Robert Charette has written a long article/e-book on the EV transition for IEEE Spectrum.
The EV Transition Explained
Preface – The Staggering Scale of the EV Transition
Introduction – The EV Transition is Harder Than Anyone Thinks
Chapter 1 – Overview
Chapter 2 – Battery Challenges
Chapter 3 – Can the Grid Cope?
Chapter 4 – Charger Infrastructure
Chapter 5 – Creating a Market for EVs
Chapter 6 – Convincing Consumers to Buy EVs
Chapter 7 – Local Policies Shape Global Competition
Chapter 8 – The Carrot or the Stick
Chapter 9 – Policy Roadblocks
Chapter 10 – Reshaping Labor Markets
Chapter 11 – Why EVs Aren’t a Climate Change Panacea
Chapter 12 – The Aftershocks of the EV Transition Could Be Ugly
My thinking on EV Charging Stations is, do the economics actually work? I mean, gas stations are known for being horrible from a profit standpoint. Selling gas barely turns a profit, so if you aren’t selling over-priced Coca-Cola, beer and snacks you are in trouble.
Seems like there are more opportunities for profit, at least on Interstate stops. Even at Tesla Supercharger locations.Tesla provides the chargers while others have stores and restaurants where they have a captive audience for 20 - 30 minutes or more.
For local chargers it is more of an opportunity for larger stores than convenience stores.
I suspect the economics work better, but not because there’s any money to be made selling electricity. Fuel dispensing systems are very expensive, difficult to site, and hard to scale. EV charging stations are much cheaper, and can be placed pretty much where ever there is a parking space and electrical service. So if you can entice someone to park at your convenience store, restaurant, hotel, etc. because you have charging, then the charger pays for itself in the form of increased sales.
I personally believe–although there is little evidence this is yet happening–that we will see the rise of free level 2 charging. The reason is that unmetered level 2 chargers are cheap and only cost a couple bucks an hour to operate.
There is some precedence for this. Electrical connections in parking areas for block heaters are common in northern climates. Merchants and landlords provide them an amenity. And hotels are increasingly offering free level 2 charging for guests.
And even less in most places. Here residential electricity is 15 c/kWh, and commercial electricity is about 10 c/kWh. So the typical free level 2 6kW charger at a supermarket, movie theater, hotel, etc only costs about $0.60 an hour to operate. Also, there are all sorts of federal and state rebates to install them, so even the installation can be very inexpensive net of rebates.
Charging stations don’t require an employee on site. Gas stations, by law or necessity do have someone there. So I see a lot of opportunity for some places to have an attendant, washer fluid and other things – and charge more vs just a basic no frills station. This won’t happen until there are lots more EVs. There are also lots of different ways to pay that could evolve, such as you get a discount code if you buy something (meal, snacks, etc.) Or maybe get 1 hr free at an L2 charger for using the business.
Charging stations do require investment. Investors do expect a return on that. When usage is low prices can be high and msintenance deferred.
Notice how atms are maintained. An armour car shows up with a new cash cassette and presumably picks up checks and deposits etc. Often its an outside service under contract. (The reason atms in Missouri dispense San Francisco money.)
A similar travelling maintenance crew could be the way to keep chargers working.
Then they’re going to have to charge a whole lot more than the cost of electricity, which is the baseline. And there’s siting, taxes, insurance, hardware and apparently lots of maintenance, if the stories about how many of them are out-of-service at any given time are to be believed.
The other thing I see is that they’re going to have to be even more overbuilt than gas stations. If a petrol station is full, it’s not a big deal to wait behind a car or two for them to finish a fill-up. But with an EV that means you’re going to be an hour in the line just to get to the charger, unless there are a lot more chargers.
Siting may be easier than permitting a bunch of underground fuel tanks, but running hundreds or thousands of amperes to a spot isn’t trivial either.
It’s a business that will take some time to shake out, certainly.
I certainly agree. I wonder what it costs to install a fast charger. Probably $10K and up plus charges for the real estate. Low usage rate means electricity costs must be high.
A site used frequently, with good traffic etc, can have lower prices. And can afford to expand to add more units and provide better service.
Once again this is chicken and egg. Investors must be willing to fund losses to get started while they wait patiently for better returns. Of course, savvy investors will be researching for the best, most profitable locations and scoop them up before the “typical b??o investor” figures it all out.
My favorite is the complex of fast food joints anchored by Tesla superchargers at the northern end of the mostly empty, very steep and fuel devouring “grapevine” section of Interstate 5 from Los Angeles to San Franciso. Cheap empty land instantly made precious.
I think that there is still a lot of cheap vacant land near by. But interesting that Tesla started with 24 chargers on the south bound side of the Interstate. They expanded by adding 64 chargers on the northbound side with more shopping than fast food.
And, most likely, the cost of installing the infrastruction for a WalMart pays for itself just after the store opens because the electricity allows all kinds of other things to happen. How does that apply to a charging station?
And yet no one thinks twice about getting 1000s of amps to places such as a Wal Mart, Target, office towers or hotels, etc. Somehow these things get built all the time.
And it would behoove us all to contemplate how MANY of those big box establishments get built… Via property tax abatements, special taxation districts and other local / state government giveaways to encourage “job growth” or some future Nirvana of boosted sales tax revenue. If people expect this electric refactoring of the entire country’s infrastructure to take place in 15 years without significant support from every level of government, they have no understanding of the history of our CURRENT infrastructure.
As that IEEE Spectrum article someone posted here last week pointed out (a fantastic article, by the way…), the switch from carbon fuels to electric requires a massive coordinated change among energy providers, auto makers, auto dealers, auto buyers, grid operators and commercial / residential developers. Changes to practices that have been hardened into economic DNA since post-WWII that make them accepted without thinking of how they came to be and who benefits from them.
There is no way to make such massive changes to these sectors and do all of these things at the same time:
do it right the first time
do it efficiently
do it without some firms failing
do it without some segments of labor markets “losing”
There is too much we don’t know about optimizing all the factors involved to get from here to there in one step without some market experimentation. That means some car buyers will purchase vehicles that wind up being albatrosses (either due to hardware or software/sensor limitations or abandoned software platforms no maker wants to continue supporting – imagine your car being stuck running Windows Vista cuz it lacks the processor power to run Windows 11). Some hotel properties or apartments will spend money on charger type A only to need to replace it five later after a better standard becomes so obvious no one will use the old type.
Much less capital expenditures, no inventory, no employees (except infrequent maintenance shared across more sites and probably longer time to get a ROI. But if the WalMart owns the chargers it may help bring in customers or get them to shop longer and buy more.
All the inventory is sent via the wires.
But my point was that making a big deal about needing to install 1000s of amps is misplaced since it happens all the time.
Not that much different than the big holes that gas stations have to dig to put in underground tanks…no one seems to question the need to do this.