EURO FIRMS BATTLE TO SET UP CHARGING STATIONS
Need for high-power charging networks creating major competition for limited space at motorway service areas
THE battle over how and where Europeans charge their electric cars is expanding from the continent’s cities to its motorways.
Power utilities, tech start-ups and oil majors are fighting to establish themselves as the dominant players in the fast-growing business of charging stations but advances in electric vehicles means where they build them is changing.
Refuelling conventional petrol and diesel cars on motorways has long been the domain of the oil firms, which typically have their own networks of filling stations.
Several are now talking on setting up high-power charging networks, creating major competition for limited space at motorway service areas.
“It is a bit of a landgrab now to win this sector,” said Tim Payne, chief executive of British charging start-up InstaVolt, which has raised £12 million (RM67.2 million) to install 3,000 charge points across Britain by 2020.
While the range of electric vehicles was less than 100km, Europe’s utilities were happy to help cities and companies install slow and inexpensive charging points at homes, offices and shops, often supported by state subsidies.
But Tesla, Porsche and BMW are now making battery-powered cars with enough range to drive across countries.
Charging infrastructure remains nowhere near it needs to be.
“Where is the network of charging points that will be required? Indeed where is the power and the grid?” asked Ralf Speth, boss of Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover.
Experts, including ChargePoint and Engie, are, however, making plans to build pan-European networks of high-voltage fast-charging stations which can refill a battery in less than half an hour instead of overnight.
In Britain, InstaVolt is renting land from filling station operators, bringing them additional revenue from the lease as well as the increased traffic to their shops at the sites. It earns a margin by selling power through the chargers. Reuters