Home / Business / The electric vehicle charging business is doing it all. But make money

The electric vehicle charging business is doing it all. But make money

(Bloomberg) –

President Joe Biden’s plan to wean U.S. drivers from fossil fuels requires large investments in public charging stations to power the electric vehicle revolution. Until now, no company that has deployed the device has figured out how to make a profit.

The dilemma has reduced demand and the exact quality of chickens and eggs. Most electric motorists charge their cars at home, so many public charging stations are used very little. But many people who still drive gasoline-powered cars will not think of electric power until they see charging stations widely deployed for fear they will run out of water on the road.

Speculators are entering the industry believing that the boom period is imminent, while short sellers and other skeptics warn that some of these companies will fail long before they figure out how to build. Biden̵

7;s plan to spend $ 15 billion to help build another 500,000 public stations by 2030 is fueling optimism, with investors flocking to EV charging firms since the election. The risk is that the early moves will be severely damaged and could affect the capital markets in the industry for years to come.

“It takes years to invest before I can get any returns,” said Chris Nelder, who studies the economics of the RMI Energy Research Institute bill.

Nelder is confident that charging electric cars will eventually be profitable. But when the tipping point arrived, it was one of the biggest questions raised with billing companies.

A decade ago, the industry was still searching for a winning business model.Blink Charging Co. and Beam Global had less than $ 10 million in revenues last year. That didn’t stop investors from sending Blink shares up more than 500 percent after Biden’s November win, and while the company’s market valuation remains north at $ 1.6 billion. Beam is up more than 300%, although it has lost about half its value this year.

The largest U.S. company ChargePoint Holdings Inc. recently made public through special acquisitions or SPACs, including EVgo Services and Volta Industries Inc., ready to comply.

Fueling cars and trucks is a low-margin business, with gas stations making a lot of money by selling snacks, coffee and cigarettes. Business will be even more difficult when it comes to EVs if they don’t live in a crowded city like New York or San Francisco.Most drivers will charge at home because their car park is a gas station. They use public chargers infrequently, with most vehicles having enough range for daily errands without powering off. The US Department of Energy estimates that 80% of EV charging occurs at home.

Another worrying issue is that the nature of using a parking spot doubles as a charging facility. If a customer enters the area in her apartment complex at 9 p.m. and asks for a few dollars worth of electricity more often, she’ll leave the car there until going to work the next day. No one can use that charger for the next 10 hours, no matter when her car is fully charged.

Then there are quite a few vehicles involved. Americans bought 259,000 new electric vehicles last year, a record according to BloombergNEF, but still account for only 2% of all car and truck sales, and of the new EVs, 79% are produced by Tesla Inc., which has a network. “It has also signed a deal with seven charging providers,” said General Motors, which is not available to other electric vehicles. With a plug socket

The Tesla driver “approaches the Tesla network,” said Ryan Fisher, BNEF analyst. “Where is the need to connect to these other networks? Does not exist “

The Biden’s administration hopes to be able to boost some of that demand with the proposed spending as part of the infrastructure plan before Congress. Some of the funds will go to a grant and incentive program to install the charger, according to the White House fact sheet, and some will go to research to reduce the cost of the charger itself.

Charging companies are positioning themselves for different forms of profitability.

ChargePoint sells the station and provides support for multi-level operations. But did not receive any money from the charging itself Regular customers can be Silicon Valley companies that give their employees free cash at work as a benefit. If one of the stations is less active, ChargePoint will still receive money.

“I didn’t need a customer driver because I thought I was going to starve,” ChargePoint Chief Executive Pasquale Romano said in an interview.

Other companies like EVgo own the chargers they use and make money every time they use them.

Meanwhile, Blink uses both methods simultaneously, companies like to own and operate as many of their stations as possible. But if a property owner wants to buy a charger from Blink right away, that’s fine too. The bottom line is a good site lock in high-demand areas, according to CEO Michael Farkas.

“Right now, this is land grabs,” Farkas said in an interview. “For us this is finding as many places as we can and we will deal with profitability later.”

Volta Industries, which plans to go public in this year’s SPAC deal, adds advertising to the mix. The charger comes with a 55-inch digital screen, groceries can place the charger in the parking lot and bombard customers with ads for specific products inside.

Beam Global offers a built-in kit with a solar roof that powers the battery and charger. You don’t have to dig a garage to install wires. “You can let the world know you’re driving in the sun for free,” CEO Desmond Wheatley said in an interview.

There’s a good reason Beam’s focus is on its easy installation and the power it generates. The time and costs of installing a grid-connected charging station can be critical, often related to construction permits and local utility connections. The devices range from less than $ 2,000 for the slower base charger and over $ 100,000 for the most powerful model, according to BNEF. Increased production should bring down hardware costs. But for now, this is another reason why some companies struggle to make a profit.

“It’s still early days,” said Colin Rusch, senior analyst covering industries at Oppenheimer & Co.. “As with early industries, you have to give some time until they scale up.”

(Adds GM agreement in 10th paragraph)

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