EVBox started off as a developer of some of the most innovative electric vehicle chargers in Amsterdam and proceeded to push across the pond into the United States. CleanTechnica sat down with EVBox’s Director of Policy and Utility Programs for North America, Megha Lakhchaura for a socially distanced conversation about the company’s progress in EV charging deployments, the impact of COVID-19, and the path moving forward for EVBox.
Public & Workplace Charging with a Twist
EVBox has historically been focused largely on massive deployments of its tech-heavy EV chargers through significant partnerships with utilities and corporations. This is the big money play, as it is far easier to turn a profit partnering on the installation of 7,500 public EV charger deployments than it is when selling single chargers to homeowners.
Moving forward, Megha still sees these massive installations of chargers as key parts of the EVBox strategy. In fact, EVBox is doubling down on public charging installations with the announcement of its new North American Headquarters and manufacturing facility for DC fast chargers in Libertyville, Illinois. “At this new site, EVBox will be able to produce around 200 units of DC charging units per week in the initial phase—a level of production expected to create between 80 and 120 new jobs in the immediate region,” the company said in a press release announcing the new facility.
“We’re starting a production facility to manufacture DC fast chargers,” Megha said. “We’re starting off at 100 kilowatts and 350 kW.” The new production facility in the US gives EVBox a firm foothold in a central location in North America, from which it can ship chargers and support new installations across the continent. EVBox also manufactures DC fast chargers in France for European customers.
After installing the 50,000th EVBox charger in September 2017, the company has been on a tear. Today, the company has more than 130,000 charging stations around the world, with a full 5,000 of those being DC fast chargers. EVBox expects that number to increase as new installations shift look to augment workplace and parking lot chargers with new fast chargers along high volume transit corridors for longer trips.
The sharp uptick in installations tracks right along with EVBox’s commitment at the Global Climate Action Summit to install 1,000,000 charging points by 2025.
A Software-Powered Future
Moving forward, EVBox sees significant potential in the software side of the EV charging business, which is why it build all of its chargers with the ability to be updated over time, over the air. “Our core competency has been hardware,” Megha said. “We invest a lot in R&D and invest in building hardware that is very future proof.” That’s a critical distinguishing factor for emerging solutions like vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-building (V2B), and vehicle-to-vehicle charging, where exploratory work has been done, but firm standards have yet to be firmed up.
“These are big batteries. Of course, bi-directional charging is yet to be more commercialized, but conversations are happening,” Megha said. With her experience working as a Senior Policy Analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission before diving into the clean tech space, she is perfectly positioned to speak to the evolution of new V2G standards. “At the regulatory level right now, they’re creating the market [for V2G].”
Megha sees a more dynamic electricity market as a key enabler for V2G integration. “You could have dynamic rates that change every hour, linked to the market,” she said. “When we can put a dollar value on it, when we understand what we really want and we create a market and we value it, that’s when these systems become more valuable.” To date, vehicle-to-grid in the US has seen very little adoption beyond a handful of largely academic pilots.
Vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid with their CHAdeMO adapters are technically capable of feeding power out of the vehicle’s onboard battery, but there is no support at the utility level yet. “We need something that’s very intelligent that’s going to factor in all these factors and we don’t have it yet, but it will happen,” Megha said. “It will happen when we create the revenue streams and the market to value doing so.”
As a for-profit business, it makes little sense to invest in functionality with no customer benefit. Having said that, EVBox is working on developing the nuts and bolts of the solution, knowing it can be pushed down to deployed chargers when the time is right. “We have to enable the hardware to talk to the car and the same charger to talk to the grid,” Megha said. “We’re trying to be that piece in the puzzle that can work with everything. It can connect with the grid, it can connect with the car and provide all the necessary information.”
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