Published on October 17th, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan0
ChargePoint Leadership & The Next Frontier (#CleanTechnica Exclusive)
October 17th, 2017 by Zachary Shahan
EV charging infrastructure was largely limited to normal electricity outlets a decade ago. The market for electric car charging stations has grown tremendously as the market has, and it’s at a critical transition point again now as long-range affordable electric cars start arriving on the market. If you live in the USA, there are several large charging networks/companies, but there’s one company in particular that jumps out when you think of EV charging stations. Even if its name wasn’t in the title, I’m sure you’d be picturing the orange logo and station styling right now.
Some of that has been covered in detail here on CleanTechnica before, so I’ll first direct you to stories on the following points:
◊ ChargePoint has teamed up with Vivint Solar & Mercedes-Benz to offer combined EV charging + solar + storage systems.
◊ ChargePoint has partnered with Royal Farms and other chain outlets is pursuing similar partnerships to roll out charging stations at gas stations, shopping centers, restaurants, and as broadly as possible to enable EV driving of all sorts.
◊ ChargePoint now offers a modular charging station that can be grown up to a power output capacity of 400 kW, set up to be adaptable to fit the EV charging needs of the market as electric cars evolve.
With that background out of the way, what did I learn in my chat with Simon?
First of all, ChargePoint’s charging station focus was clarified. It is aiming to grow rapidly everywhere — at homes, workplaces, and on the go (fast charging). It wants to be the charging station provider you turn to for everything.
I asked specifically about superfast charging (100–400 kW, we’ll say), since this is a long-neglected area of the market that many consumers demand. Indeed, with its new(ish) ChargePoint Express Plus Family, ChargePoint is focusing on this market and sees it as a big portion of its business in the near term because of the pent up demand.
As far as investment in this sector, Simon couldn’t leak details, but he emphasizes that the companies and people looking to invest in the market now are broad, and does include car companies and oil & gas companies (perhaps ChargePoint had a scoop on Shell’s plans, not to mention Engie’s acquisition of EVBox earlier in the year).
How long does it take for a charging station to pay off the investment into it and put the owner in the black? I wasn’t sure if Simon would answer this question, and it does obviously vary a great deal depending on location and station, but he pegged the average at ~8 years. So, yeah, not overnight, but charging stations can make you money eventually.
One more interesting note that Simon made is that ChargePoint’s acquisition of GE’s charging station business earlier this year was made in part to look out for early EV adopters. They saw it as important for the EV-driving community and early adopters that people not be left stranded with no support for their charging station just because GE decided to move on from the business. (No, I didn’t get any insight into why GE moved on.) Perhaps it’s primarily about good PR, but it definitely didn’t come across like that. It came across like many of Elon Musk’s decisions/statements that Tesla does certain things for customers just because “it’s the right thing to do.” Whether spin or not, it did give me an even more positive view of ChargePoint and its leadership.
There were other interesting matters we talked about — some of which Kyle Field is following up on, and some of which I’ll cover in a future article or two. As a hint, open charging is a hot item of interest for ChargePoint. Stay tuned for more on that.
As it turns out, I will actually be talking with Simon in a couple of days at Autonomy in Paris, where he will be on a panel and I will be moderating a couple of roundtable discussions. So, if you have questions you want me to ask him, drop them in the comments below! I will check them out while driving from Poland to Paris in a Tesla Shuttle.