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Study: EVs cannot succeed without developing parallel supercharging networks

Electric vehicles cannot succeed without developing a nationwide network of fast-charging networks in parallel with the cars. Current EV business models are doomed unless manufacturers that have bet their futures on them, such as General Motors and VW, invest in or coordinate on a robust supercharger network. These are the observations in an in-depth study of the industry by management professors at the University of California, Davis, and Dartmouth College.

The researchers say that that while large, traditional automakers have developed some exciting EVs, they have essentially ignored the charging station side of the equation. Meanwhile, Tesla worked both sides of the market by building a sufficiently wide network of high-speed charging stations before they sold too many cars. There are about 4,000 high-voltage super-fast charging stations in the US, and the majority of them are available only to Tesla vehicles.

Tesla has played the platform game. Other automakers are still playing a product game. This advantage that Tesla has is not permanent. Other automakers are collectively investing $200 billion in their new electric models. If they put only a few billion dollars, in a coordinated way, into rolling out a supercharging network, they could have enough stations to be competitive.

—Hemant Bhargava, a professor of technology management at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Bhargava and his co-authors compare the EV industry to various other platform-based products, such as smartphones, which are not nearly so useful without a mobile data network that delivers high-speed connectivity outside the home.

The article, “The Business of Electric Vehicles: A Platform Perspective,” was published recently in Foundations and Trends in Technology, Information and Operations Management. The authors are Hemant K. Bhargava, UC Davis Graduate School of Management; Jonas Boehm and Geoffrey G. Parker, Dartmouth College. Bhargava directs the UC Davis Center for Analytics and Technology in Society, which focuses on platform business.

The researchers contend that elected officials and public policymakers have called for a rapid shift toward EVs from traditional gasoline-powered transportation and have set ambitious goals. Increasingly, these policies and goals are backed by research and evolving public sentiment, with more buyers willing to pay premium prices for EVs. But, the authors submit, “where do they charge up?”

The lack of charging infrastructure has throttled adoption of EVs. About 17

million automobiles were sold in the United States in 2019, of which only about 245,000 were battery-powered electric vehicles, researchers said.

General Motors, the researchers said, spent $1 billion developing its first electric car, and another $1.2 billion developing the Chevy Volt. Nissan has spent $5.6 billion developing its electric passenger cars. With the major automakers promising new EV models, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that 500 different EV models will be available globally by 2022. The lack of a robust charging network for them will be even more of a glaring omission, Bhargava said.

There’s a chicken-and-egg problem here. Charging station providers will not invest huge amount of money in stations until there are enough cars on the road. But you won’t have mass sales of cars until there are enough stations.

—Hemant Bhargava

Meanwhile, Tesla split its investments on both sides of the market and developed the charging infrastructure in parallel—a necessary element of their success, the researchers said.

Despite likely being defensible in the short run, it is very unlikely that proprietary charging networks are defensible in the long run and the likely low profits make this complement rather unattractive to defend, the researchers concluded.

The huge charging station network is one of Tesla’s great competitive advantages. I would expect that in about 10 years, as the total EVs on the road grow substantially, there will be a force for universal or industry-wide charging stations, like we have today for refueling stations.

—Hemant Bhargava, a professor of technology management at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Resources

Comments

mahonj

I agree.
Governments need to step in here and establish and enforce charging standards so that you only need one socket on your car (ideally). That is, large entities like the US, EU etc; not Belgium or Monaco and the UK.
And then, as the report says, someone needs to spend. It could be the government or it could be individual car companies, but a consortium of car companies (and maybe shopping malls and local government) might be better.
In particular, as interest rates are so low, now would be great time to go all in.

Jer

Home charging.
Multi-family apartment/ condo tax breaks on installing into existing facilities and including in the design of new buildings. Policies for reducing spots per Unit in car parks within urban residential and commercial buildings must be revoked - transit needs to seen as 'the other option', not the primary option. Business tax breaks for installing chargers on employer sites.

mahonj

@jer, home charging is half of it and is fine for commuting where the distance is within the battery capacity of your car. But if you want to go a long way (say >250 miles), (or 125 miles there and back) you'll want a reliable supercharger network.
And it probably has to be > 100kW charging as when driving at motorway speeds, you'll use 15 kW, so you want a decent charge / drive ratio.
50 kW is marginal, IMO.

gryf

Current EV business models are doomed unless manufacturers that have bet their futures on them, such as General Motors and VW, invest in or coordinate on a robust supercharger network.
The Electrify America EV supercharger network, which was started by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with the US over the Dieselgate scandal, plans to deploy one of the most extensive electric car charging networks in the US.
Lucid Motors and Electrify America are partnering to give owners of the upcoming Air EV three years of complimentary charging.
Did UC Davis and Dartmouth forget to consider this?

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