ChargePoint: Building Out The Electricity Highway One Parking Lot At A Time

Jan 22 2014, 6:24am CST | by

ChargePoint: Building Out The Electricity Highway One Parking Lot At A Time

At the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show this month, BMW and ChargePoint –who has developed the nation’s largest electric vehicle charging network – were touting their growing relationship.  BMW was offering test drives of their new i3 electric vehicle (retailing for just over $40,000 prior to any rebates), featuring a dashboard with directions to all proximate ChargePoint locations. BWM is also ensuring that every participating dealer has a public facing ChargePoint station. The point of this all is to eliminate ‘range anxiety’ and facilitate easy adoption of the new technology.

It seemed like a good time to delve further into the issue of electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure, so I interviewed ChargePoint’s CEO Pasquale Romano after the show to find out what his company was up to.  As it turns out, they are quite busy in a number of areas, and appear to have identified a business model that works.

Observers looking at the world of electric vehicles have for years commented on the chicken and egg dilemma: you cannot sell the cars if there’s no fueling infrastructure in place, and nobody will put the infrastructure in place without the promise of vehicles.

In the EV charging world, the right business model is critical. The company Better Place, for example, tried to create a swappable battery system that they hoped customers would find attractive. The model failed. Better Place burned through $900 million of investor dollars and ended up in a worse place, filing for liquidation late last year.

But the beautiful thing about an innovative economy like ours is that a number of entrepreneurial companies will pioneer different approaches. One or more of them will get it right, delivering a better product, price and experience to the customer.  ChargePoint may be one of those success stories, and they have worked to solve the problem in their own unique approach. They are building out a network, financed by others, and linked together by ChargePoint’s software.

To date, they have installed 70% of the chargers located in the U.S. and claim to be putting in 90% of the new stations. Overall, the company now boasts 15,000 charging locations, up from just over 5,200 locations at the end of 2011. The company also states that ChargePoint Drivers have driven 65 million miles to date, avoiding 2.6 million gallons of gasoline.  Put another way, on average, a driver plugs in every 10 seconds, with 3.8 million charges delivered to date.

ChargePoint CEO Romano commented at the outset of our conversation that they adopted a different approach to the question of ownership:

We don’t deploy or own a single charger.  None of them are ours.  We are crowdfunding the largest network of EV chargers on the planet – both our infrastructure and other hardware suppliers run on our network.  We do that by selling charging infrastructure and most importantly, subscriptions to our cloud-based service to take the pain out of putting chargers in the parking lot. With our business model, station owners can control who charges on their stations and what price is paid to do so – many of them give charging away for free. It’s going to take billions of dollars to fund the network that’s coming and no single company can shell out all the money to deploy the chargers needed.

ChargePoint’s approach is to build this in an incremental fashion.

We do this a parking lot at a time, working with each business with a parking lot – either to serve their employees or their customers. We unify that to create one single network, one ChargePoint card, one set of reference points, and the ability to use that account to charge everywhere you go.

The company is intent on building out its infrastructure as quickly as is feasible, and work to make it easy for the parking lot owner by handling everything from  financing to driver customer service.

The station owner buys or leases chargers from us through our no money down Net+ Purchase Plan. While we do provide the hardware, we are really a cloud service company, a service that we sell to the station owner on an annual subscription basis. For each charging port they install, we take care of it, put it on the map, and make it part of the network.  Station owners use our tools to set prices and access control. We support the drivers when they call our 800 number.  We make charging completely turnkey.

Pasquale comments that – with this approach – you have to think about a larger ecosystem that encompasses both the charge owner and the driver.

The second thing we do differently is that we focus on the driver as much as the station owner, even though the station owner is our customer.  We recruit drivers,  give out the apps and a membership – all for free.  We only take money from driver (for the electricity charge) to give to the station owner acting as the go-between.

How does ChargePoint recruit drivers? By working closely with many of the largest EV manufacturers, right from the outset.

We invest a ton with car companies to make sure they have a seamless sale process so they can give a complete solution to drivers past the point of delivery.  We are a big part of the BMW i3, but we are a big part of the other electric cars as well.  We are integrated with the Nissan nav system in their car.  With the GM Spark, Volt or Cadillac ELR, you get a ChargePoint welcome kit in the glove compartment giving you immediate access to plug into all of ChargePoint’s 15,000+ locations.  When you get your shiny new car, you’ll have no concerns how to fuel it.

Romano predicts profitability “in the not-too-distant future.” He notes that the company has been working at solving the charging problem for some time, and well before there were any electric vehicles on the road to speak of. “We are a six year old company in a three year old market. We have learned over the years how to harden a very sophisticated product.  We needed patient investors but it allowed us to learn and take advantage of that knowledge.”

Long-term, ChargePoint envisions the potential creation of a networked EV community and the company is working to realize that capability.  In the short-term, they are addressing basic issues to improve customer satisfaction, such as charging station availability.

If you navigate to a charging station and there’s somebody already there, you are a very frustrated puppy.  Our system will tell you if somebody is already there.  We are developing a new mobile app that will have a long list of features to help drivers get out of a jam.  You will have messaging capabilities and the ability to cooperatively live with other EV drivers in a relatively easy way. We think you will see lots of social networking around fueling your EV to help make that process simple.

At this stage in the game, ChargePoint enjoys the enviable position of being the leader with infrastructure and software, but Romano is far from satisfied.  As a consequence, he is a crusader for the entire EV experience. Romano’s advice: Get in an electric car.

I would invite your readership to go to the dealership and try a test drive. What BWM has created by giving out thousands of test drives at the Consumer Electronics Show is thousands of evangelists who want to buy an EV because it’s better.  Readers should understand how much fun it is to drive an electric car and how easy it is to find a charging station where they work, shop, eat and live.



Source: Forbes Auto

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Innovation Direct™ Leading the Charge in Marketing of Slide-N-Hide/Cargo Carrier Invention
South Miami, FL, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- An innovative new product designed to effectively address a common problem related to transporting cargo, the Slide-N-Hide/Cargo Carrier, has been developed by Kevin...
 
 
Sound Auto Wholesalers Announces a Discounted Service and Maintenance Plan Exclusively for Vehicle Owners
Sound Auto Wholesalers has launched a plan called "The $20/20% Service Plan" exclusively available on vehicles purchased at Sound Auto Wholesalers.
 
 
California Plans For A Hydrogen Future
California Plans For A Hydrogen Future
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Gather In California The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development for the State of California (nicknamed “GO-Biz”) held an event at the Toyota USA Automobile Museum yesterday....
 
 
GM CEO Still Draws Media Crush; This Time For The Wrong Reason
It was only three months ago that General Motors' Chief Executive Mary Barra was nearly crushed by hundreds of journalists at the Detroit auto show in one of the most epic media scrums the industry has ever seen. Back...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Channing Tatum for X-Men?
Channing Tatum would ''die'' for a role in 'X-Men'. The '21 Jump Street' star has admitted he's been meeting with producers of the sci-fi films and has been discussing the possibility of taking on the role of Gambit,...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
TVS Global Media Inks Former WWE Announcer Ken Resnick to Describe IWA Wrestling on TVS Sports Network
California City, CA, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- The IWA Wrestling Company, founded in 1975 as the first national wrestling company, has hired veteran play by play announcer Ken Resnick to describe the IWA action on...
Read more on TV Balla
 
The Producers of Enterprises TV Present April Air Dates for Flagstaff, AZ
Coral Springs, FL, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Enterprises TV will be broadcast in Flagstaff, Arizona during the month of April. The city is located along the famous Route 66 and is the largest city in the state. It...
Read more on TV Balla
 
"Given Our Chance" Wins Remi Award at Houston Worldfest
San Francisco, CA, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Alex King of A.K. Film Production and Editing and Izidor Ruckel of Ruckel International attended the awards ceremony for the 47th Worldfest International Independent Film...
Read more on TV Balla
 
Lionhead Golf Club and Conference Centre Renovation
Toronto, Canada, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- The Kaneff Group of Companies is proud to announce a $4 million renovation that will transform the clubhouse at Lionhead Golf Club and Conference Centre into a dramatic,...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
"Given Our Chance" Wins Remi Award at Houston Worldfest
San Francisco, CA, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Alex King of A.K. Film Production and Editing and Izidor Ruckel of Ruckel International attended the awards ceremony for the 47th Worldfest International Independent Film...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Thomas S. Wilson Recognized by Strathmore's Who's Who Worldwide Publication
Memphis, TN, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Thomas S. Wilson of Memphis, Tennessee has been included in the Strathmore&#8217;s Who&#8217;s Who Worldwide Edition for his outstanding contributions and achievements in the...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Barbara A. Laughton Recognized by Strathmore's Who's Who Worldwide Publication
Rochester, NY, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Barbara A. Laughton of Rochester, New York has been included in the Strathmore&#8217;s Who&#8217;s Who Worldwide Edition for her outstanding contributions and achievements in...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Shelley L. Johnson, Strathmore’s Who’s Who Best of 2014
Irvine, CA, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- About Shelley L. Johnson Shelley L. Johnson is Senior Analyst at Leidos Health, which provides consulting services, clinical, business and IT solutions for healthcare...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Eugene Z. Stakhiv Has Recently Been Recognized by America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals
Farmingdale, NY, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Eugene Z. Stakhiv is the Technical Director of UNESCO-ICIWaRM and the U.S. Director, IJC International Upper Great Lakes Study (IUGLS). He earned his B.S. in Meteorology at...
Read more on Business Balla
 
 
Auto Balla Sexy Balla Sport Balla TV Balla Politics Balla Movie Balla Apple Balla Business Balla Ad Balla Celebrity Balla