Weekly Brief: EVs Start Walking-the-Walk Towards Mass Adoption

The electric vehicle revolution won’t be a revolution until the business fundamentals support it.

Consumer curiosity, federal tax breaks, automaker incentives and environmental angst only go so far. If entry-level EVs still cost more than their ICE counterparts, the masses won’t be feeling all that revolutionary. Likewise, if charging stations are an unprofitable business investment, as they largely have been to date, the business community won’t evolve towards fast chargers over gas stations.

That’s why BP’s revelation last week that its fast chargers are “on the cusp” of becoming more profitable than its fuel pumps is significant. BP owns the most fueling stations in the UK, ahead of Shell and Esso. The company said in an interview with Reuters that its gross electricity sales from EV charging grew 45% from Q2 to Q3 2021. The company plans to grow from its current 11,000 charging stations in the UK to 70,000 by 2030, with an exclusive focus on DC fast charging.

“If I think about a tank of fuel versus a fast charge, we are nearing a place where the business fundamentals on the fast charge are better than they are on the fuel,” BP’s executive vice president of customers and products told Reuters. If the biggest oil giant in Britain is saying that, you know the EV charging rush is on. Last week BP’s venture capital arm, bp ventures, teamed up with Vietnamese automaker VinFast to close an $80M funding round in Israeli start-up StoreDot. This company is developing an “eXtreme Fast Charge” (XFC) battery for EVs that can be charged from flat to full in a matter of minutes, it claims. The start-up, which already has inked a partnership with Daimler, says that it plans to use the funding to further R&D and scale up its technology with automotive manufacturers.

Elsewhere last week, BMW i Ventures led a $4.7M seed funding round in HeyCharge, a German start-up that solves an important problem: charging EVs in apartment garages and other underground parking locations. Traditionally, EV chargers require an app or RFID card and a proper internet connection to begin activation, yet most underground garages don’t have an internet access point, or the ability to install such boxes. HeyCharge’s SecureCharge technology eliminates the need for an on-site internet connection, allowing the app and chargers to communicate directly over bluetooth with the HeyCharge App or SDK.

Two weeks ago at CES 2022, the spotlight was trained on the EVs at the show. Headline grabbers like the all-new Chevy Silverado EV truck or a Mercedes-Benz EV that claim to travel 600 miles on a single charge. Yet if you walked the halls at CES 2022, one of the biggest areas of focus was charging infrastructure. Wallbox, for example, debuted the Quasar 2 Bidirectional EV Home Charger, which you can program to charge your vehicle exclusively during off-peak hours and to sell electricity back to the grid from your EV when the rates are most beneficial.

Blink showed off its new HQ200 EV Home Charger, which syncs with home assistants like Google Home and Alexa so you can easily control charging and get updates from your vehicle in your house. It includes features like side-by-side dual charging if you own more than one EV.

Back to VinFast, the Vietnamese automaker announced plans to hit the US market with an all-electric line-up starting in late 2022. To make that happen, VinFast’s CEO said at the show that the company plans to build a large battery and battery cell factory in the US in the coming years; the specific location is still in the works. Meanwhile the West Midlands Gigafactory cleared an important regulatory hurdle last week with local planning authorities in Coventry and Warwickshire, England. The factory will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for global automotive partners and employ about 6,000 people. Opening date is scheduled for 2025. Paul Myles has the full details.

None of these announcements on its own is all that exciting. Taken together, however, they show how much activity is going on behind the headlines of the latest EV truck or luxury sedan. The more energy that goes into building out a fast, reliable charging infrastructure, the more inevitable an EV revolution becomes.

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