a ~200-mile electric car like the Chevy Bolt (if it has the capability) from 0–80% in approximately 1 hour,”

    “Tesla Superchargers are up to 120 kW in output capacity, and can thus charge a Tesla approximately twice as fast as the fast chargers noted above.”

    Tesla takes 53 minutes to charge from 0 to 80% according to the owners. Only seven minutes quicker. Assuming you don’t have another Tesla in the stall next to you in which case the time is much slower. And at 80% you are only getting 180 to 230 miles of range. About the same 200 miles of the Bolt. (If the Bolts advertising is at all honest which I fully expect it not to be.)

    So Tesla real metrics are the same as the Bolts advertised, but probably false, metrics. Which make the conclusion “Exciting as it may be, turning a 6-hour road trip into an 18-hour road trip isn’t likely to win over many people in the mainstream car market.” equally true for both the Bolt and the Tesla. Not something you probably meant to say!

    Empirical numbers for the Tesla are gotten here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19khEGozqREIoAN6hd440o4qrzS2ADMVokv8G5FWmWSk/edit#gid=0

    The real difference in my mind is with the Tesla you can drive comfortably. With the others you are driving impoverished.

  • Andy

    In the UK every motorway service area has a CHAdeMO charging station for electric vehicles, which I always use on longer journeys, and takes 20 minutes to give me an 80% charge. This is provided by a social enterprise, Ecotricity”, who also provide 100% renewable electricity and gas for the home. They spend 65% of their income on building new renewable plant, and expanding the charging station network. You cannot rely on profit orientated enterprises to do things for the social good.

    One problem with superfast charging is that it shortens the life of your battery, especially if the battery is down to 20% or less before you charge. The more battery, and driver friendly solution is to provide induction charging built into the main highways, so that the battery is being recharged as you drive, without having to stop.

  • Steve

    Tesla just needs ton push the Tesla owner’s demographics to get the locations they want. Having affluent buyers at your business, or near your business, is as good as it gets. If I owned a strip mall in Las Vegas for example, I could increase my lease rates by having these affluent Tesla owners in my parking lot charging their cars.
    For example, if I wanted to open a Thai restaurant, I would have a “captured” consumer/customer waiting for his/her car to be charged. No way would I be sitting in my car while it’s charging when I could be feasting on some good food.
    Tesla could be pushing some ads over that console of theirs to generate more revenue using the GPS and targeting destination lodging and dining.

    If they could capture the data for their advertisement campaign, that would be huge. If you could use your console to order your food from a targeted ad campaign before your get there, that would be huge revenue stream for Tesla.

    All the gibberish I posted is my effort to justifying an investment by Tesla for an even more robust charging network.

  • The best way the US can stimulate the transition to EVs is to announce that it will be adding free 50/150 KW chargers at rest stations across the country and that it will be installing solar panels (or wind turbines) in spaces around those rest stations to help generate the electricity that they will use. I suspect this will be much more effective than giving $7500 in federal tax rebates. Every person driving on the highway will see those chargers and think, “Wow, I can travel for free if I buy an EV!” The advertising for EVs would be tremendous and jump start the market. There is an ongoing cost, just like the cost of maintaining the bathrooms and mowing the lawns at rest stations, but if the solar panels are generating most of the energy, then it is probably less than we expect. It is a pittance compared to the public cost of maintaining the highway, but we could appease the Republicans by promising that the charging stations will start charging after 5 years, but the price will be set low to cover the ongoing maintenance costs. Also the US government could use this as a way to force all the auto companies to settle on 1 standard for 150 kW plugs, so we don’t have CCS/Chademo/Tesla incompatible standards.

    It is a neat idea, but of course, it won’t happen, because it takes vision and commitment from the top. If Bernie Sanders were the next president, we would have a chance of getting bold policy on energy and the environment, but Clinton and Trump have absolutely no vision and the US congress is hopelessly stymied. Maybe a progressive block of US senators such as Sanders, Merkeley, Whitehouse, Warren and Brown could get an initiative started, but I doubt we are going to see anything bold from a Clinton presidency, since she has shown how tied she is to the fossil fuel interests.

  • Hugo Hvidsten

    First of all; thanks to Zach for a great article.

    I’m convinced that most future QC locations will be at what we today call gas stations, and here’s some background for those thoughts:

    If we look at Norway, with the world’s highest BEV penetration, we see that the two biggest gas station oerators are ST1 and Cirkle-K.

    ST1 is a Finnish energy company that owns wind farms, biofuel plants and oil refineries. ST1 has bought gas stations from SHELL in Sweden and Finland and some from Statoil in Norway, and now they are taking over all remaining SHELL gas stations in Norway.

    Cirkle-K is a brand owned by the Couche-Tard, who operates more than 16000 convenience stores world wide. Statoil gas stations in Europe are currently being rebranded to Circle-K after Couche-Tard took over the convenience stores at these stations a while back.

    Now to the interesting part: Many of the QC installations in Scandinavia are already being installed at ST1/Shell locations and at Cirkle-K/Statoil locations.

    So it seems like some of the biggest gas station operators have currently startet to use Scandinavia as a test bed for QC installations, and hopefully they will learn that this is the way to go 🙂

    From 50kW to 150kW chargers is just a natural evolution; and the Chademo and CCS plugs are the same for the new faster standards as we already use for 50 kW. No EVs (not even Tesla) can charge at full power over long periods of time, and I’m sure that ABB, EFACEC and the other manufacturers are already working on load-balancing chargers like Tesla already have. Then the power requirements for a 150 kW installation wouldn’t be that much higher than for a current 50kW charging site with 2 or 3 chargers.

    Picture shows a typical gas station QC installation in Norway, with two 50kW DC chargers and two 22 kW AC charging points.

    • newnodm

      I always assumed Circle-K referenced a cattle brand and ranch. Is the the same company that originated in Texas?

  • Brunel

    I think you are mixing up capacity with rate/speed.

    85kWh is capacity. 150kW is the (theoretical maximum) rate.

  • Alharbi

    I was about to participate in FastNed’s shares offering a couple of months ago. The pricing of shares did not match my calculation of the present value of future cash flow. I used a high discount rate to reflect the risk involved.
    However, I truly wish them good luck.

  • JamesWimberley

    It may be relevant that the most common model for roadside services on European limited-access highways is the service area on the road, not off it near an exit. On paying turnpikes (almost all the French and Italian networks and a good part of the Spanish), it’s a technical necessity; but it’s also the rule on free German autobahns and British motorways. The service areas are concessions, on terms set by the state or the holder of the highway concession, always closely regulated by the state. This means that governments basically control the rollout of fast charging networks on the backbone highways. Germany will get a superfast charging network very soon, designed to suit German carmakers not Tesla.

  • Mike Gordon

    We should also give consideration to installing chargers at highway rest areas in the US, either through a government program or a private/public partnership where private companies own and maintain the infrastructure and sell charging services to travelers.

  • JanVyt

    A possible business model could be the following one: car manufacturers have contracts with charging network provider specifying that (a certain number of level 4 charges) are installed on corridor locations. In turn car manufacturer is charged for the use of the Level 4 chargers by their cars, and the use of these facilities is free to car users, that pay for this service in the surgarge of the vehicle’s car. The use of this level 4 service could be limited to e.g 7 years, or as now for Teslas to vehicles lifetime.

    So basically you have the Tesla model in relation to the car owner, but a setting up of Level 4 infrastructure outsourced to charging network providers.

    Even Tesla could outsource setting up new supercharges.

    For this model a high level of standardization (charging protocols, connectors, payments, etc) are highly standardized (or at least simplified), much more than now is the case.

  • Anthony C

    The only obvious solution is Ford linking up with Tesla. They announced like 6 billion going to electric cars in next couple years, so take 1 of those billion and put that in to doubling supercharger network, and save money by using Tesla’s tech for charging. The big auto-makers strength is bringing pieces together, so make a Tesla charger one of them since they’re ahead of the game, and then use the other 5 billion on retooling a factory to total EV production, and wow the market by coming out with a car and an SUV in late 2017 or 2018 with access to the supercharger network and both around 250 miles a charge. That will be the true tipping point for EVs.

    • I don’t think you understand the technical problems of using the Tesla superchargers. It means that you have to totally redesign your batteries so they can handle that kind of voltage and have very sophisticated charging, monitoring and cooling system. The logic boards and the liquid cooling system on Tesla batteries are expensive. I’m not sure if a pouch/prismatic battery can be as effectively cooled like the cylindrical batteries that Tesla uses, since they are so much bigger with less space around each battery. You can’t just dump 135kW of charge into a battery without a lot of monitoring and cooling to control it.

      Aside from the technical problems, there is also the issue of marketing. Ford will never accept having its drivers enter a charging station with under the title of “Tesla”. Even if “Ford” is added under “Tesla”, it will be humiliating for Ford. It will take them years to negotiate that a neutral name be used like “ChargeNet” and neither company will be happy to loosing the marketing advantage.

      Tesla might be willing to do it, because the goal is to accelerate the transition to EVs. Frankly, I think that Tesla should do exactly that. It should announce that all its supercharger stations will have the name “ChargeNet” and publicly invite every automaker to join in a new charging network coalition. Tesla either needs to convince big automakers to use its plug standard or it needs to join in one of the plug standards, because it can’t go it alone in the long term. Telsa just joined the CCS group, so if it starts making its cars compatible with the new CCS 150 kW plug, it might be able to convince a large number of automakers to join in a CCS 150 kW charging station network.

  • Freddy D

    Are there technical and / or convenience advantages to one over another? The existing fast charger plugs are huge and unwieldy, for example. I can’t imagine how huge and heavy a 150kw plug might be.

    Government may have a big role to play as well to jump start a market when it’s in the public interest, particularly for lower priority sites. Government can do many things besides direct funding, such as zoning, performance requirements, quotas, etc.

    It’s hard to imagine a tesla-style model penciling out for any other automaker when there’s no proprietary advantage.

    • newnodm

      Plug size is one reason Tesla introduced active cooling into the supercharger line. It’s also a reason that the voltage will probably go up to 800v to keep the amps the same when doubling the watts on future chargers.

      Although I don’t know if 800v can be made sufficiently safe for public charging.

  • RobertM

    Your article points out the current chicken and egg problem we have. You need cars able to support the higher standard that will come in few years. I will be disappointed if the Bolt 2017 doesn’t but I expect the 2018 or 2019 will. Once you have cars that support the standard you need manf making the hardware. Once the hardware is out there then stations will need to start to install the hardware.

    My personal belief is that in a year or two after the hardware is out there the cost difference between 50kw and 150kw on the hardware side will be small enough new stations will just naturally be 150kw assuming the power companies don’t make installation cost between the 50kw and 150kw installs a huge price difference as well.

  • omar

    early days was debat on the effect of fast charging on battery lifetime, is that debat closed ?
    i suggest you organize days continus days or campaign of sansibilisation to make some noise and pressure on car campanies to remember their comitment about electric transportations

  • Scandium21

    I would agree with phineasjw. The automakers did not build their own gas station network. As more electric vehicles reach the streets, the free market will adapt to provide charging. Current gas station/mini marts would be one highly logical spot. A driver would likely spend 20 minutes or so charging, so would be inclined to spend money inside the store on water, coffee, snacks, etc.

    Also, the electric vehicle is a different beast. I do my primary charging at home overnight. I would only use the fast charge network when traveling.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Correct, the auto manufacturers did not build their own gas stations. But think about what the outcome might have been if one car company had built stations all over the country but allowed only their brand to use them.

      Now given a choice between a Smithmobile and a Jonesmobile, all other things being equal except you could drive your Jones from one city to another and find gas along they way, which would you buy?

      This is the position non-Tesla manufacturers are putting themselves in. Tesla may well hold a technology edge for a number more years based on their head start and ability to attract talent. They may hold a price advantage for a while based on battery prices. And you can already drive a Tesla almost everywhere in the US and most of Europe.

      Whatcha gonna buy, bub?

      • Scandium21

        Bob,
        Of course, I would like to own a Tesla. However, I think you miss the point. There is a paradigm change with electric vehicles. I will not drive from one city to another looking for a “corner” charge station when I can charge at home. I would only need a fast charge station when traveling beyond 200 miles. Tesla was practically forced to build their own network to sustain their viability, as there were almost no charging stations available. That is changing rapidly, thanks largely to Tesla. I don’t doubt that hotels, restaurants, mini markets and truck stops will soon support fast charging stations for travelers. Of course, a single standard plug will become a necessity. I see that happening in the next couple of years, as more electric vehicles are on the road and the demand for a standard plug increases, much like the VHS versus Beta formats of yesteryear. BTW, my opinion is Chevrolet may become the market leader with the introduction of the Bolt prior to the Tesla Model 3. With Tesla’s stated goal of moving auto manufacturers away from their dependence on oil, I say, mission accomplished!

        • Bob_Wallace

          The point is, Tesla has a rapid charging system. No other brand has a rapid charging system.

          That gives Tesla a market advantage. I’m not going to buy a 200+ mile range EV w/o rapid charging if I can get one with rapid charging. All other things being equal.

          200 miles would get me to town and back but I need the ability to drive further 2-3 times a year.

    • BillW

      The automakers did not build their own gas stations, but the oil companies, Standard Oil especially, already had existing retail distribution networks for oil used for lighting. Once the refineries were producing gasoline, getting it to car drivers had a very low incremental cost. It was originally sold in small containers at the existing sales points. The infrastructure of filling stations evolved over many years.

      Charging stations, on the other hand, and especially Level 4 charging stations, have a fairly high incremental cost while also having relatively low revenues. It makes sense for the auto makers or the government to subsidize them.

      • Keith Farrell

        Based on your statement, the most logical company to provide charging stations would be the electric companies. If Standard oil already had distribution in the area which created a low incremental cost then wouldn’t the same be true for the power companies? They already have the distribution network. They provide the power to all of the locations listed as options in this chat……rest stops, Starbucks, grocery stores etc. Why not have the power companies partner with an aftermarket charger company like Posicharge? Posi charge makes smart chargers for the motive industry that I work in. These chargers “talk” to smart batteries and adjust. It is a one charger fits all. If you have a Bolt and it can only handle 50KW the charger only gives it 50. If you have a Tesla and it can handle 150 the charger knows to hit it with 150. The chargers are also expandable and can charge multiple voltages of lead acid batteries. Now the chargers can also be used to jump start both 12 and 24 volt vehicles if someone leaves their headlights on. Everyone talks about Tesla as a game changer but no one looks to the Motive industry. We have been using DC and AC electric forklifts since the 70s. We are ahead of the game in some aspects, particularly charging.

  • Guy Hall

    Much of the value of Fast Chargers in the Metro case is as an insurance against running short on power for the day. Not used to fill up, but just add a few miles in 5 minutes to get home or add that last errand needed to be done.

    And interesting story from the beginning of the CHAdeMO roll out in Japan. These numbers are approximate from my memory, so they are not completely accurate but they are close enough that they’ll illustrate the point. The initial results of the use of electric vehicles was that drivers were only driving 25 miles inspite of the 80 mile range. The belief was that the fear of running out held back the driving range. So they rolled out the Fast Chargers and to no one’s surprise the average daily distance doubled. The interesting aspect is that the Fast Chargers were not being used. They were necessary for confidence. Makes for a tough business model.

  • Guy Hall

    Zach,

    Completely agree with your well written article. California government believes that climate is real and must be addressed, and the air pollution needs to be reduced, such that they are funding a substantial highway corridor 50KW DCFC roll out. I agree that these are inadequite for road trips. Howerever, bidders for these projects have to include at each site a stubbed out 125 KW power feed for a second future DCFC.

    Secondly, lots of discussion these days of a revenue neutral carbon fee. I like the Simplicity in placing a simple price on carbon and making it revenue neutral. However, we should consider programs such as California’s cap and trade which provide anew appropriate funding source for infrastructure improvements such as a fast charge Network. Rolling out a network of fast Chargers has an extreme challenge of profitability, similar to the roads themselves that they sit on. The cost to install these may need to be socialized, and cap and trade or funds from a carbon tax are a legitimate to do this.

    • “bidders for these projects have to include at each site a stubbed out 125 KW power feed for a second future DCFC.”
      –Great info! Didn’t know that.

      “Rolling out a network of fast Chargers has an extreme challenge of profitability, similar to the roads themselves that they sit on. The cost to install these may need to be socialized, and cap and trade or funds from a carbon tax are a legitimate to do this.”
      –Agreed. Great points. Thanks for chiming in.

    • Fully agree with most everything here. Only bit I would tweak is that the carbon pricing only makes sense to catalyze the growth of the network until charging and install costs drop and the normal market stabilizes for charging.
      Seems to me that a solar or renewable backed charging network could make a solid business plan in many states/nations.

      • Guy Hall

        Kyle, in most cases I would generally agree with you. The Government Can start or a seed the industry and then step back and let capitalism use its magic. However in this case, there is such a strong societal need for eliminating carbon, and the high negative externalities of oil use, that it is important to continue to accelerate solar, EV adoption, and similar capabilities.

  • phineasjw

    Gas distribution was a much bigger problem. You need delivery. You need storage.. And, the storage tanks need to be buried (EPA approval) and you need a tank for EACH type of gas you supply.

    Keep in mind that Ford and GM didn’t build their own world-wide network of gas stations. So, I disagree that each company should install their own network. Instead, I think Tesla’s network will ultimately become a perk of owning a Tesla (and will be made free for life).

    For charging — I firmly believe the free market will solve this problem. Chargers will be installed by 3rd parties whenever and wherever they’re needed and will charge per-use at whatever both makes a profit and the market supports. They’ll lag behind the delivery of EVs, but by 2018 they should appear in enough numbers to make long-distance travel possible.

    The problem is that there are currently at least two fast-charging standards. One would obviously be better. But even this case of two — it’s still better than stocking FOUR types of gasoline (diesel included) which needs FOUR separate storage tanks, all buried underground.

    So, it’s an easier problem to solve. Even if the highway pitstops need to have two chargers side-by-side. The electrons are still the same from the power company, and they don’t need to be replenished by 18-wheelers filled with explosive liquids.

    • Marion Meads

      knowing how long the life of the electric cars are, the free for life offering of Tesla would be unsustainable,

      • Stephen Pace

        @marionmeads:disqus Unclear, at least at the Tesla S and X level. If Tesla allocates $2k per vehicle, the base sales could pay for the build out and maintenance of the network (at least to break even). If the numbers turn out to be bit low, Tesla could always tweak the number upwards a bit. Longer term if Tesla generates power from panels and pays for the panels out of the base cost, that could lower long term electricity costs, especially if the panels were installed in locations where they would generate a lot (e.g. Nevada, not Seattle). Model 3 is a different story and I expect pay per use / pay per trip options.

        • Anthony C

          As renewable tech gets rolling and panel prices keep going down while tech keeps standardizing, the costs of the station go down at same time the number of $2k per vehicle adds up to higher and higher (as volume of cars sold), then it becomes a balancing act of putting up more stations, maintaining current ones, and upgrading any panels on site with efficiency of having a team cover more stations being added to their maintenance area. So I can see Tesla’s $2k charge being sustainable.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let’s guess out the cost per EV for a supercharger system like Tesla’s. My understanding is that their cost is just under $20,000 per bay. (Six to eight bays per site.)

          My guess is that on the busiest driving day of the year (day after Christmas/Thanksgiving ?) no more than one out of 20 cars are going to take a >200 drive.

          A charging system that can do a 10% to 80% charge in 30 minute should be able to charge five cars over a three hour “lunch time” period. 11am to 2pm.

          So one charger would suffice for 100 EVs. (5% or 5 out of 100 need a charge and they can all fit in during the lunch window).

          $20,000 per bay / 100 EVs = $200 per EV.

          That pays for the bay. Maintenance and electricity extra.

          (Chargers could handle even more. Create incentives for some people to leave early or late in order to need their charge pre-11am or post 2pm.)

          An EV manufacturer who won’t allocate $200 per EV to cover long distance charging (pay per use) would have to be cracker doodles.

          And the charger bay is likely to live longer than the EV that paid for it. The average age for US cars is about 13 years. Put a fresh skin and new cable on the charger from time to time to keep it looking current and it could be good for 20 years or more.

          • You need to include the cost of the land and the paving, which probably doubles the cost of a supercharging station, maybe even triples it in places with expensive real estate.
            But it still makes economic sense to invest in superchargers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tesla gets the land and paving free. Merchants and restaurants allow installation because the charge stations bring in customers.

            I only see that increasing. Look for highway restaurants requesting more supercharger outlets because their competition has a bunch and is getting more business.

          • bwollsch

            I would think that as long-range EVs become more common, people will use them to take road trips for summer vacations, maybe a concert in the next town, a business trip, or just a Sunday drive.

            In this case, I could see where you would need more charging stations. Aren’t Telsa owners already complaining that there aren’t enough stations now, which is why Elon is building more. Add ~375,000 Model 3’s, 30,000 Bolts and other long-range EVs over the next few years and I can see lines to charge.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Just install more. Tesla has that figured out.

      • dRanger

        “…the free charging for life offering of Tesla would be unsustainable.” The Superchargers are part of Tesla’s marketing budget, and all automotive advertising is “free” to the customer so is automotive advertising sustainable? We probably have to think a bit differently about some of Tesla’s strategies.

        • Stephen Pace

          My understanding is that some SuperChargers are part of the marketing budget (the places where few owners live) while others are not. But overall, I agree with the comment–it turns out the SuperCharger network is almost a ‘cost of doing business’ to enable the rare long distance use case that other manufacturers are going to find hard to compete with given that many of them have said they will NOT be building a comparable network (GM for one). That said, all things being equal (cost, features, range)–which car would you buy, one that had a SuperCharger network that you could use when you needed it or one that didn’t? I think Bolt sales will suffer because of that.

      • Mike Gordon

        Here are some back of the napkin calculations.
        Assumptions: 200,000 mile vehicle lifetime, $0.03 / mile
        Total energy cost for life of vehicle: $6000

        If $2000 goes to support supercharging, that’s roughly 66,667 miles of energy. I suspect that the ratio of Supercharged miles / total miles to be less than 25%. Anything less than 66% means a break-even for Tesla on energy cost (but not capital costs or maintenance).

    • I don’t think each company should build their own network. I think it would be ideal if they all pitched in on one. I’m just upset that they aren’t doing much of anything, when they know this is basically one of two technical hurdles.

      • phineasjw

        A couple of things I would say..

        One, fast chargers are only needed on the highway. AC destination chargers can be used locally, outside of restaurants/malls/hotels or other places where people would spend a significant amount of time. These would service travelers as well as car rentals. And, they’re orders of magnitude cheaper to install.

        Two, I think the economics will change regarding superchargers. They’ll both become cheaper to install and the electric companies will likely incentivize their operation by charging lower/consumer electric rates. The more electricity that’s used, the more profit for electric companies — it’s in their benefit to have more chargers.

        Absent that, the 3rd parties will charge whatever they need to operate at a profit. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the first fillups cost $2/minute or $60/half-hour. If that’s your *only* option for a highway-recharge, and you need it, then you’ll pay it. If it can be done cheaper, someone else will install a charger and charge less. etc.

        It’ll take a while to shake out, but I think sometime before 2020 you won’t even worry about driving coast-to-coast with a non-Tesla EV.

        • Mike Gordon

          Agree that fast chargers are needed on the highway, but some are also needed in the cities. If I visit LA with my Tesla, I need a place to charge and I don’t want to spend hours doing it either.

      • bwollsch

        Agreed. Since the car manufacturers won’t do it, can we the EV owner do it? Would it make sense for example to go to Elon and say, we Bolt/i3/Leaf/Kia owners would like access to a supercharger network, but our manufacturer won’t help. Can we pay you $1000/car (or whatever price) to get access to the Tesla network. (yes, we’ll even pay for the adapter cable.)

  • Marion Meads

    A Technical Paper is badly needed to justify the cost of building these supercharging stations is a profitable business. I’m wondering what the break-even point pricing of electricity and convenience fees from these stations are.

    And you’ll get the real reason why it won’t be built unless the government intervenes.

    • Yes, I’m not convinced this is a viable business model either, which is why I think automakers need to take more responsibility here.

      Will see what I can find out on cost.

      • Gert4

        I wonder if the automakers are not fully responsible. Is there any demand for Level 4 charging? Besides Tesla, are there automakers with the necessary battery-pack architecture? For Level 4 charging you need lots of cells who can be charged parallel, otherwise the won’t last long. EV is about battery-technology. As far as I know the new Bolt has only a couple of hundred cells so it can’t be use for fast charging. So why build a level 4 charging infrastructure if there are no cars for using it?

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        • Matt

          Chicken or egg, chicken or egg? And to make matters worse, for 90%+ you don’t need super fast charging. But every one thinks they need to be able to make a unplanned 800 mile trip at the drop of a hat. And you last did that when, what never?, but you still might want to one day.

      • Roger Lambert

        If it is not a viable business model, why would it not be more appropriate to think immediately of the need for government to take more responsibility? This is what we pay our tax dollars for – services.

    • sault

      Selling gas at gas stations isn’t profitable either. It is there to draw customers into the convenience store where they might buy higher-margin items like candy and beer.

      I’d like to see if a company like Starbucks would be interested in getting fast chargers at some of their locations near highways. They might have to sell 5,000 – 10,000 coffee cups to make up the cost, but it might be possible.

      • Are Hansen

        My thoughts too. At present, people have to spend 20 min at a fast charging station. In the future, matebe 15 min, even with the larger batteries. A natural place to take a break in your car trip, stretching the legs, going to the loo, buying food, coffee, ice-cream, children relaxing in a play ground… Charging stations will grow to offer all of this, currently taken by gas stations. They are already mini supermarkets and simply fast food

        • Totally. I have been thinking and talking this exact model for some time now. Seems obvious for the Starbucks’, McDonalds’ and gas stations (gasp!) of the world to evolve towards this. On my road trip from Ohio to Cali, my favorite Supercharging stop was the one in Effingham, Illinois that was at a BP gas station. Convenience store was convenient but could have milked me for more money if they had been prepared to host me for 30 mins vs just the typical gas station pit stop.

          • bwollsch

            I had the same idea with Denny’s, IHOP and a few motel chains along the highways. The motels could charge $10/person to use the pool or business office while their car charges.

            I am considering the Espresso&Charge from EVTec in Switzerland as they can go up to 150kW of power in increments. Start now with 60kW and upgrade 150kW in increments over the next couple of years as new EVs can take the higher charge rate.

            I was originally thinking of this specifically for the Bolt, but I don’t think the Bolt can handle a charge rate over 50kW.

    • J.H.

      “Marion’s technical paper”. As some of you may know,I have a company Wind Orchard Energy. And my Osiris 10 kw state of the art small wind turbine produces lots of excess energy. Rather than selling it to the back to the grid for 3 cents, I’ve installed a public DCFC. There isn’t another fast charger with in 200 miles (Denver). So, here is what I know. As fare as the tech, paper, there are to many variables as fare as cost. All utilities are different, I had a quote yesterday to move three phase service 12′, $18K . cash up front from a coop. It took 60 days just to get the quote. The DCFC I installed a year ago was installed in two hours after I placed the call for the new service, at know charge just a monthly service fee for five years. And it is a sister coop of the other coop that wanted $18 K. So every site is different. In a perfect world I would agree with Zack, manufactures should use the Tesla technologies, there should only be one standard and free EV juice for everyone. My personal opinion is that the utilities should corner the market place. In the mean time, the industry is still evolving, the cars as well as the chargers and my self. I’m hoping to brand my locations with the name of a manufacture that may want to sponsor a site location, it may even be a dealership, to help off set some of the costs. It would be a marginal cost for them and would promote their new EV in to the market place.

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