January 17, 2019
by Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint
Finally, the world seems to be getting it. EVs and the concept of complete e-mobility have taken hold, as evidenced by the increase in EV sales by 37% in the past year alone. Every major automaker on the planet has committed to electrifying their fleet to help meet this consumer demand. In fact, 41 new EV models are set to be introduced to the market over the next five years.
Individual drivers and auto buyers are hardly the only ones getting in on the action. Businesses with large fleets are rapidly turning to electric semis and trucks because of the lower total cost of ownership they provide compared with traditional combustion engine fleets. Companies as varied as Ryder, Wal-Mart, and J.B Hunt have already started making the leap.
At the same time, developments in autonomous cars and trucks are advancing every day, providing an interesting intersection with the electrification of transportation.
Why does all this matter? Because e-mobility is about so much more than transportation, or getting from point A to point B. It’s about creating an entirely new way of living, and reshaping the world as we know it. e-mobility will change the real estate landscape irreversibly, reduce cost of living, improve quality of life, and give people more time each and every day to spend on activities they care about.
Sound like a tall order? It’s not. Picture an autonomous pod that looks less like a car than a comfortable camper. When a network of these electric vehicles is available, people will become less sensitive to commute times – so they can live further from city centers, where real estate is more affordable. Since they don’t have to focus on driving, they can spend their commute time catching up on work, reading a book, watching a movie, or calling friends and family. And since electric vehicles reduce energy consumption, not only do transportation costs go down, but energy costs go down – which in turn reduces the costs of food, goods, and everything else that has energy costs baked in.
Long story short? With e-mobility and autonomous vehicles, people will be able to live anywhere, have more money, and have more time – and that’s no small achievement.
Businesses and Utilities Take on New Roles
Getting to this future will require action from an entire range of entities – from utilities to cities, and manufacturers to everyday businesses – many of whom might’ve previously thought they had nothing to do with EVs or mobility.
That’s because EVs are only part of the picture. Another key element of electric mobility is a strong, functioning charging network that makes it easier for drivers to transition to “e-mobility,” and for businesses to deploy charging. Here’s how it might work.
Think of your typical business. Only interested in the bottom line, right? So why would they care about providing an EV charging station to customers or employees?
By providing EV infrastructure, businesses will have a platform to deliver, manage, and measure fueling, giving themselves an e-mobility edge. Charging can be used as an amenity, and in the future, it may likely be an expectation for potential customers. Networked charging stations can also provide valuable information about driver behavior, helping businesses to better understand their customers and employees while opening new channels for customer engagement. At Target, for example, data showed that consumers stayed in the store much longer when they had a charger to plug into.
Utilities, too, can start realizing significant new benefits in the EV world. Case in point: Long-range travel depends on fueling stations implementing high-powered, fast EV charging. This creates an opportunity for utility companies to open up new revenue streams through the modernization of motorway service stations.
Meanwhile, as EVs grow in cities, they will impact the power grid – and utility companies have a role to play here in managing demand. Managing energy consumption and distribution will be key for utility companies to avoid outage scenarios. By accessing live data from networked charging stations, energy providers will be able to better understand the charging behavior of drivers and more accurately forecast demand on the grid.
Smart charging stations can also help energy companies to monitor, manage, and accurately forecast power usage. For example, leveraging the batteries of EVs for energy storage when supply is high – and recovering energy from them when demand is higher than supply – will help utilities stabilize the grid. It also opens new revenue models for EV owners – not a bad trick for your local utility company to pull off.
What about cities? What steps will they need to take to help an e-mobility-enabled future become a reality?
By enacting policies that support home and workplace charging when commissioning new residential and business properties, local authorities can create an environment that makes it easy for individuals and businesses to install their own charging infrastructure.
What if the goal is the electrification of all urban transport? In that case, cities must invest in multi-modal solutions, providing fueling for every type of vehicle – from cars and buses, to taxis and emergency services – with excess energy from centers already in place, like airports and train stations.
By taking an innovative approach that combines EV charging data with traffic information, city authorities can address key issues such as managing congestion at peak times and monitoring the performance of smart city transportation.
Forward-thinking city authorities will embrace this electric path because of the benefits it provides for cities: reducing pollution, minimizing congestion, and improving overall quality of life for residents. The incentives are too tantalizing to ignore.
Car Manufacturers Need to Think About More Than Cars
Automakers should be as actively involved in charging infrastructure as they are in developing new vehicles if they want to create a lucrative market for EVs. They need to partner with charging companies that can quickly and effectively provide charging infrastructure at scale. Without it, automakers will find the change to electric far more challenging.
So, what should they be aiming for? For e-mobility to succeed, the charging experience needs to be simple, low cost, and high-quality. That means making sure that EVs are seamlessly integrated with the stations that charge them. (By the way, there is opportunity in this integration: It can provide automakers with valuable live data about driver behavior and help them to build brand loyalty).
The adoption of e-mobility by businesses that rely on large fleets of vehicles will allow them to better utilize data that can help them more effectively manage their fleets, with new tools that allow for various factors to be monitored and controlled in real-time. Think of it as the birth of the intelligent fleet, where vehicles can interact and share data across the network, reducing administrative overheads and increasing efficiency and productivity.
e-Mobility also gives fleet managers the chance to automate and reduce the cost of fueling. By providing greater control over when and where vehicles are refueled, fleet managers can charge vehicles at times when energy demand tends to be lower and therefore cheaper. It also gives businesses the opportunity to sell unused energy back into the grid.
Let’s briefly harken back to our earlier topic of cities. Fleets – ranging from taxis and delivery vehicles, to firetrucks and ambulances – have a significant presence on urban roads. By moving towards EVs, these fleets will become one of the biggest proponents for e-mobility and the creation of cleaner and better cities. That’s a change to “business as usual” that we can all get behind.
All Together Now
With the rise of EVs, everyone’s got skin in the game now: individuals, businesses, utilities, manufacturers, cities – you name it. In my own personal estimation, EV momentum has reached the “tipping point” and we are now moving beyond it. To help fuel momentum into the future, ChargePoint is making a huge commitment to have 2.5 million charging stations installed globally by 2025. This commitment underscores our belief that collaboration across the mobility ecosystem is what will build out the fueling network of the future.
As EV momentum continues to grow, the world around us is poised to change in exciting new ways as all of these entities respond and evolve to take advantage of new opportunities, making way for a future that is electric in more ways than one – and radically different from life as we know it today.
About the Author
Pasquale Romano is President and Chief Executive Officer of ChargePoint and a member of the company’s board of directors. He currently sits on the board of Agilone, CALSTART, and the YMCA of Silicon Valley. Pasquale joined ChargePoint in February of 2011, bringing more than 25 years of technology industry leadership and executive management experience to the company. He co-founded 2Wire which was acquired by Pace plc for $475M in 2010. Previously, Pasquale held multiple positions in marketing and engineering at Polycom. In 1989, he co-founded Fluent, Inc., a digital video networking company and served as Chief Architect until it was sold to Novell Corporation in 1993. Pasquale holds an undergraduate degree in computer science from Harvard University and received his M.S. from MIT.