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Charging Ahead In The Race To Deliver EV Power

The battle to develop new infrastructure for charging electric vehicles is heating up, with several key players aiming to prove that a viable business model can gain credence even before a critical mass of cars is on the road.

Early movers are taking different approaches. But they all face the same fundamental challenge – how to stomach development costs and turn a profit before the electric vehicle (EV) market takes off.

Several business models are being tested in the field, according to IMS Research, an independent research and consultant firm. Some offer drivers a subscription fee to a network, while other companies provide pay per-use services. Still others operate or maintain charging stations on behalf of property owners. While it’s too soon to say which models will prevail, IMS says that winners and losers will emerge as the global market grows from 75,000 EV charging stations today to 4.8 million in 2015 (Display).

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Some pioneers are already paying a price for putting too much money into innovative but risky concepts. During 2012, Better Place, an Israel-based company, suffered a series of blows in rolling out its network of stations for replacing empty EV car batteries with charged ones. Better Place’s woes added impetus to the more mainstream model of companies offering public charging stations for EVs, such as Car Charging Group, Inc. (CCGI.OB) and eVgo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc (NRG) in the US.

Better Place had gained worldwide attention for its unique solution to “range anxiety”-drivers concerns about the limited mileage on a single charge-and the relatively long charge times for EV cars. But in October, founder Shai Agassi stepped down as CEO after cumulative losses reached $477 million, according to some media reports. Then, in December, Better Place laid off at least 150 employees in Israel and delayed its rollout in Australia. By year end, new CEO Evan Thornley hinted that the company’s business model was changing significantly and it would aim to expand its business by offering infrastructure recharging and management services to EV manufacturers.


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