The gas pump. It has been around for quite a long time. Despite its more or less superficial changes, it still dispenses fuel (gasoline) from a trickle to a gusher at the users’ discretion into their container of choice (tank or gas can). The payments are cash or credit, no subscription needed. All outlets more or less standardized in pay and function, up-time requirements, etc… No confusion.
If you are the owner of a business that dispenses gasoline, you are guaranteed certain general and specific knowns. All owners of an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle MUST purchase their fuel from “your” type of business to energize their car. Practically speaking, you cannot create your own “unleaded.” Therefore, all owners of ICE are theoretically capable of being your customers. Second, other than gas stations on locked “pay roads” (turnpikes, etc.), your customers have a more or less equal chance of being a “local” to your station customer, or a transient long distance interstate customer.
Factors that affect your business sales opportunity is the amount of fuel demanded by the using public. Two main factors there are the efficiency of the fuel using vehicles and the number of miles driven by the users. Both these factors will make the amount of fuel “you” dispense go up or down, more or less independent of your location. That is to say, urban (short range drivers) or rural (longer range drivers). To frame these ideas in a different way, if for some reason there became a trend for ultra-big gas tanks (50 gallons +) so people could drive 1000 miles without re-fueling, pretty much the odds of you getting or not getting a customer based on your location really would not change. You still have a more or less equal chance of who your customers will be, and the quantitative sales of gasoline. I am not saying here that skewing closer or away from a major interstate will have zero effect on who your customers are, in all cases. Just generally speaking.
Now, let’s shift to the EV world. To differentiate on the previous knowns, you can make your own “un-leaded” when you drive an EV (solar, wind, etc.). You can dispense said electricity (renewables or grid) right on your own property into your EV at varying rates (Level I or II), 24 hours a day (no closing). In fact, the only reason that you would charge your EV away from home is if there is a need to do so because you have traveled further than you can travel and still make it home without running out of energy. This is really a HUGE shift from the gas world! There was no home with gas! Home did you NO good if you were about to run out. Home was no better than being in the middle of a pond.
This whole set of realities gets totally blown away with EVs. Home now becomes a place of transportation solidity, security, and opportunity. Great and wonderful for you! Bad for unleaded sales. So, the gas pump business now becomes electrons away from home, BUT, not necessarily needed by everyone. Let’s go back to our local vs. interstate scenario customer base. Again, any given gas station has a more or less equal chance of a local or transient customer. Is this true for a DC fast charge station? Hell NO! And to make matters as worse as possible, a bigger gas tank, if big enough, can literally make you extinct! Why? Two reasons — one engineering-based, and the other currency-based.
Unlike gasoline, dispensing electrons at a greater rate is not as simple as making the mechanical pump bigger. Large wattage flows require an increase in the vehicle infrastructure and the supplying infrastructure. Fuel energy density is a function of the fuel itself because fuel contains energy, whereas electrons are the energy and its flow rate is the only quantifier. In short, increasing fuel volume is easy compared to increasing electron cumulative flow rates. The associated cost differences between the two is also not a small endeavor. DC fast charging at home is really not practical from an engineering and cost basis. And as previously noted, getting gasoline at home is really not a thing. So, dispensing electrons away from home at large flow rates is way more expensive than at home, making at home — just by cost — the preferred option (no time crunch either).
Make the battery (gas tank) big enough and no one needs a DC fast charge. This is quite a different business future and expectation from the average gas pump business reality. Whether today’s convenience stores make the profit on gas or all the other stuff is really not the relevant question. The question is, would the people stop as much in the first place if no gas, or no transportation need? Probably not.
To me, this is the perfect example for a government-supplied operational solution, for the normal capitalistic “incentives” don’t work well here, for an area that needs to be ‘blown out’ fast and universally, even if its long-term future due to technological advancement may make for a necessary but low or no growth business reality.
The elimination of burning fuel for energy cannot come fast enough for obvious reasons. And I will not debate those reasons any more than I will debate the question, “Is water wet?” The only question is what is the right combination of private, government, or other structure needed to accomplish this necessary rapid expansion, specifically in this case, DC fast charge. Here’s the contract. Do you want to use the blue pen or the red pen?
Authors note: The impetuous and ideas for this article came to me while I was driving a rented Chevy Traverse for a quick to Orlando and back 2500-mile trip. I used about 100 gallons of gas at about $300 in costs.
The folding cane in the photo is to help out the semi anemic CCS fast charge receptacle on the 2017 Bolt. The folding cane is courteous of Walgreens and 1 roll of PVC electrical tape for ‘handle humps’, to help eliminate charge connector slippage. It works quite well and is simple, flexible, and cheap.
By William H Fitch III, www.WeAreSolar.com
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
EV Obsession Daily!
Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.