Tokyo and San Jose: bellwethers of EV success & failure
Feb 07, 2012 Dr Peter Harrop
IDTechEx is currently in Silicon Valley having spent over two weeks in Tokyo at EV clients and EV events. Both locations are a bellwether of what is really happening on the ground with EVs because they have a relatively large number of early adopters. We never saw a pure electric car in the street in either location. Extensively walking the streets we never saw an EV charging station either, until, in San Jose, we were directed by solar charging station manufacturer Sunpods to "a few" outside City Hall.
Sunpods had never seen anyone using them and taxi drivers and all other locals that we asked said the same. We asked a workman putting in three new ones to replace the old ones if they were now likely to be used. "Hopefully" he replied.
The chargers are once again branded Coulomb Technologies, a company seeking, at least in part, to make money out of selling electricity through such charging stations. That should be price insensitive, when the alternative is walking home, and the electricity can be bought wholesale and sold retail, giving excellent margins. But the cars must be there or a high percentage of nothing is nothing. The logos show that there are plenty of payment means available including credit and prepayment cards. Government grants and venture capital, not people plugging in, is what keeps the car charging business afloat at present. Some contrast to Mark Zuckerberg down the road becoming worth $38 billion with the flotation of Facebook. In short, pure electric cars have a long way to go in gaining market share and it will be interesting to see if leader Nissan really does sell 65,000 of them this year. Even that will be a fraction of the number of pure electric golf cars delivered by Club Car every year, despite golf being in decline in the USA. We think on-road pure electric vehicles will start to be big business in about ten years when 150 -200 miles range is the norm but plug-in hybrids may use a lot of non-residential charging in the meantime - maybe.
You see hybrids within minutes - usually seconds - of stepping out in Tokyo or San Jose and, in Tokyo, that includes a great variety of Toyota hybrid types in particular. By contrast, in San Jose you see plenty of Prius and the odd Toyota Lexus hybrid but many others are from Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and Ford, none plug-in as yet of course.
People talk eagerly about buying the new plug-in hybrids, though we only happened upon one example of the production- limited Chevrolet Volt. ECOtality in San Francisco, US market leader in charging stations, said the future of charging stations lies with charging plug-in hybrids over the next decade. Consistently with this, in Electric Vehicles 2012-2022, IDTechEx sees hybrid on-road cars outselling pure electric ones 5:1 even in 2022. It gives separate projections for all forms of electric vehicle.
Charging station manufacturers such as Schneider Electric in Europe and the leaders in the USA particularly see scope to sell Level 2 charging stations that charge a pure electric car in an hour or two and a plug-in hybrid in much less time. They are expected to be available in large numbers domestically and at destinations such as supermarkets and work places. Last year ECOtality sold 4K domestic chargers and 2K non-residential ones.
For the next few years, with no paybacks, the non-residential ones will be paid for by those seeking a green image. Those backers include electricity utilities and local and national government and major retailers.
No one seems enthusiastic about chargers at the roadside or the gas station. No one wants to stay long at a roadside stop whereas we happily spend an hour at the Mall or the leisure center. In that time, some plug-in hybrids substantially charge their battery pack with a Level 1 charger but, with longer range and therefore larger batteries demanded for plug-in hybrids in future, Level 2 is really needed but still delivering AC to the on-board converter, at least for the next few years.
Unsupervised roadside sites also have problems of vandalism, copper theft, tying up space etc. Indeed, even in whizzy San Jose, Sunpods says it had government funding to put in public charging stations but the City Council turned it down.
So will the monster Level 3 fast chargers be a success beyond fleets? They charge a car in one tenth of the time taken by a Level 2 charger thanks to delivering ten times the kilowatts, but, installed, they cost a disproportionate 70 times as much, or thereabouts. Add to that the cost of a community transformer to upgrade the local grid in countries such as the USA. Call that 100 times as much. We are still researching that one. Only 80 have been installed in Japan so far and no more in Europe or the USA though, in the USA, ECOtality plans to install 200 this year. Some in the USA, Europe and Japan project about 5000 fast chargers being installed in each territory over the next five years but current installation rates make this questionable as yet.
For more attend Electric Vehicles Land Sea Air USA 2012 ,where uniquely we reflect the new realities that there are now six key enabling technologies and they are competing in all forms of EV, hybrid, pure electric and land, water and airborne, manned and unmanned. Speakers from ten countries detail the situation in their parts of the world including SYNPER 3 from Singapore, first to fly an electric helicopter recently, showing how up to 35% of helicopter crashes could be avoided with hybrid electric technology. Sun Yat-Sen University China and Germany Trade & Invest detail their national situations. Next generation batteries are covered by Robert Bosch (Bosch Group) of Germany, Oxis Energy UK, IBM USA and others. OLEV Technologies will show how to continuously pick up power, Schneider Electric of France how modern charging infrastructure is a system not boxes. There will be two presentations on supercapacitor breakthroughs - here is the future. See the full picture, with best-in-class speakers from across the whole world - Slovenia to Gibraltar, China to Canada, each carefully chosen by IDTechEx because of their leadership. There are two presentations on agricultural EVs and five on electric aircraft including Boeing and Airbus involvement. Other presenters include BMW (cars etc), Mitsubishi Motors (small commercial vehicles and cars), Daimler AG (commercial and military vehicles and cars) and Toyota (leader in electric forklifts, electric cars and buses but also presenting on its fuel cell vehicle program.) Uniquely, a large number of electric vehicle manufacturers not seen in conventional EV events will present including iRobot Corporation Autonomous Underwater Vehicles AUVs (better known for EVs as robot vacuum cleaners). Mission Motors and two others focus on electric motor cycles. Many manufacturers of industrial, commercial, military, cars and other EVs will be there. Come to this event where you avoid the usual speakers with nothing new to say and meet people new and useful to you without doing a lot of travelling to find them. Apply for an award.