Currently, there are around 1.2B cars globally, either actively driving or sitting in a parking spot (where most vehicles stay for more than 90% of their lifetime). Of these cars, 8.5M are electric vehicles, accounting for 0.7% of the total.
The number of EVs roaming the roads is estimated to increase to 116M by 2030, which would be a fleet 13 times bigger than the current one. In this new world, EVs will be predominant. In order to service this new landscape, the existing scale of EV charging infrastructure needs to increase significantly.
The Role Of Charging Infrastructure In EV
Ideally, you should have a charging station available in your garage, but what happens if you park on the street? Or if you want to charge your car while shopping, or during a long road trip over the capacity of one full charge of your car’s battery?
Having an EV charging network in each country will be key to successfully motivate citizens to buy an electric car. The number of stations available, location of the stations, fast charging capabilities, etc. are all variables that will need to be improved in each region to adapt to this new reality.
Norway is the world leader in EV owners, more than 33% of their new car registrations in 2019 were electric. Although there are many reasons why Norway became the world leader, its existing EV charging infrastructure is a key factor.
The Existing Worldwide EV Charging Network
Let’s see how the EV charging network looks in a few regions by comparing the numbers above for public charge points per million population. We’ll also take a look at which percentage of them are fast charging stations.
In terms of charging points per population, the Netherlands is leading the charts, together with Norway and Switzerland sharing the Top 3. Although if we check which percentage of these stations are “fast charging” stations, the Top 3 changes to the following: the United Kingdom, followed by Finland and Japan.
Surprisingly, Norway, which leads the world in EV ownership , also has one of the lowest percentages of fast charging stations.
This could mean that if you offer enough conveniently-located public EV charging stations, you may not need to focus as much on fast charging.
Developments In Charging Infrastructures Are On The Rise
There is no doubt that a good public EV charging network is a key motivating people to buy an electric car. Although it may seem like the network isn’t there yet in most of these countries, most governments are planning to expand and improve their networks.
Sustainability and Clean Energy aren’t momentary hot topics, they will remain a priority in the future as climate change is becoming a bigger threat day by day. Countries need to adapt to the future and invest in more sustainable forms of mobility. Mass incentives for EV cars are an option, of course, but they need a robust EV charging infrastructure to succeed.
Many countries have these developments in their future planning strategies already. Germany, for example, plans to roll out 1 Million charging points by 2030. Plans to roll out more charging capacity across different regions combined with innovation in EV charging also point to a promising future in this space.
Innovations & Trends In EV Charging
Let’s take a look at some innovative solutions and trends in EV Charging that help to push the electric car revolution:
The name is pretty self-explanatory: Bidirectional chargers are a type of charging technology that goes two ways. How does this work? When an EV is charged, AC (Alternating Current) from the grid is converted to DC (Direct Current) power. This can be carried out by either the car’s own converter or a converter located in the charger. In addition to charging an EV in the traditional sense, this technology allows for energy stored in an EV’s battery to power a house/external load (V2H) or send it back to the grid (V2G).
With bidirectional charges, the power of electric cars can be used in a more sustainable way. Fermata Energy from the United States is a pioneer in this space.
Charging devices without cables isn’t new, and this wireless charging is also applicable to electric vehicles. By parking the car on a spot with a charger on the ground, the vehicle’s battery can be refilled wirelessly. It works in a similar way to wireless phone chargers, but on a bigger scale. As one can imagine, the amount of energy being exchanged in these wireless systems far outpaces a wireless cell phone charger, and these innovations must be robust, safe, and certified solutions, often pointing to a long path to market for startups developing them.
Our ecosystem startup ELIX, based in Canada, developed a unique wireless charging technology for EVs which offers a true “park-and-charge” system.
Tesla, ABB, ChargePoint, EVbox and other OEMs and networks offer fast-charging stations already. With these stations you can fully charge your car in around 20-60 minutes, which is still far from the time it would take to fill a tank of gas. That’s the ultimate goal, though: to fully charge a vehicle in less than 10 minutes. Among other hurdles associated with handling the huge amounts of power needed for these solutions, if not done correctly, fast charging can lead to faster degradation of the battery.
Our portfolio startup GBatteries is developing a unique and advanced battery charging technology to enable EVs to charge as fast as it takes to fill a tank of gas without negative impact on battery life.
Portable Charging Units
Range anxiety represents the main concern for those considering buying an EV. What if you run out of battery and can’t find a charging station that’s close enough? There’s good news, though. Startups are building power banks for cars, just like there are power banks to charge smartphones, and you’ll be able to order them right from a cellphone app.
Startups like SparkCharge have developed a portable and ultrafast charging unit that can be requested on-demand anytime, anywhere.
Nowadays, the most comfortable way to charge an electric car is to leave it charging at night, while the user is at home. For users that don’t have a private garage, or any available charging station near their home, ZUMO offers “charging-as-a-service”. They pick up the car, bring it to a charging station to spend the night, and bring it back to the user the next morning, fully charged. This also solves the problem of those who don’t have any available charging options.
Circular Economy & Sustainability in EV Batteries
Have you ever thought about what happens to the battery packs of EVs when they are discarded? It is estimated that, by 2030, approximately 11M tons of “discarded” Li-ion batteries will be accumulated.
AKKSEL, a startup based in Basel, Switzerland, is making sure that these discarded EV battery packs are being recycled or properly disposed of. They accomplish this through different methods, such as building a global circular economy marketplace, connecting second life battery consumers and suppliers.
The Future of EV Charging Infrastructure
While many countries still have some homework to do in terms of increasing and improving the existing EV Charging infrastructure, some innovative alternatives and the willingness of local governments to invest in an EV future will definitely play a key role in the success of electric vehicles. We need to ensure reliable access to charging infrastructure to keep accelerating the acquisition of electric vehicles. In the same way that platforms have been developed for people to profit on their personal assets by sharing them with strangers (Uber, Airbnb), personal/home EV chargers may become “shared” assets to make sure everyone can get a charge.
Enrique Alía Altares, CEO and founder of the Spanish startup CargaTuCoche, shares his views and tells how his company is tackling this problem: “I believe that access to the charging infrastructure is going to become a problem when the electric vehicle becomes a mass market. It is very difficult to have a conventional charging point individually for each electric vehicle due to technical and structural reasons. The solution we are proposing and working on is the development of charge sharing. An ecosystem based on sustainability and a collaborative economy in which private charging points can be shared among users when they are not being used.”
Overall, it is pretty exciting to see how the Mobility startup ecosystem is developing a variety of solutions to revolutionize EV charging in order to match the pace of EV adoption. Where some people see problems, entrepreneurs see solutions and business opportunities. There are still many questions and problems to be addressed, but one thing is clear: The future is electric and cities and nations must be prepared to keep it charged.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY TYRONE FURRER
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