Jul. 04 2019 — With more auto makers investing big in the electric vehicle space, consumers and forecasters continue to fret over the ability to actually charge these shiny new cars.
Worries about the distance a battery can power a vehicle before needing to be plugged in – sometimes referred to as “range anxiety” – have been viewed as one of the major obstacles to growing EVs’ share of the transport market.
But with more announcements on investment in charging, there are signs that that the auto industry – together with energy companies keen to diversify their business – is making serious attempts to tackle the problem.
Volkswagen is aiming to install 36,000 electric vehicle charging points by 2025 across Europe, 11,000 of them developed by the VW brand directly, the auto company said recently. VW is investing about €250 million in charging points alone at its European locations, and calling for more to be done across the industry to speed up development.
“Charging an electric car must become just as easy and normal as charging a smart phone,” said Thomas Ulbrich, member of the board for VW’s E-Mobility unit in June. “This is why we need significantly more charging stations in public spaces and simple rules for the installation of private wall boxes [home charging points].”
Soon after, Alliance Ventures – the venture capital division of the world’s largest car alliance, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi – said it was investing in charging solutions company The Mobility House.
According to Platts Analytics’ most recent EV Essentials publication, as of the end of April 2019, China had a total of 304,000 installed charging points, an increase of 41% against December 2018 numbers. The EU and US numbers currently stand at 170,000 and 73,000 total charging points respectively.
Patrick Schaufuss from consultancy McKinsey estimates that some 3 million charging points would be needed in Europe alone by 2030.
Germany is leading the European charging race. The country’s government said earlier this month it plans to double subsidies for EV charging points to Eur600 million ($673 million), with the transport sector turning into a key battleground for climate change policy.
The pledge to fund more EV charging stations follows a plan to extend cash incentives of Eur4000 per EV to end-2020, as the government targets one million EVs on Germany’s roads, the energy ministry said last month.
In the UK, Gridserve plans to build over 100 electric vehicle recharging forecourts across the UK over the next five years, supported by multi-megawatt battery storage and solar assets, the UK developer said in March.
The company has secured 80 sites, having reviewed 6,000 in two years. It is now working with ChargePoint Inc of the US, an EV charging network developer, and the UK’s Arup Architects for forecourt design, to advance the projects.
In the US, seen by many as the latecomer to the party, utilities have been encouraged to invest more in transportation electrification and specifically in more EV charging stations.
Forty utilities across the country have now won approval from regulators in 20 states to invest $1.08 billion over the next several years to bring online both DC fast charging and Level 2 charging stations, while investments of an additional $1.5 billion are currently under consideration, according to Washington DC-based Atlas Public Policy.
Recognition of the growing demand for charging infrastructure has also encouraged the entry of energy majors, sometimes in partnership with auto makers. Fiat Chrysler and energy services firm Enel X are have teamed up to expand electric-vehicle charging points across Europe, the companies said in a joint statement recently.
Enel X is a subsidy of Italy’s Enel Group, focused on advanced energy service and products, according to the statement. The partnership has been forged to develop new e-mobility solutions in order to boost the electric vehicle adoption rate, and support FCA’s soon-to-be-launched EVs. FCA plans to install approximately 700 Enel X charging stations over the next two years at staff car parks in Italy.
Partly in a bid to futureproof against possible falls in transport fuel demand, oil majors are also betting on EVs. Anglo-Dutch Shell has said it wants to be the biggest power company in the world by the early 2030s, but wants to bypass conventional generation or high voltage transmission. Instead, Shell hopes to reach the top spot by spearheading the transition to new fuels, electric vehicles and green electricity, the company told S&P Global Platts March 12.
Fellow oil giant BP, meanwhile, has announced several investments in the vehicle charging sector in Europe and China.
As EVs increase their share of the transport market, new pressures will be felt on raw material supply chains.
The expected rise in demand for battery metals will be significant and has been well documented, but copper, a key component of EV motors and charging systems, is also likely to benefit.
Pure electric vehicles contain almost four times as much copper as a combustion engine, at 80kg per vehicle.
But that doesn’t include requirements for charging hardware. According to the International Copper Alliance, in the 10 years to 2027, an additional 100,000 tonnes of copper will be needed to satisfy demand in port charging cables, charging units and wiring to electrical panels.
S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates that global demand for copper is set to grow by 8.2% by 2021 from 23.7 Mt in 2018 as published in their June 2019 Commodity Briefing Service report.