Published on October 29th, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan0
Charging The rEVolution (CleanTechnica Interview)
October 29th, 2017 by Zachary Shahan
Sprouting out of the EV-loving Netherlands, EVBox has become one of the largest EV charging station companies in the world … and it has plans to conquer the world. As I reported earlier this year, with a little help (and cash) from Engie, that’s essentially the plan — world domination in the EV charging arena.
So, we’re honored to have EVBox represented at our first annual EV charging conference* in Warsaw, Poland. Prepping for the conference a bit, I’ve been tapping into the insane EV charging expertise of the EV leaders coming in from the Netherlands, Norway, Costa Rica, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and, of course, Poland by conducting interviews with most of them. This time, I’ve got my Q&A with Bjørn Utgård to share with you. Bjørn is focused on “Markets Development” at EVBox and has a lot of useful insight that I think policymakers, EV industry personnel, and passionate citizens should absorb and turn into action yesterday. Enjoy the interview!
During the last year we’ve seen a clear change in the way companies and governments approach mobility. The world’s major automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Renault, GM, Toyota, and Ford, are investing heavily in EVs, and more than a hundred models are expected on the market by 2020. Governments and municipalities have implemented ambitious plans to making their territories emission-free in the coming decade. What is lagging behind, however, is knowledge on EV drivers’ actual charging preferences and behaviour. We see that for most people, EVs and charging is still something futuristic and unfamiliar. They may realize that EVs are to stay, but do not really understand what it means to drive electric. To speed up and complete the transition to zero-emission electric mobility — the rEVolution — we will need to educate, involve, and inspire not only governments and OEMs, but most importantly consumers — everywhere.
2. How can city staff and policymakers help solve or overcome that challenge?
For everyone to feel involved in what we call the rEVolution, one of the most important aspects is education and citizen involvement. In Netherlands, for example, the government is investing substantial funds in creating charging infrastructure, but a lot less in educating people on the many benefits of EVs. Educating people is in our opinion not just a responsibility of policymakers, but a shared responsibility between all parties involved: policymakers, OEMs, utility companies, and charging providers. By combining our expertise, and broadly sharing this knowledge in a way that’s accessible and understandable to all, we can help make the transition to EVs an exciting change for all drivers.
3. How have the Tesla Model 3, new Nissan LEAF, Chevy Bolt, and other “next-generation” electric cars changed EV charging companies’ approaches to EV consumers and potential consumers?
This latest generation of electric vehicles has changed the EV charging industry in 2 significant ways. First, EVs no longer only appeal to a selected niches markets — they are becoming widely available to all. A broader variety of brands and models to choose from mean EVs meet a broader spectre of user requirements. Quickly falling manufacturing costs mean that EVs are becoming much more affordable, and together with much lower maintenance & charging (instead of refueling) costs, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is now lower for an EV than an ICE car, making an EV the best economic choice.
Second, with battery prices dropping and battery capacity increasing, EVs now offer a driving range that make them practical not just for commuting and driving around town, but even for cross-country travel. This means the mythical “range anxiety” is no longer a real concern, and that people can comfortably rely on an EV as their main vehicle. These 2 changes mean that we are moving away from reducing perceived negatives, such as range anxiety, and into amplifying benefits, such as better economics, zero-emission driving, and the fun and cool experience of driving electric. With the next-generation EV, driving electric is simply the best choice, from all perspectives.
4. How is a potential self-driving car future influencing EVBox’s products and plans right now?
We believe that the future of mobility is electric, emission-free, and autonomous.
Self-driving cars are definitely in our radar and we believe that wireless charging and self-driving /autonomous cars go hand in hand. We’ve a pilot project with Engie, Nissan, and the City of Rotterdam which shows the potential of self-driving and charging technologies working together. Naturally, the evolution of autonomous vehicles is still in its early days, and the commercially ready solutions will likely come later than solutions to more urgent urgent needs like regular and fast charging solutions.
5. Clearly, you guys have set up a strong presence in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries, and you’re moving into other markets like the US where there’s a lot of electric car demand. How are you thinking about and approaching emerging markets like Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, etc.?
Given all the variety of positives that electric vehicles offer, we see a great deal of potential in these new markets. Even if EV driving is still relatively unknown to most consumers in these markets, our experience is that EVs have a very broad appeal once the ball starts moving. We are already active in 30 countries, and are receiving requests for partnerships and installations from new markets on a daily basis. Even if many of them have just started scoping the needs for EV infrastructure and are still far behind places like California, Norway, or the Netherlands, we find that their ambition is in no way smaller.
The CEE region holds great promise as a European hub for electric vehicle adoption, and we are proudly playing our part in deploying smart, efficient, and easy-to-use charging infrastructure. We work with selected partners that we not only train and support, but also collaborate with in adopting our product and market approach to local market conditions.
6. Can you tell me something cool EVBox has in the works under the radar right now?
You have to come to CES 2018 in Las Vegas to see it with your own eyes. Let’s say that the days where American EV drivers struggle with unsafe, poor quality, and flimsy charging cables will be soon over. [Note from Zach: I fully expected a total non-answer to this question, so am excited for the response! @Kyle Field, you ready for the show?]
*In case you’ve somehow missed it, CleanTechnica and GreenWay are co-hosting a Central & Eastern Europe EV charging conference in Warsaw November 6–8. We have EV charging leaders coming in from the Netherlands, Norway, Costa Rica, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and the UK to discuss ways of advancing EV charging and EV adoption both in the region and globally. We’ve also convened a working group to create a white paper on EV charging guidelines for cities. Join us in Warsaw! (Jump straight to the tickets here.)