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INTERVIEW: Plugging In ABB’s Electric-Car Charging Technology

–European market for fast-charging technology may be worth up to EUR1 billion by 2015

–ABB reckons DC technology gives it an edge

By John Revill


ZURICH (Dow Jones)–Power-equipment and technology giant ABB Ltd (ABBN.VX) expects exponential growth in demand for fast-charging technology for battery-powered vehicles in the next three years, with the fledgling European market likely to be worth EUR500 million to EUR1 billion a year by 2015.

Factor in growth in the U.S. and Asia, and the overall market should be three times that size, the Swiss group reckons.

“It is not a question of will this market develop, but more a question of how will it mushroom,” said Hans Streng, the head of ABB’s electrical vehicle charging infrastructure business.

Zurich-based ABB, which is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of electrical equipment along with General Electric Co. (GE), Siemens (SIE.XE) and Schneider Electric (SU.FR), recently signed a EUR6-million deal to build and service 200 charging sites in Estonia, so far the largest fast-charging electricity network in Europe. The site in the small Baltic nation is the EU’s first country-wide scheme.

“This is still the very early stages, but we have to be there,” Streng said in a recent interview with Dow Jones Newswires. “This is a long term plan,” Streng said.

Rolling out a sufficiently dense network of charging stations is vital if demand for electric cars is to take off.

But with much of Europe facing recession, electric vehicle sales have fallen below below expectations partly due to limited investment in charging infrastructure to help drivers overcome “range anxiety,” namely the fear their electric car will run out of power away from a charging point, according to consultancy IHS Automotive.

“The infrastructure is still very sketchy, and is a critical factor putting off many people from buying cars. Once that is improved, I expect more cars will be sold,” analyst Walt Madeira said.


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