At EVBox, we’re looking forward to a new year full of opportunities to accelerate the shift to electric transportation across the globe. And what kind of opportunities do we expect to see coming down the pike?
We spoke with industry veteran and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for EVBox North America, Mark Henderson, who gave us a detailed glimpse into the evolution of the EV landscape and key insights on how your business can capitalize on this transportation shift. You can see Mark speak on this very topic below (clip from REVOLUTION Digital #3, December 8, 2020).
The crux of our conversation is pretty simple — 2021 will be a pivotal year for businesses that don’t want to fall behind on the EV curve. If you are still unsure about capitalizing on this sharp upward trend in EV adoption, Mark explains why EV charging should make it onto your 2021 "To-Do List."
Many Americans have been driving electric cars for a while now. What’s new in terms of how individuals and businesses are thinking about electric vehicles?
A: Electric vehicles have been championed by environmentalists as a potentially cleaner way to do transportation, which is still very true. But the big shift we’re seeing now is that EVs are not just a cleaner way, they actually provide significant financial advantage as well.
It’s really important for people to understand that, especially from a business perspective, the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles is significantly lower than total cost of ownership of gas engines. That’s especially true in a fleet or a commercial environment.
So, the huge environment benefits are still a key driver. But there’s also more recognition of the financial and economic benefits of electric vehicles.
How about the affordability and accessibility of EVs to mainstream consumers?
A: More availability of electric vehicles (to more kinds of drivers) is coming because battery costs have come down, and they’re going to continue to come down. The vast majority of electric vehicles that are planned to be launched between 2020 and 2022 are in the $35,000 to $40,000 range. Most of these new models are priced under $37,000.
And while a $35K sticker price is still higher than what you may see for certain economy vehicles, with increased production and the steady decrease in battery prices, we can safely assume that the trend for developing more affordable EVs has not reached its terminus. Right now, automakers are investing in the development of mass-market EVs. That is a strong indicator for the future of EVs as more than just luxury vehicles. EVs are being introduced to the market to serve broader purposes, too.
Are there other ways that lower battery costs are making EVs more accessible?
A: A lot of times when you talk to people in the middle of the country about electric vehicles, they think, “Yeah well, everybody here drives trucks, so EVs won’t work.” Well guess what? Trucks are starting to go electric.
Trucks require higher-power batteries. But because battery costs have come down, you can actually equip a truck with electric batteries and still make it accessible from a price perspective. Ford, Rivian, Lordstown Motors — they’re all about to release trucks that are electric, that have higher torque and therefore bigger towing capacity than a normal pickup and have a lot of functionality for middle America.
So what’s happening is, electric vehicles are not just in San Francisco and Boston and those kinds of places anymore. They’re everywhere.
As the cost of EVs comes down, what else needs to happen to make drivers feel confident about switching from gas cars to EVs?
A: First, electric vehicles have to be available. But people also have to be able to charge them.
Range anxiety is a very real concept that people struggle with. “How do I know I am going to get from my house to grandma’s house five hours away?” I know I will pass 102 gas stations on the way, but I don’t know how many charging stations I’ll pass and how long it will take. So the big shift and the big investment needs to be toward adding the EV charging infrastructure to support those sales of electric vehicles and the customers who are buying them.
So, more EV drivers will need more EV charging stations. What opportunities does this present for workplaces, retail areas, parking facilities, and other businesses that have space available to install chargers?
A: We are at the cusp of a paradigm shift in how we think about “fueling up” and where we do it. People won’t necessarily be going out of their way to refuel at a gas station anymore. Eventually, they’ll be able to charge their EVs everywhere they park.
That means, if you’re thinking about adding EV charging to your location, there are three factors to consider.
Your customers are beginning to expect you to have EV charging stations available. You can lose money, lose your core revenue, if customers have to go somewhere else to charge their car. Also, you lose the opportunity to attract new customers who drive EVs.
There is going to be more broad-based investment available to help you pay for the charging infrastructure, including utility programs that provide rebates for the chargers or significantly reduce the cost of getting a site ready for installing them. Although these programs won’t last forever.
There’s a business model to be made here that can provide new sources of revenue for commercial facilities or workplaces or any location where you can provide EV charging and charge the customer for it. There’s money to be made, because you’re effectively turning every parking lot into a fuel station where you’re in control. You can choose when and how much to charge your visitors.
To sum it up: Your customers are coming to expect EV charging, and you can either be on the leading edge or risk losing them. There’s money available right now to help you install EV charging stations, and there are business models that can actually add new sources of profitable revenue for you.
A: One of the things President-elect Joe Biden mentioned in the first presidential debate was the 500,000 EV charging stations that are part of his economic plan. While this indicates a nod toward the future of EV infrastructure, we hope to see millions of new public charging stations to meet the growing demand from EV drivers.
We also can look at certain states where funding has already been approved or is in the process of being approved. The three states that come to mind with the biggest, most generous subsidies and ambitions are California, New York, and New Jersey. New York is in the billions in investments in EV infrastructure, and New Jersey is following the same path. That combo of those three states — you’re talking about a big chunk of the drivers in the country. California and New Jersey both have made statements about banning new sales of gas-combustion cars after 2035.
When California does something like that, it’s not long before Oregon and Washington follow suit. When New York does something, it’s not long before Massachusetts does it also. We’re going to see more and more of that type of statewide push from really large states who see the environmental and societal benefit of such an investment.
Business leaders juggle a lot of competing priorities. Why should EV charging make their to-do lists for 2021?
A: I think that the first order of business for any company is to recover from COVID and be safe. But then the second order of business is to look at your future revenue potential. Companies that have a plan for electric vehicles are going to benefit from the rapid and exponential ramp of EV sales in this country.
I don’t want to sound like we’re telling everybody: “You should buy a million chargers right now!” That’s actually a bad idea, and I would not encourage a commercial business to do that.
What I would say is you should figure out a plan. Let’s say you have a parking lot of 100 spaces. You’re probably going to get one or two of them covered by, say, an Iqon charging station right now. You’re going to get used to the business model. You’re going to see how your customers respond to it. And you’re going to build a plan for the long term to make that one charging station turn into five or ten or more. Over time you’ll figure out what your facility truly needs and determine how best to build it out over time.
If you wait even until 2022 to think about how you’re going to do this, you’ll still be figuring out where to put your first station while your competition is looking into rapid expansion.
At the same time, this EV infrastructure is something that we have to build. The freeways didn’t get built in one day. The Eisenhower administration developed a ten-year plan to get them all built. We’re in a similar situation, headed into 2021. There’s an urgency to getting started; there’s not urgency to getting it completed immediately. But there is a path forward, and we need to start heading in that direction yesterday.
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