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ChargePoint U.K. Deal Should Kick-Start European Expansion

ChargePoint U.K. Deal Should Kick-Start European Expansion.

“Able to add hundreds of miles of range as quickly as 15 minutes, Express Plus Stations can charge current EVs at their maximum rate while being future proofed for the next-generation of electric vehicles”

California-based ChargePoint, which says it is the world’s largest electric vehicle charging network, said it has sold more than 200 rapid charge systems to Britain’s InstaVolt as the first stage of its ambitious European expansion plans.

ChargePoint gave no financial details.

ChargePoint’s ambitious plan assumes that electric car sales will soon start accelerating, but in Europe there’s no sign of that happening yet.

Meanwhile ChargePoint, based in Campbell, California, has more than 34,000 charging points at more than 7,000 sites in North America. It recently raised $82 million in funding, led by German carmaker and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler. The funding, announced in March, brought the total capital raised to just under $300 million. Investors include BMW.

ChargePoint said its Express Plus product will be installed by InstaVolt close to popular routes across the UK, enabling drivers to easily charge their vehicles during long journeys.

“InstaVolt has raised millions to install a DC rapid charge network country-wide across the U.K.,” said Simon Lonsdale, Vice President, Business Development, ChargePoint Inc.

“We are two companies that are committed to e-mobility in Europe, accelerating the driving revolution by making e-mobility a part of everyday life. InstaVolt is well positioned to help expand EV charging in the UK and are a great partner in this effort.”

Modular charging
ChargePoint said Express Plus is a modular charging platform designed to scale as demand grows, which will allow InstaVolt to expand these initial sites.

“Able to add hundreds of miles of range as quickly as 15 minutes, Express Plus Stations can charge current EVs at their maximum rate while being future proofed for the next-generation of electric vehicles,” Lonsdale said.

In an interview, ChargePoint’s Lonsdale said Britain is an ideal place to start in Europe because there are already 90,000 electric vehicles there and the British government says there will be 500,000 by 2020.

The problem is the promised electric vehicle revolution is long on promises, but short on sales.   

According to British newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID), Western Europe’s sales of battery electric vehicles (BEV) stagnated in 2016. Sales grew 4.6% to 94,056 in an overall market that expanded by 5.8%. Market share for BEVs remained unchanged at 0.68%.

This contrasts with some recent predictions saying BEVs will soon be muscling into our lives. Late last year Morgan Stanley raised its estimate for global BEV sales to between 10 and 15% of the global market by 2025. That was more than 3 times higher than the average of previous expectations. Volkswagen expects this to hit 25%.

Global penetration
“Global penetration of Battery Electric Vehicles is set to be over 25% by 2030 with penetration in Europe even higher at 40%. We estimate that the passenger vehicle fleet will grow 45% by 2030 with efficiency improving by 3% per year on average,” Barclays said in a report.

That might well be the case then, but for now BEVs are barely on the horizon, with demand in Europe a great deal lower than anticipated, according to AID.

“(the data) drives home the unpalatable message that of late Europe’s BEV market appears to have plateaued,” AID said.

Europe’s biggest car market, Germany, still has a government target of 1 million electric cars on its roads by 2020, and that is clearly doomed to fail. Last year German BEV sales totalled 12,755, down 6.2% on the previous year, AID data showed.

In short, the European market needs an electric vehicle with about twice the range of current ones, at half the price, that can be refuelled at the same pace and convenience as gasoline-fuelled ones.

In the interview, ChargePoint’s Lonsdale said the European expansion is good to go.

“We will be rolling out in the rest of Europe and in the next weeks and months hope to announce deals in Germany, the Netherlands, France and other countries too. We have a 70% public network market share in the U.S. and would like to achieve something similar in Europe bringing together services to the electric vehicle driver,” Lonsdale said.

ChargePoint facilities in the U.S. are often free because shopping centers use them as a means of attracting customers. Lonsdale said in the future, electric charging won’t just happen at specialized gas stations, but will be spread much more widely, in the home, at work and at supermarkets.

Motorway queues
Isn’t there a problem though with charging stations on motorways for long distance driving because as the volume of electric vehicles grows the charging infrastructure won’t be up to the task? For an internal combustion vehicle it takes about 5 minutes to add fuel for about 400 miles. An electric vehicle using current technology takes about 20 minutes to load 65 miles.

Lonsdale doesn’t think this will be a problem.

“ChargePoint, now having data from nearly 25 million charging sessions, envisions that charging needs will divide into two categories – around 80% of charging will take place in home and work, while another 20% will be at public sites like parking lots, street-side or fast charging stations,” Lonsdale said.

“Fast charging is for the rare occasions when drivers travel longer distances. Charging for the overwhelming majority of the time will be where drivers are, at home, work, or around time as they are doing something else,” he said.

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