Which came first, the electric charger or the electric vehicle?
A new Accenture analysis about electric vehicle charger infrastructure pilots and business models suggests that the availability of public electric vehicle charging technology remains a sticking point when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. There are three factors that the consulting firm is watching closely this year, since many analysts and firms have held up 2011 as a potential break-through year for mainstream electric vehicle adoption: the investment cost and uncertain potential for returns, the unpredictability of charging habits, and the relative scarcity of vehicles, which means we don't know what technical challenges away.
Accenture's report, called "Changing the game: Plug-in electric vehicle pilots," offers perspective into a number of public electric vehicle charging trials that are going on around the world. So far, there are three clear models for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, Accenture finds:
- Public infrastructure (primarily driven by municipalities and local governments, which aren't necessarily expecting a return on their investment other than covering basic costs)
- Private infrastructure (this is the technology you might find at a mall or at a parking garage, which will be charged at a premium than public infrastructure)
- End-to-end (this is like a service model, where the consumer will be charged some sort of fee under a long-term contract, which covers battery swapping and charging)
There are also some early "lessons" summarized in the report that should be considered by anyone who is considering investment or involvement in electric vehicle infrastructure. Those insights include:
- The impact on the electric grid needs to be considered more closely, but so far so good: Early pilots have show minimal impact on the grid.
- Early on, at least, consumers seem to prefer charging in the privacy of their own home.
- More standards are necessary for a true public charging infrastructure to emerge.
- Most electric-vehicle drivers (so far) are males in their early 30s and 40s, who own a second vehicle.
- Early indications are that electric vehicles don't necessarily need to be charged daily.
Says Accenture analyst Melissa Stark, one of the report's authors:
"The consumer is the most important factor in determining which business models will succeed. The capabilities needed to deliver these models will be the same across the world, but the players that choose to develop them will vary. This means that standardization of technologies is urgently needed to support the varied involvement of service providers. And greater efforts will be required to improve understanding of consumer preferences."