Siemens Exits the Charging Station Business – but is that surprising?

According to Deutsche Welle and The Wall Street Journal; Siemens are leaving the Charging Station Business as “demand and market development turned out weaker than expected”. But they are going to continue to produce charging equipment for home/private use.

It’s interesting that the journalists pick up on the idea that it’s the lack of charging stations which is preventing the uptake of EVs, and now there are going to be fewer suppliers of charging stations. The old circular problem: EVs don’t sell because you can’t charge them, and without EVs on the road there is no demand for charging stations and no market.

But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. For sure; Siemens can’t sell charging station equipment because there aren’t enough big projects: the station networks are not being built, the integrators are not getting the funding for the projects, there isn’t enough policy to support large projects, there isn’t enough standardization from the OEM vehicle manufacturers etc… etc…

Is that a direct result of low demand for EVs? do we have to have lots of people buying EVs for there to be a demand for charging stations?

I think not: too simple a statement. It’s becoming clear from the many live projects and pilots and the research gathered around those projects, that home/private charging is key to driving EV uptake and has been all along.

A recent survey report from the EU on driving habits highlights this:

“the average distance that is daily driven in 6 members states ranges from an average of 40 km (UK) to an average of 80 km (Poland). Such distances can be comfortably covered by battery electric vehicles that are currently already available on the market”

“the duration of the parking profiles is a good indicator for the estimation of potential recharge time availability. In our survey it has been revealed that the parking time after the last trip of a day amounts to more than 16 hours per day. This duration is more than sufficient to comply with the potential need for a full slow recharge of an average EDV battery”

“almost 10% of the drivers in the survey park in a private garage or their home, places where a recharging point could easily be installed. The active parking time, defined as the parking periods between which the car is used during a day for several purposes, amounts to 6 hours. This time would be suitable for a potential fast charging or topping up the charge at a convenient place, which is reported for the active parking period mostly as parking at public areas, public parking, reserved parking places at work or regulated and unregulated kerbside parking.”

Battery swapping and charge stations to replace (or add on to) current fuel stations forecourts is un-imaginative and over complicated to implement. The commercial charge stations need to be at locations: places of work, places to visit, places to by things: town centers, super markets, business centers etc…

In the mean time (and in the long term) encouraging business to install charge stations for employees, and (crucially) encouraging private owners to install chargers at home is how to drive uptake of EVs.

The OEMs are tackling this already, by providing charge equipment and charge station installation services at the point of sale, and arguably charge station services and fitment will be a valuable revenue opportunity for OEMs and main dealers for the lifetime of the car as it changes hands, and perhaps there will be loyalty programmes centering around the charge stations and more new revenue opportunities.

Siemens are undoubtedly responding to the market, but was the market not more predictable in the first place? A change in thinking on EVs is needed, and the realization that charging them is completely and utterly different to fueling combustion vehicles.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated: The infrastructure need to handle the energy is already in place, 99% in place according to one US utility: it seems that grid inadequacies may have been overstated – see related article here.

See also…

Download the European Commission JRC policy report “Driving and parking patterns of European car drivers – a mobility survey” by clicking here

Deutsche Welle: http://www.dw.de/siemens-stops-producing-public-charging-stations-for-e-cars/a-17061672

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130903-701592.html

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