Sunday, 29 July 2012

The future for recharging networks?

Those countries that are pioneering electric vehicles have a common problem: too many regional and/or competing recharging networks. What that means for EV drivers is a lack of interoperability, or, put more simply, they cannot roam. Just as with mobile phones in the early stages of the market (you remember the 80's?) they work if you don't move around much. If you do, forget it. If you are an EV driver you need multiple memberships, which means multiple RFID cards, and usually multiple subscriptions. An expensive and largely unsatisfactory situation.
So what is the solution? Firstly it's a technology shift. Instead of using locally authenticated charge points accessed by RFID cards, operated by uploading whitelists to every charge point (expensive and time consuming), the solution lies in remote authentication via the back office (the CPMS, or charge point management system). The technology for the charge point is emerging and it's called OCPP - open charge point protocol.
The second solution is consolidation. This can happen in two ways, either by network operators side stepping their egos and adopting a common back office and standards such as OCPP; and by market consolidation, when one operator buys or merges with another, as we are now starting to see in the US, such as CarCharging Group's acquisition of 350Green; and when vehicle manufacturers take stakes in EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) vendors (charge point manufacturers), such as BMW's recent investment in Coulomb.
In the coming months and years we will see a lot of development in this space, the pace of which will be driven by the time it takes each player to formulate a coherent strategy in this dynamic marketplace.

London + Olympics = Banksy

Bah humbug. I love the idea of the Olympics in London and I thought Danny Boyle's opening ceremony was pure genius. But as for trying to drive into London at the moment in an EV...forget it. So, here's a homage in the style of the brilliant Banksy.

Friday, 27 July 2012

BMWi may be sold online

Bloomberg report that an online sales outlet will be a part of BMW’s total sales strategy for the upcoming i3 and i8 electric vehicles. BMW spokespeople and bosses said that they were hoping that the sales process will feel at home to people who make routine purchases online–even though the starting price for a BMW i electric car is roughly £30,000 / $48,500 for the i3.

The online sales idea is another in a long line of ideas and developments for the BMW i sub-brand and no doubt stems from the success of the G-Wiz which was sold exclusively online. The same will not be true of the BMWi of course.

The i3 and i8 won’t be sold at all BMW sales outlets however, only 1 in 4 will be chosen.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Acquirer acquired reports that Liberty Electric Cars of the UK, acquirer just two months ago of GoinGreen, my former company and the one behind the G-Wiz, has itself been acquired by Green Automotive. Apparently the original discussions were for Liberty technology to be used to convert conventional internal combustion engine driven vehicles into electric vehicles.

Green Automotive Company opted to get closer and announced yesterday it has closed the acquisition of Liberty Electric Cars Ltd. following its announcement on June 29 of the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire the Liberty business.

The combined businesses will now have operations in North America, Europe and Australasia and will continue to expand through a combination of organic growth and targeted acquisitions.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The emerging EV recharging industry

John Gartner of Pike Research writes in the 'Plug in cars' blog: One of the keys to driving the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) is the deployment of a robust public charging infrastructure that gives drivers the confidence that a recharge is only a few minutes away. In the United States, the rollout of charging stations is progressing, but currently the market is too fragmented in charging equipment manufacturers and networks to satisfy most EV owners. (Pike Research detailed many of the business challenges around EV charging business models in its 2011 report, Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment, and we are currently working on an update to that report.)

Consumers want to be able to plug in at any station, charge their car and pay with the simplicity of filling up with gas. Today, there are more than two dozen companies in the U.S. providing charging stations or operating charging networks, and for PEV drivers, this can require signing up for multiple payment accounts and learning the subtle differences in how the equipment operates. For these reasons, the news that two of the largest EV charging services companies could be merging should be considered a welcome event.

Publicly traded CarCharging Group, based in Miami, said it will acquire 350 Green, a privately-held Los Angeles-based rival. Both companies have had considerable success in growing their networks during the past year, and the combined entity should provide a more consistent experience for consumers as well as consolidating resources to compete in an industry that is quickly evolving.

As Pike Research predicted last year, EV charging services companies such as these two have been winning many of the contracts to install stations. For example, CarCharging  won a deal with Ace Parking Management, while 350Green has installed hundreds of charging stations in Pennsylvania, California, Indiana, and has a large project in Chicago.

Neither CarCharging nor 350Green manufactures equipment, unlike competitors such as Ecotality and Coulomb Technologies that make the stations and operate the networks. The charging equipment hardware business is very competitive and has experienced falling margins due to the numerous competitors and slower than expected sales of PEVs.

EV charging networks will probably follow the same path as the mobile phone industry, which saw extensive consolidation during the past decade. Similarly, you’ll see multiple hardware vendors’ products offered by a service provider, but payment systems and network management will consolidate. GE recently announced that will enable drivers to use PayPal to pay at its charging stations.

Which companies will be the EV charging services equivalent of Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile remains to be seen. EV charging services are challenged by the lack of PEVs on the roads today to create a revenue stream, as well as the uncertainty surrounding how much consumers will pay for public charging, and what types of plans (subscription fees versus pay-per-use) will be of most interest to consumers. 

London to have more charge points than petrol stations by 2013

We are just about to start a little party here in London, so the media are somewhat sidetracked by all things sporting.

However, what has not been widely reported is that there are now more than 700 public access charge points across London under the Source London recharging scheme. The scheme is now on target to reach 1300 charge points by March 2013, at which point there would be more charge points than petrol stations. First place EVs then.

Pike: 1.7m EVs per year by 2020

While EVs (electric vehicles) may not be the norm in every garage, they are continuing to gain market traction. As the market for EVs matures, the need for associated services will grow as well, especially when it comes to charging infrastructure.

Between 2011 and 2015, around 410,000 plug-in electric vehicles will be sold in the U.S., according to Pike Research. However, the analyst firm also says sales are expected to increase strongly during the second half of the decade, reaching the 1 million mark in 2018. Globally, Pike says plug-in EV sales should surpass 1 million vehicles annually in 2017. By 2020, worldwide sales volumes will reach 1.7 million units per year.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Tesla's retail philosophy explained

Motors in the mall Tesla hawks Model S like Macbooks with dedicated retail space
The way you purchase a vehicle could be changing as electric car company Tesla is taking a more Apple-like approach to selling cars with dedicated retail spaces cropping up instead of traditional lots. report: we have come to realize Tesla Motors, and its enigmatic CEO Elon Musk, like to do things their own way. The one-time California start-up is no stranger of going against the grain. When the practical approach to entering the automotive industry would have been to utilize a conventional gasoline-powered engine, Tesla took a different approach. While other companies were busying themselves with hybrid, and plug-in hybrid technology, Tesla was hard at work paving the way for its all-electric Roadster.
With the release of the Model S, the California-based automaker is looking to drive down a different road yet again with a unique and new retail strategy.
Traditionalists will undoubtedly balk, but the method of vehicle buying is changing and companies like Tesla are pioneering new ways modern and future cars can be bought – and it’s about time, too.
Tesla PDX showroom floor

Tesla Model S touchscreen

Part of that changing landscape sees a shift to where shoppers head down to a retail location– where little to no inventory will be on hand — instead of the car lot. Here, potential buyers can configure a vehicle exactly to their liking. Everything from the car’s paint and rim size, to the interior’s material and trim color, the entire experience is streamlined, sleek, and personalized. It’s not exactly revolutionary in terms of the retail experience where we used to constantly poking, prodding, and interacting with what we’re about to buy, but it’s new to the automotive industry and a welcome change.
Will it work? Tesla seems to think so. The company just opened its newest showroom located in Portland, Oregon, making it the 14th of its kind in North America (with another six to seven on their way by the end of the year), and 24th Tesla retail location worldwide.
We recently had the opportunity to take a tour and needless to say it’s an impressive, if not familiar, experience. From its modern minimalistic Apple-like layout with wide open glass doors, to its glowing touchscreens and Model S showcased prominently at the front, the Tesla store has little trouble drawing you in — which is exactly the point. Not everyone will feel inclined to head down to a traditional Tesla dealership, but placing these showrooms in malls and large traffic areas will get people curious, into the shop, and (hopefully) ordering.

With Tesla’s retail stores, the company seems to be doing everything it can to promote not only the Model S and the brand, but the overall experience. As it is, the Model S is one cool car — and the whole store is designed to accentuate that.
Large touchscreen displays are strewn about the walls where the Model S’ most frequently asked questions are on display for people to interact with and have answered. Shoppers can learn everything there is to know about the Model S, from how much the car costs (base price starts at a steep $57,400) to charging times for the various battery sizes.
Of course part of the traditional car buying experience centers on testing out your potential set of wheels and here the dealership is no different. Tesla says customers will be able to drive the Model S (and later the Model X) before they buy. And it won’t be a solo effort either: Tesla will have product specialists – which the company were keen to point out will not work on commission – available to help answer any and all questions.

From what we gather Tesla has made a deft move. It might be struggling to keep up with orders –and if you were to mosey on into a Tesla store, or order one online you’re looking at waiting just under a year before delivery – but Tesla’s retail strategy has the potential to work and at the very least create even more buzz and excitement for the brand. Besides, what other automotive company will deliver your vehicle wherever you want?
It’ll certainly be sometime before we see big car lots removed from the equation entirely, but it’s going to happen. After all, people thought Apple was crazy when it launched its own retail stores in the beginning, which turned out to be a runaway success. Could Tesla become the Apple of the automotive world? Crazier things have happened.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

UK Ampera now £29,995

The Vauxhall Ampera Earth, the entry level model in Vauxhall's E-REV line up, is now retailing for £29,995 in the UK. The price includes the UK's Plug In Car Grant. To hit the price point, Vauxhall have done away with the leather seats and parking sensors. Currently offered through a network of 24 retailers across the country, the recently voted European Car of the Year is backed by a Lifetime / 100,000 mile warranty. 

Hangzhou orders 20,000 EVs

According to EV Update the Chinese city of Hangzhou signed a strategic cooperation agreement with ten companies to supply 20,000 EVs. The vehicles will be used for the city’s pilot EV leasing programme. Kandi Technologies is the only EV supplier among the contract winners. All the other companies are battery suppliers or charging technology providers.

I'd like to see the small print....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Better Place up and running in Israel

Haaretz reports: After five years of preparations, Shai Agassi's electric car vision has reached the consumer market - with a number of last-minute changes. Better Place announced new plans for consumers on Sunday as it started selling cars not only to vehicle fleets but also to private customers.
Better Place launched its first advertising campaign this week offering the general public its Renault Fluence ZE electric car, and is also offering consumers simplified payment plans for using and charging the cars, based on the number of kilometers traveled. The reason the company is offering new customers a simpler and better deal is the problems Better Place has had breaking into the consumer market, said industry sources.
Customers now have the choice of two plans. The first includes the purchase of between 40,000 and 80,000 kilometers over three years - at a price of 55 agorot per kilometer - with a commitment in advance. Until now, Better Place offered this option only for four years and a minimum of 80,000 kilometers, which put off many customers who felt this was too great a long-term commitment. Better Place expects most customers to sign up for this plan as the average Israeli drives 17,500 kilometers a year, and for new cars, up to five years old, the figure is 20,600 kilometers per year. Better Place is also promising that the prices will not rise during the three-year commitment period.
The second package is called Pay As You Go, and customers will pay 65 agorot per kilometer with a minimum of 1,000 kilometers per month. This plan will replace the previous packages which included 20,000-30,000 kilometers a year at a fixed price of NIS 1,090 to NIS 1,600 a month. The change resulted from customers' preference for packages without a set commitment.
The new fixed prices represent a slight price cut from the previous packages, which cost between 64 and 68 agorot per kilometer.
The cost of gas for a family-sized sedan is estimated at 69.8 agorot per kilometer, based on the widely-accepted price list published by Heshev Information Systems. This would mean savings of up to NIS 2,600 over the three years for an average family sedan - though this of course could change dramatically depending on changes in gasoline prices.
Better Place says its customers will also save a lot of money on other costs, such as the low price for maintenance of the electric cars, since they come with a full manufacturer's warranty for four years, as well as their road service package.
The Fluence comes in seven colors. After the tax breaks for "green cars," the price will be NIS 121,200 for the standard model and NIS 128,100 for one with more accessories. Customers will also no longer require a three-month advance notice period before ending their commitments, and now will be able to cancel the package at any time without penalties if they want to sell the car, but the battery will remain the property of Better Place. If the customer wants to buy the battery too, that will cost another NIS 77,000.
Better Place also plans to start offering trade-in services soon.
The company has already installed some 1,500 charging points for the general public, and will open 38 battery changing stations by September. Carasso Motors, the official importer of Renault cars, will service the vehicles.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

QBEAK bio-methanol fuel cell electric car

The Modular Energy Carrier concept (MECc), created by three Danish companies, uses bio-methanol to bolster its battery life. 

 The car's fuel cell converts a bio-ethanol/ water mix into electricity to power the battery.
Compared to gasoline, bio-methanol production can cut CO2 emissions by more than 70 per cent.

The QBEAK project hopes to launch a battery-powered model with a range of 186 miles (300 kilometers) later this year useing patented in-wheel electric motors to deliver a top speed of 75mph (120kph)

The battery/fuel cell version is expected to arrive sometime in 2013 with a range of 500 miles.

    Friday, 13 July 2012

    Electric-vehicle batteries' cost may drop 70 pct by 2025

    The cost of lithium-ion batteries used in EVs could tumble by more than 70 percent by 2025 as rising oil prices and stringent fuel economy standards push automakers to build more of these cars, according to a McKinsey & Co study.

    Manufacturing these batteries on a larger scale represents one-third of the potential price reduction by 2025, McKinsey said. The expected influx of companies in the sector and new technology borrowed from consumer electronics makers like Apple Inc would also help cut lithium-ion battery costs, the consultancy added.
    "Cheaper batteries could enable the broader adoption of electrified vehicles, potentially disrupting the transportation, power and petroleum sectors," McKinsey wrote.

    McKinsey predicts the price of a complete lithium-ion battery pack could fall from between $500 and $600 per kilowatt hour now to about $200 in 2020 and to $160 by 2025
    If gasoline prices hover around $3.50 per gallon or higher, automakers that purchase batteries at $250 per kilowatt hour could offer electrified vehicles that can compete with cars and trucks powered by advanced internal-combustion engines, which are now significantly cheaper.

    Battery costs represent one of the main hurdles to the widespread adoption of low-emission vehicles, analysts say. The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal to reduce the cost of a battery pack to $300 per kilowatt hour by 2014.

    The 23-kilowatt-hour battery used in Focus Electric, Ford Motor Co's first electric passenger car, can cost between $12,000 and $15,000, Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said at a conference in April. That suggests Ford paid as much as $652 per kilowatt hour.

    Higher volumes are the biggest factor in falling battery prices, McKinsey consultants said. Prices could also drop if battery makers refine their manufacturing process and use standardized equipment, they said.

    Saturday, 7 July 2012

    2012 UK EV sales snapshot for Q1 and 2

    In the UK, first half sales of electric vehicles in the UK are 100% up on the same period last year.

    The UK breakdown:
    Nissan LEAF
    Vauxhall Ampera
    Renault Twizy
    Renault Kangoo Z.E.
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV
    Renault Fluence Z.E.
    Peugeot iOn
    Chevrolet Volt
    Citroen C-Zero

    The baseline is low but the trend is good....

    In the US, sales are up 300%.
    Chevrolet Volt                8817
    Nissan Leaf                    3148
    Others                              n/a

    Friday, 6 July 2012

    EVSE market statistics

    Another day another report on the EV market. This one, entitled 'Electric Vehicle Service Equipment Market Worldwide' from SBI Energy states that in 2011 116,000 new charge points were sold worldwide, an increase of 230%.

    The report says that the U.S. and Japan lead for public charge points by volume, with both countries enjoying strong sales for both residential and commercial EVSE. However, the U.S. lags both Japan and China in terms of EVSE market value because of a weak fast DC charger segment. China and Japan are the top countries for the fast DC segment with over 970 and 800 installed, respectively, as of the end of 2011. China is the next largest EVSE market, but lacks residential sales as most EVSE sold in China to date have been charging points and battery swapping charging systems for charging stations used by fleets and taxis.

    Europe is also a strong EVSE market, accounting for 21% of global EVSE sales by market value in 2011. Even though France and Germany lead PEV sales, it is Germany and the UK that have the largest public charging infrastructure networks.

    PEV prices are still limiting electric vehicle adoption and, by extension, the EVSE market. The PEV market will continue to be the main driver behind global EVSE sales, followed by government incentives for both PEV and EVSE. Assuming governments maintain their financial support over the next decade and PEV prices continue to decline, there will be a cumulative 3.3 million charging points worldwide in 2016 and 16.9 million in 2021. EVSE sales will reach $3.4 billion by 2021, selling over 4.1 million charging points. The U.S. and Japan will continue to lead the EVSE market. Despite the higher cost of the equipment, SBI Energy sees the fast DC charger segment having the fastest growth rate in the EVSE market over the next decade.

    Wednesday, 4 July 2012

    4m European charging stations by 2020

    By 2018, Pike Research predicts that global sales of electric vehicles will reach 1m per year.

    By 2020, Pike forecasts in Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment Europe that more than 2.9 million PEVs will be on Europe's roadways and that the region will have more than 4.1 million EV charging stations installed.

    The top five European markets for EV supply equipment (EVSE) will be Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy, with this group representing more than 60% of the total market. The dynamics of demand for EVSE will be different in Europe than in other parts of the world; for example, residential charging equipment adoption will be slower than in North America as more EV owners will opt to use base power from a wall outlet or will rely primarily on commercial charging stations.

    Read more here:

    6,500 Twizy's sold

    Renault has seen sales of the Twizy hit  the 1,000 unit mark within three months of launch. A successful German launch brings the total number of Twizys sold across Europe to around 6,500.

    UK prices start at £6,690, plus a monthly battery rental cost of £45 for three years.

    Monday, 2 July 2012

    EV market slow but steady growth: new forecasts

    A new report from Pike Research titled "Plug-in Electric Vehicles", indicates that global plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales are expected to surpass 1 million vehicles per year in 2017 and, by 2020, worldwide sales volumes will reach 1.7 million units annually.

    In the US around 410,000 PEVs will be sold between 2011 and 2015, and cumulative U.S. sales will  reach the 1 million mark in 2018.
    PEV sales are expected to ramp up strongly in the second half of this decade.

    "While it is true that plug-in electric vehicles have seen delays in arriving on the market and have sold in fewer numbers than originally anticipated, we expect strong growth as global PEV sales volumes will nearly triple between 2012 and 2014," says research director John Gartner. "Automotive companies have made a strong commitment to electric vehicles, and their viability as a transportation platform is no longer in doubt."

    As the market for electric vehicles matures, Gartner adds, significant regional differences in adoption patterns will emerge. For example, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will outsell battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in North America, the converse is true in Europe and Asia.

    So, it's slow but steady as she goes then.