Although The EV Charging Business Is Growing, It’s A Long Way From Viable

There’s the ideal, and then there’s reality. However, based on recent press and business announcements, along with a range of commercial efforts, it would seem that something like a reasonable electric vehicle charging infrastructure is beginning to emerge in North America. According to Navigant Research, “The electric vehicle charging equipment market is now launched and beginning to take shape. Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales are rising, creating demand for charging – both at home and away.”

Nevertheless, significant challenges persistent, and among the more complex of these issues is a reasonably priced way to wean the electrification segment away from its dependency on Federal subsidies, while at the same time trying to prove the general worth of the EV as a transportation product, in parallel with the development of a secondary, yet critical and costly, utility infrastructure. “Public charging stations have been heavily dependent on government funding,” says Pike Research Senior Analyst Lisa Jerram. “The industry is now trying to devise successful business models for deploying stations in public locations—an effort that will become increasingly urgent as government funding winds down;” and there’s the rub in a nutshell.

As the old saying goes, “Just because you can do a thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should,” particularly in the case of technologies that may, or may not ever be understood or acceptable to the average auto customer. Why is this you ask?

Because the contiguous 48 doesn’t primarily operate on urban-centric transportation requirements. Granted it may look like that, given all the daily yack about this or that electric car. But in terms of people moving from place-to-place between the East Coast and the West Coast, there’s a whole lot of open space, where people purchase vehicles on the basis of price, efficiency, dependability, and where gas stations are still the norm, rather than the rattle and hum of whatever buzzing ‘new and improved’ electric vehicle infrastructure is being touted in the latest edition of Motor Trend.

Tesla Supercharger Network in the U.S.

In this context then, the development of a cost-efficient charging infrastructure along with its overall EV progenitor has a problem, or should I say ‘problems,’ that may or may not resolve themselves in the end of the day. Additionally, based on the Pike Research comment alone, and considering that fact that we are about to have another General Election go’round, the whole infrastructure caboodle could be put paid should a more conservative President take residency at the White House in 2016. As it happens, most of the current clutch of non-liberals really like the idea that North Dakota, Texas and other States are kicking OPEC’s butt over increased fossil-fuel production, and elections harbor consequences.

Then, consider the fact that the entire alternatively powered auto segment encompasses barely 2% of a total new car market of better than 16 million cars, and only a fraction of that fraction involves pure EV’s. Further, there are at least 10 years-worth of used cars running around on American highways as well; and nearly all of those vehicles utilize ICE’s, using regular unleaded gasoline.

So, when you calculate just those obvious constraints, against the resultant arrival of ‘Party’s Over’ signs on lawns other than in California, New York, Washington, and to lesser degree Florida, where does the market value go? Down; while at the same time, development costs will only continue to get higher. It’s just a matter of cause and effect.

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