Weekly News Review | 19 September 2016 | Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain

Talking Point

The EV turf war

I hate it when my Samsung runs out of battery and I can’t borrow someone's charger because they have an iPhone. It drives me insane. We have become victims to a fierce battle between juggernauts who are fighting to take over our lives, one plug socket at a time.

Unfortunately for us, this isn’t going to change anytime soon and we are starting to see a similar situation in the electric vehicle market with pioneers such as Nissan, BMW and Tesla all backing their unique charge points. This poses a severe problem for the development of EVs, which heavily rely on a wide-spread charging infrastructure to persuade customers to commit to an electric future. EVs, although significantly improving their range, are constantly mocked for ‘range anxiety’ and automakers are still struggling to meet their sales goals. Nobody wants to be stranded in the middle of nowhere at midnight after they fail to find a public chargepoint. Or worse: finally spotting an illuminated EV pillar only to realise that the chargepoint is a Tesla Supercharger that won't power your BMW i3. Then what?

A simple adapter could be a possible solution, though you then run the risk of damaging the vehicle through different charging methods of each manufacturer. I can see what automakers have tried to do; customers are buying EVs based on the infrastructure in their area, but they will all struggle to make long motorway journeys without running out of juice. By installing branded chargepoints, automakers can mark their territories and oust rivals from the area. Thankfully, the public charging network is growing, though it still has a long way to go before we can feel safe about taking any road trips. It is clear that we need OEMs and suppliers to agree on a standardised chargepoint in order to keep everyone happy. Otherwise, this could get problematic.

Attending the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) event last week, I lost count of the amount of EV charging suppliers who were looking for deals with automakers, city councils and public facilities. So the potential is there to really ramp up distribution and coverage. Some industry experts believe that this could crowd the market with different variations of charging stations while others believe that the more popular companies will help standardise the market as smaller businesses crumble. The latter may be correct, though this may only affect a region or country, rather than exist on a global scale. A number of automakers such as Volvo and Daimler are trying to support this global standardisation through the Charging Interface Initiative, which would make life with an EV much more convenient, especially in world cities.

Battery technology is rapidly improving EV efficiency, increased competition is driving down new car prices and we are finally starting to see an EV infrastructure forming. But fundamentally, in order to eliminate range anxiety and electrify the market, we must create a standardised charging network.

Alex Kreetzer

Alex Kreetzer - News Editor

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