Tuesday, 30 July 2013

US EV sales double in first half of 2013

Sales of plug-in electric cars have more than doubled in the U.S. during the first six months of 2013 compared to the same time period in 2012.

Americans have purchased 41,447 of plug-in electric vehicles since January.

36% of all the electric cars on the road today have been bought in the previous six months.

EVs accounted for 1.2% of total car sales.


BMW to launch ChargeNow UK recharging network

BMW i has made a strategic investment in Chargemaster Plc, the UK’s leading provider of electric vehicle charging infrastructure (a 2% stake for £500k). Chargemaster and BMW i have also entered into a wide ranging cooperation agreement whereby Chargemaster will provide a range of E-mobility services.

Thorsten Mattig, Managing Director BMW i Ventures: “We see Chargemaster playing an important role in preparing the way for E-mobility. This investment and wide ranging cooperation agreement will accelerate our activities as well as boost the synergies with some of our already existing services and investments, such as ParkatmyHouse, where Chargemaster equipment has already been installed.”

The five year cooperation agreement between Chargemaster and BMW i aims to establish ChargeNow, the public charging network for BMW i owners across the UK.

Chargemaster will also provide charging equipment and sites for the BMW i car sharing service DriveNow.

Both parties are working together on another BMW i partner, ParkatmyHouse.com (PAMH), to roll out further charging points within the PAMH estate of over 30,000 private parking locations.


Friday, 26 July 2013

World's first app that let's you use charging stations

The GreenCar Website reports on the launch of the Charge Your Car app, the first app that let's EV drivers in the UK use charge points. (Note: I disclose my interest as Business Development Director for Charge Your Car).

National charging network Charge Your Car (CYC) has launched a new app, that will make it easier for electric car owners to find charging stations and pay for charging opens up the network of charging stations across much of the country in a single pay-as-you-go solution.

Starting as a regional North East charging back in 2010, the Plugged-in Places scheme has been gradually expanding to include other networks in neighbouring regions, with a goal of achieving one large national network of pay-as-you-go stations, making it easier for EV drivers to travel around the country without the need for multiple charging membership cars.

On the go information
Now the new app builds on this goal, meaning electric car owners can see all available pay-as-you-go stations as part of the growing network in one place, while on the go too.

The key features of the app include search charge points by town, postcode or point code, filter charge points by connector type, live status of charge points, information on charge point tariffs, plan a route to a charge point, and latest news and information such as the availability of new stations.

The CYC network also works with the CYC ‘lifetime card’, a single RFID card that can be used across the UK with all charge points on the network. To pay for charging, users simply register their debit or credit card, which links to their CYC app and lifetime card. There is also an existing pay-by-phone system as well as a helpline for technical support and advice.

Instead of closed membership schemes, CYC has been bringing together charge point owners, public sector organisations such as local authorities , private sector companies like network operators, supermarkets and hotels - and charge point manufacturers-together in an open network accessible to all.

At present, the CYC network comprises 1,500 charge points, of which currently 20 per cent can be operated using the app. The aim is to ensure that electric car drivers are always in range of a charge station wherever they are in the country, within the next few years. CYC intends to licence the live status map to electric vehicle manufacturers and satellite navigation companies, to help it achieve this goal.

The launch of the app is set against a backdrop of gradual progress for electric vehicles in the UK, which has slipped from being the European leader to number 15 in the rankings according to the European Automotive Association (based on electric vehicles per head). 

Alexandra Prescott, operations manager at CYC says: “The groundbreaking technology used in the CYC app brings benefits to drivers, charge point providers and electric vehicle manufacturers – it is a great boost to our industry and the UK’s charging infrastructure and is a big step forward in priming the market for electric vehicles.”

The app is available to download free from the Apple App Store or Google Play, visit www.chargeyourcar.org.uk for more information.

Monday, 22 July 2013

BMW i3 price and photos revealed

BMW announced today that the i3 will cost from 34,950 euros for the base model in Germany, £25,680 after incentives in the UK and from $41,350 before incentives in the US.

The i3 will be unveiled on July 29 in London, New York and Beijing and will go on sale in November in Europe. It will arrive in U.S. showrooms in the second quarter of 2014. According to reports, BMW is also apparently in talks with the Indian government about introducing the i3 there as well.

BMW is targeting' second-car buyers in urban regions in the world's main auto markets'.  Although no sales target has been announced, BMW expects to be "a significant player" in the market for electric vehicles which has been pegged at about 150,000 cars worldwide in 2012. Tesla expects to sell around 21,000 Model S, with most of the other sales coming from Nissan and Renault.

BMW reckon that for those living in metropolitan areas, an electric car with a range of 150km (93 miles) which needs to be charged 2-3 times per week is a vehicle 'that meets people's needs completely'. As a safeguard, the i3 comes as part of a mobility package that includes the loan of a petrol car for holiday driving.

The i3 is claimed to be the world's first premium car designed from the ground up to be powered by an electric drive system. The car uses the industry's first mass produced carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell mounted on an aluminium chassis. It weighs 1195kg (2634 pounds), 300kg less than other electric cars of the same size.

The i3 has a maximum range of 200km (124 miles) driven in power-saving mode and 160km (100km) in what BMW calls "comfort" mode. A variant with a two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline engine to extend the i3's range to 300km is also planned. The range-extended version will cost nearly 4,000 euros more than the regular EV, BMW sources say.

BMW has invested 600 million euros in production facilities for the car, including installing annual capacity of 40,000 units at its Leipzig, Germany, plant, and building a new factory in the United States at Moses Lake, Washington, that makes carbon fibre for the passenger cell.

BMW will offer additional services such as at-home charging stations and car sharing to ease concerns about the limited range of the vehicle. The company will sell the i3 through the Internet, sales people that visit customers in their homes and through select dealers.
BMW created a separate "i" sub-brand to market electric vehicles and is counting on the i3 and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, due to hit dealerships early next year, to give it an edge in innovation, a key attribute for premium auto manufacturers.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ford US reduce price of Focus Electric

Ford have announced that the 2014 Focus Electric compact car will be 10% cheaper than the same 2013 model. 

The 2014 Focus Electric will soon hit dealers and the base model carries a price tag of $35,200. This reflects a $4,000 cut from the 2013 model’s base price of $39,200.

Since the launch of the vehicle, the automaker has produced 2,517 Focus electric cars and marketed around 1,593 vehicles. During the first half of 2013, Ford sold 900 Focus Electric vehicles in the US.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Tesla Supercharger network plans

Life may have just become a little less anxious for drivers of the Tesla Model S sedan. Elon Musk’s electric car company opened two new “Supercharger stations” on the US East Coast last month, one in Milford, Connecticut, and the other in Wilmington, Delaware.

These new stations have 480-volt charging units that can add 150 miles of range to a Model S in 30 minutes. That’s about five times as fast as a high-power wall charger.



That means that if you have a version of the Model S with a larger battery,, you could make the 450-mile trip from Boston to Washington, D.C., with just two half-hour stops (which you’d probably want anyway on such a long drive). According to Green Car Reports, using these stations is “simplicity itself.” And there’s a nice additional perk: the charging is free.

Tesla already has six of these fast-charging stations in California, unveiled last September, which form a network that covers most of the state. These stations in Delaware and Connecticut are the first on the East Coast, but Tesla’s long-term plan is to develop a Supercharger network that covers high-traffic routes across the U.S., and to begin installing stations in Asia and Europe as well.

200 charging forecourts for the Netherlands - more details

As I reported earlier this month, the Netherlands is about to get a new recharging network of 200 Fastned roadside charging forecourts, meaning that EV drivers will never be more than 50 miles from a charge point.

The distinctive yellow stations are about 100 feet across, and covered in solar panels to power things like lights and cameras. Each station, which Fastned is constructing at existing gas stops, will have four to eight charging points. If all goes well, they could make vehicle charging as convenient as filling a tank, though drivers will still need to wait 15 to 30 minutes before the task is completed.

EVs currently make up less than 1% of new sales in Holland. But Streng says new models, including the Renault Zoe, the BMW i3, and Volkswagen’s E-Up! should help raise that level. He reckons 2014 will be a "tipping point," and that by 2020, sales should be in the 5% to 10% range.
Drivers will pay a subscription (either annual or lifetime), and have a choice of two charging systems: one based on Japan’s CHAdeMO standard, the other on the Combined Charging System, from the U.S. Society of Automotive Engineers. Streng says it was necessary to offer both, as nobody knows which standard will become dominant (or if they can exist together).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Mahindra e20 reviewed

I just came across a review of the Mahindra Reva e20 for the Indian market launched earlier this year, the development of which I was involved in from 2008 to 2010. Good to see positive reviews and great that my former Reva colleagues kept my 'REVive' nomenclature for the emergency remote charging #chuffed#. Here is the review 

Monday, 8 July 2013

EV consumer segmentation

Who buys (or doesn't buy) electric cars?

This graphic is from a report by the Energy Technologies Institute titled 'Transport - an affordable transition to sustainable and secure energy for light vehicles in the UK'

 Their consumer research revealed eight unique consumer segments:

Plug in Pioneers – A very early adopter group.

Zealous Optimists – Early adopters of plug-in vehicles generally.

Willing Pragmatists – Early adopters of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles specifically.

Anxious Aspirers – A group enthusiastic about plug-in vehicles generally, but who have strong actual and perceived constraints to adoption.

Uninspired Followers – A sceptical group without strong opinions but a lack of enthusiasm about plug-in vehicle technology.

Conventional Sceptics – A sceptical group who question the benefits of plug-in vehicles.

Image-conscious Rejecters – A decidedly negative group who like very little about plug-in vehicles.

Company Car Drivers – who show signs of openness towards plug-in vehicles, particularly plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and particularly as a second car (although the choice experiment indicates significant barriers to converting ‘interest’ to ‘purchase’).



Bluebird to launch Formula E racing car and electric sports car

The Bluebird DC50 electric sports car and the Bluebird GTL electric race car will be launched simultaneously at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu this year at the Sustainable MotoExpo on 28th September.

The Bluebird DC50 electric sports car will be a limited edition of just 50 cars, built to commemorate the 50th anniversary in 2014 of Donald Campbell's land and water speed records. With sub 1000kg kerbweight, near perfect 45/55% front: rear weight ratio, peak power of up to 360bhp and sub 6 seconds 0-60mph and a top speed of 140 mph (limited), the Bluebird DC50 is a two-door coupe with electrically operated 'scissor' doors. It has a range of up to 200 miles, depending on specification, and will be available in one body colour only – Bluebird blue.

The Bluebird GTL electric race car has been designed to the latest technical regulations for the forthcoming FIA Formula E series and is Bluebird's 'vision' for the all-electric global race series due to start in 2014.

Chargemaster announces UK IPO

UK charge station manufacturer Chargemaster plc is raising £6million when it lists this month on the AIM market, giving it a market value of around £32million.
Led by chief executive David Martell, Chargemaster now has 6,000 charging points at supermarkets, offices and homes in the UK and Europe, mainly France and the Benelux countries. Chargemaster recently overtook Elektromotive as the UK's leading EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) vendor and had planned to acquire Elektromotive as part of the IPO, but this is no longer the case.
Last year Chargemaster posted £3.6million revenues and £1.24million profits.
The press release states: The UK and European markets for plug-in vehicle charging equipment are driven primarily by three factors; the European regulatory framework which imposes significant fines on car manufacturers that fail to meet stringent new emission targets driving them to bring out a new range of plug in vehicles ,infrastructure deployment by manufacturers and dealers to support this new EV introduction, UK and European government EV infrastructure funding programmes, and underlying market adoption of plug-in vehicles. In January 2013 the European Commission ("EC") announced targets of a total of 795,000 charging points installed by 2020, at an estimated total cost of €8 billion across the EU; the UK specifically has been targeted to have a total of 122,000 charging points installed by 2020.

European governments are forcing motor manufacturers to produce more low emission vehicles by stipulating stringent EC emissions targets which begin in 2015. Regulation, the historic driver of change within the automotive industry has set emissions targets of 130gCO2/km in 2015 falling to 95gCO2/km in 2020. As an example, the emissions of a typical family car, such as a Ford Mondeo 2.0 would trigger a fine for the manufacturer of as much as €4,000 were the car to be manufactured in 2020.

The Company believes that, in the short term, government incentives and new car emission requirements will be the major driver of demand for EV charging points, whilst in the medium term market adoption of EVs will become the dominant influence, and government incentives are likely to be progressively withdrawn. In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, many governments globally, including the UK Government, have set targets to substantially increase the adoption of EVs, with the objective of global EV sales totalling at least 5.9 million units per annum by 2020. By 2050, the UK Government envisages a significant proportion of all cars and vans to be zero emission vehicles.

The UK and other European governments provide direct subsidies for the purchase of certain EVs. These directly lower the capital cost of EVs to the consumer, therefore making them more cost competitive with other vehicle types that do not benefit from such subsidies. Similarly, governments are introducing grants to help improve the existing charging infrastructure with the UK government committing £37 million to support charging infrastructure growth in March 2013. The UK Government is subsidising up to 75% of the cost of a new domestic charging point as well as supporting the rollout of a national network of rapid charge stations, workplace charging units and a network of charging stations located in railways stations.

Government incentives, coupled with the anticipated decline in EV prices, are likely to prompt an increase in EV charging equipment sales. By 2021, global EV charging point sales are estimated to reach US$3.4 billion, selling over 4.1 million charging points.[3] SBI Energy estimates EV charging point sales in Europe will reach US$1 billion per annum by 2021.

Chargemaster has developed a range of charging equipment from consumer charging points to enable plug-in cars to be charged at the home, to sophisticated public rapid charging units incorporating Radio Frequency Identification ("RFID") technology, smart metering and integrated billing systems. The main products are:

· Home charging: The majority of charging of EVs is expected to take place at home. Chargemaster manufactures a popular home charging unit in Europe, which is supplied to Nissan, Renault, Vauxhall, Toyota, British Gas, EDF and Volvo. It is an attractively designed unit with charging rates of up to 7kW allowing cars to be fully charged in around three hours, and is installed either in customers' garages or outside on their driveway.

· Workplace charging: Chargemaster has a popular range of charging units designed for workplace use. Access control can be by RFID card or by key switch and the units may be conveniently mounted on a wall or post mounted.

· Public charging: Chargemaster's range of public charging units charge an EV at a rate of up to 22kW allowing cars to be fully charged in around an hour. The Company supplies units that can be mounted on car park walls or post units installed on streets and car parks.

· Rapid charging: The Company distributes rapid charge units manufactured by Nissan providing up to 50kW AC and DC charging to appropriately equipped cars. These are typically installed in public places and can charge a car in as short a time as 30 minutes.

In addition, Chargemaster provides installation, service and maintenance support for all charging posts.

Since inception, Chargemaster has supplied to an impressive portfolio of energy providers (SSE, British Gas, EDF and Vattenfall), car manufacturers (Nissan, Renault, Volvo, Toyota, Vauxhall and BMW), government agencies (Department for Transport and Transport for London), 25 local government bodies (including Cambridge, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes local authorities), and commercial and retail organisations (Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury's and NCP).

Chargemaster's various commercial and strategic relationships ensure the Company is able to benefit from EV and plug in car sales within the private sector, as well as provide local councils with a charging infrastructure. In May 2013, Chargemaster received an order to supply charging points to accompany the UK launch of the Renault Zoe.

New land speed record for a lightweight car

Drayson Racing Technologies has broken the world land speed record for a lightweight electric car.

Its Lola B12 69/EV vehicle hit a top speed of 204.2mph (328.6km/h) at a racetrack at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire.

Chief executive Lord Drayson, who was behind the wheel, said the achievement was designed to highlight electronic vehicle technology's potential.

The previous 175mph record was set by Battery Box General Electric in 1974.

200 charge point network for Netherlands

An illustration of a Fastned electric-vehicle charging station
An illustration of a Fastned electric-vehicle charging station
Fastned, a Dutch company building a network of 200 electric-vehicle rapid charging stations along highways in the Netherlands, has selected Switzerland-based ABB to supply the chargers for the network.

The devices can charge an EV's battery in 15 to 20 minutes, ABB said Monday, and will be equipped to handle a variety of EVs. "This is critical to maintain compatibility between rapidly evolving cars and chargers in the years to come," the company said in a statement.

The first chargers will be delivered in September, and Fastned plans to have its charging stations built by 2015, ABB said.

Electric vehicles such as Tesla Motors' critically acclaimed Model S have only just begun arriving on the market, but some entrepreneurs see charging stations as a business opportunity today. Tesla is building its coast-to-coast Supercharger network in the United States, for example, and a company called Clever is building a charging network in Denmark. Charging an EV takes longer than filling a gas tank, though high-power chargers can speed the process.

Fastned plans to situate charging stations so that electric vehicle drivers will never be more than 50km (31 miles) away from one. The stations' roofs will be covered with photovoltaic cells for a bit of an electricity boost.

The planned Fastned electric-vehicle charging station network in the Netherlands.
The planned Fastned electric-vehicle charging station network in the Netherlands.

Friday, 5 July 2013

UK to ramp up recharging network

OLEV (the UK Office for Low emission Vehicles ) have got it right.

They invited local authorities (usually in partnership with other organisations) to bid for 75% government funding of the supply and install of charging stations. Unlike the previous Plugged-in Places scheme, which limited funding to a handful of regions, this cash is available across England and Wales.

Over the next few weeks we will start to see the announcements in the media of the successful bidders.

Expect to see a significant growth in the number of fast and rapid charge stations available, together with some improvements in interoperability.
It's a big step forward, but we still need to see true interoperability - the ability to access, use and pay for charging - using a single RFID card, telephone number, app or other mechanism.

Watch this space.

Google and the EV market

Opportunities presented by electric cars could draw Google into the car industry in future, according to its CEO, Eric Schmidt, reported in Autocar.
The company is already heavily involved in the automotive industry through its connectivity and driverless car projects. But Schmidt revealed that Google is spending heavily in R&D in all areas of the industry.
“This is the beginnings of a new industry,” he said. “History has proven that new technology thrives best in new companies. I figure that in 20 years’ time, electric cars will be in the mainstream. 
“The technology itself is simple and the application of it is advancing quickly. Eventually, people will have to look at internal combustion-engined cars and ask why we drive such complex vehicles. Digital cameras have replaced analogue cameras; the same will eventually happen with our cars.
“Ultimately, I don’t know where Google fits in. But if we can get involved in anything that promotes new technology, innovation, materials and so on, then we’ll be signed up for it.”

Renault driving French infrastructure

AutoblogGreen reports that Renault continues to try to kickstart sales of its all-electric Zoe with public-private partnership agreements that will improve France's electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.

The automaker has reached an agreement with SyDEV, which operates the electric utilities in the coastal Vendee region about 250 miles southwest of Paris. Renault and SyDEV will work together on deploying 350 publicly accessible electric-vehicle charging stations across 191 towns between 2014 and 2016. The region, located near the Atlantic Ocean, is home to about 600,000 people.

Renault and sister company Nissan have been leading the OEM charge for EV adoption but so far are falling short of their goals. While Leaf sales have jumped in the US this year, Renault has sold about 25,000 EVs, mostly Twizy and Kangoo models. Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn famously set a goal of selling a combined 1.5 million EVs by 2016.

Meanwhile, the French Minister of Industrial Renewal Amaud Montebourg said last September that the country would be home to "the electric revolution." France has offered tax credits worth around 9,000 euros for buyers of EVs like the Renault Zoe.

Northern and Republic of Ireland link charging networks

TheGreenCarWebsite reports that Europe’s first cross-border fast charger network will join Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, making it possible for EV drivers to roam across the two countries.
A total of 46 new fast charge points will be installed as part of a €4.2 million project, run as a joint initiative between the Electricity Supply Board’s (ESB) ecars project and the Department for Regional Development Northern Ireland (DRD NI). It is co-funded by the EU TEN-T and will become a Europe-wide test bed for the rollout of an interoperable network of charging points across the EU.
The first charging station is now open at the Topaz Service Station at Dublin Port and is capable of recharging compatible electric cars to 80 per cent battery capacity in just 20 minutes. Other fast charging stations are already in service along key inter-urban routes on the E1, linking in Belfast, Banbridge, Dublin, Wexford and Rosslare, with further charging stations planned for Cork, Galway, Limerick and Derry.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in Ireland, Pat Rabbitte, said: “I am delighted to launch this North-South electric vehicle corridor which represents another important step in the development of a nationwide electromobility programme in Ireland.”
Jerry O’Sullivan, Managing Director of ESB Networks, said: “With the global move to a low carbon future we are seeing the continued integration of the energy and transport sectors.  This investment reinforces Ireland’s leading position in the development and rollout of a standardised, smart electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The rollout of this infrastructure provides the ability to accommodate the uptake of electric vehicles nationally in line with Government policy, and further enhances their appeal to the general public.”
The project funding is part of an EU study to assess the potential of EV fast charging infrastructure across Member States. It is hoped that the study will provide a framework for further standardised fast charge networks in Europe.
There are currently over 1,000 public charge-points across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. A map of ESB’s ecars network of charging points is available here www.esb.ie/ChargePointMap where you can also download the free mobile app ‘ecar connect’.

Monday, 1 July 2013

EVs only exempt from London Congestion Charge

From today, July 1st 2013, only  electric cars are exempt from the £10 per day Monday to Friday London Congestion Charge because only EVs meet the 75g CO2/km limit for exemption. The fine is £120 for those not paying the £10 in their non-EVs.

The Nissan Leaf is just £189 per month to lease, an amount which is less than the cost of a month's Congestion Charge payments.

Not only that, the Source London charging network has 1300 charge points, the highest number of any major city in Europe.

I may not be able to see the tipping point yet, but I can feel it inching towards us.

Tesla's 90 second battery swap system

The Register.co.uk reports: Even as Tesla Motors labors to build out its North American network of "Supercharger" recharging stations, the electric carmaker has unveiled an additional system that promises to get its vehicles juiced up and ready to run in less time than it takes to fill a traditional car's tank with fuel.

At an event at Tesla's Hawthorne, California design studio late on Thursday, founder Elon Musk showed off a system that can swap out a Tesla Model S's depleted battery for a fully charged one in around 90 seconds.

Motorists need never leave their vehicles. The driver simply parks the car over the designated spot and a platform rises from the ground, removes the 1,200-pound (544kg) battery from the underside of the chassis, and replaces it with a new one, all in around a minute and a half.
During Musk's demo, a screen overhead showed video of a motorist filling an Audi sedan's 23-gallon (87L) tank at a Los Angeles–area filling station, a process that took nearly four minutes. Musk took the opportunity to swap out a second Tesla's battery while he waited.

Unlike the company's Supercharger stations, which allow Tesla owners to recharge their batteries for free for the life of the car, Tesla plans to profit from the battery-swapping operation, CNNMoney reports.

A firm price for the service hasn't been set, but Musk has said he expects each swap to cost at least $50. During Thursday's demo, the Audi driver paid $99.83 to fill up, though many car models feature smaller tanks.

The batteries that are swapped in are just loaners. Each swapping station will stock about 50 batteries, which drivers are expected eventually to return in exchange for their own, original batteries. Their batteries will be fully charged, but they'll have to pay for a second swap to get them back.
If returning to the same swapping station is too inconvenient, customers can optionally pay to get their batteries shipped to a different service center, or they can keep the new batteries. In the latter case, they'll need to pay the difference in value between the new batteries and their original batteries, based on the batteries' respective ages.

Each swapping station is projected to cost around $500,000 to build, but it won't all be money out of Tesla's pocket. The 90-second swapping time helps Tesla meet the "fast refueling" requirement for zero-emissions vehicles set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which allows the cars to qualify for government clean-energy credits.

Because Tesla cars burn no fuel and they're manufactured in such small quantities relative to the big US automakers, Tesla actually earns surplus energy credits, which it can sell to other companies. Last quarter, such sales brought in $67.9m, which helped Tesla post its first-ever quarterly profit.
Musk said that if there is sufficient interest, Tesla would also consider licensing its battery-swapping technology to other companies.

Meanwhile, Tesla has been working hard to expand its network of free-to-use Supercharger recharging stations, which it expects to cover 80 per cent of the US and Canada by 2014.
The battery-swapping stations will be installed as an additional option at select Supercharger locations along high-traffic routes, and the first stations are expected to appear late this year.

Tesla's direct sales and charging model

Faye Sunderland at TheGreenCarWebsite writes an interesting piece on Tesla's plans to create a direct retail and charging model: You've got to admire Tesla's determination to hog the headlines. This week, the Californian start-up is making waves by challenging the automotive establishment in the US.

The electric car maker wants to cut out the middleman and sell its products directly to consumers rather than take the traditional dealer approach. It's reason for this? Well, the firm's co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk, traditional dealers might not be the best advocates for electric cars.

According to Reuters, Musk criticised the traditional dealer model, while speaking firm's annual shareholders meeting, saying: "It didn't work for Fisker, didn't work for Coda. In the last 90 years, when did it work? We have to do this directly."

However his plans to control the distribution network is encountering problems. Most US states don't allow carmakers to sell their models directly and a move to overturn this has already failed in Texas last month, with strong resistance from dealer lobby groups.

Nonetheless, the Californian firm is expected to expand its retail stores from 34 to 50 stores in the US by the end of the year, as sales of its seven seat Model S electric car continue to grow. With the electric saloon expected to arrive in Europe later this summer, Tesla expects to bring its independent approach over here too, with plans to open a showrooms in major cities including London expected to be announced soon.

As big as Porsche
As Tesla recorded its first ever quarterly profit in the first three months of this year, following the launch of the Model S late last year, giving the company's share price a boost; near tripling in value. Commenting on this, Musk said yesterday that the company's gross margins could approach those of Porsche 'over time'.
That's not all that is firm is attracting media attention over. Its recent announcement that it is to triple its network of superchargers in the States by the end of the month is also raising questions about it is more interested in being an owner and operator of charging infrastructure.

As big as Chevron?
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the move to install more Superchargers won't just make sense in the short-term to help sell its Model S, but in the long-term, could ensure that the firm becomes the default network operator for all electric cars in the US. With the firm already selling its electric drivetrain technology to firms such as Mercedes and Toyota, the Wall St Journal suggests, that for the right price, Tesla could also sell access to its Superchargers too.

At the moment, only Tesla's Model S is compatible with the Superchargers, but with a recharge of 20 minutes able to deliver a range of around 200 miles-much more than another other system currently available-it is easy to understand why other carmakers might want to access to both this recharging network and the compatible technology.

As the blog in the Wall St Journal puts it; having control of the recharging infrastructure could be much more valuable to the firm than the cars themselves, in the same way that it has been more profitable to be Chevron than GM during the era of petrol cars.