It seems every major automaker has an electric car coming soon armed with good power, no emissions and maybe almost silent.  We’ll see, but for certain some folks will buy whatever is offered and will be joined by others as the quality and usefulness is proven.

Most everyone will charge their car overnight at home.  Some businesses will offer employees a socket for some electrons and every owner will distinctly know how far from a charge they can go before heading back.  I suspect that if the manufacturers don’t offer a trip computer with a notice to “head ‘er home” the aftermarket will have some almost instantly.

The local gas station isn’t likely to be a driver’s first choice for an electron fill.  The idea of standing about looking at overpriced convenient food and drink for a long period isn’t going to work.  The government might get into compulsory mood or offer an incentive that matters more than the generous ones available now.  But for the most part the full electric vehicle is destined to go half its range or less from the overnight garage.

An EV Charging Station by Coulomb. Click image for a larger view.

An EV Charging Station by Coulomb. Click image for a larger view.

On the other hand, some business can just certainly make an electron filling station work.  As Matt Mattilla the project manager for the Project Get Ready initiative in the Move (Mobility + Vehicle Efficiency) group at the Rocky Mountain Institute explains, “Let’s take the example of a McDonald’s. The total cost of a station may be about $5,000, and installation may cost about the same. Ten grand is nothing to sneeze at, but the actual cost to the investor is likely to be lower. Uncle Sam will provide a 50 percent tax credit, and many states have an additional incentive on top of that. As a typical McDonald’s grosses $2.2 million annually, a one-time investment of $5,000 is less than half of 1 percent of annual revenue.”

The point this writer is making is that locations where people can spend some time in a pleasant way will have a huge impact on electric vehicle sales.  It’s the real estate maxim again, location, location – location.  Think about where you frequent for more than a few moments and would stay, say a half hour or hour.  Those are the kind of places that one hopes, will put in a few charging stations.

EV America's Charging Station. Click image for the largest view.

EV America's Charging Station. Click image for the largest view.

If these location owners and lessees invested just because they feel strongly about energy security, global warming, or innovative transportation that would be fine, but it also makes good business sense.

With an initial investment of definable costs, owners have a variety of options for earning a significant return:
·    Collect fees for battery charging
·    Attract more customers
·    Recharge your own vehicles
·    Enhance your brand

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Matilla’s employer, has a new guide for investing in charging infrastructure , detailing the full costs of charging stations–not just what the charging station manufacturers will quote, but the installation and running costs, as well. The guide helps potential investors ask the right questions, understand the differences across the technology, and connect to those active in this industry.  You might want to look through it and maybe and give a copy to your favorite hangout.

Once triggered to look into a charging station each business can explore their unique scenario, and for those who wish to see their own numbers, the Rocky Mountain Institute has also developed an interactive tool to help business owners accurately assess their business case. This report and tool will help users understand if and how they can make money from a charging station.

There’s more to it than the cash flow.  RMI interviewed companies for their guide and the interviewees did not list branding opportunities as the top driver for interest in charging stations, but having one would generate great publicity, which has real value.

Of RMI’s corporate interviewees, a commitment to retaining employees and the potential to attract new customers came up most often as incentives for installing charging stations. In the McDonald’s example, think of how quickly these stations would pay for themselves if a few new customers a day decided to go to this McDonald’s instead of another fast-food chain just because they agree with its practices, even when they don’t need an electron fill.

Basically it’s going to be about money.  Most charging stations will also have intelligence built in that enables fee collection from users to refill their batteries.  They better, it won’t be long before consumers wise up to just how much they need and how its priced.  Vehicle manufacturers, heads up, the vehicle computer better say how much electron fill will be needed, so that a consumer can order up what they need.

Depending on the number of electric-vehicle users and the storage on board, charging stations can be another potential source of revenue. These individual streams can start to add up to real returns.  It’s another ‘location and who’s going to be first’ test for business management.  Its likely there will be more of them faster than we expect today – let’s hope the manufacturers come up with the new car models people want to buy soon.


9 Comments so far

  1. Jay on October 16, 2009 1:24 AM

    What do you think about the model of Better Place. I think it would be much more convenient, and you could place the stations by McDonalds drive thrus….and have you order delivered while the battery changes…

  2. russ on October 16, 2009 5:01 AM

    I think Better Place is nothing more than a future ripoff. They really want to lease out batteries and swap them out. They carry the battery pack investment while overcharging you for it.

    I saw one solar powered charging station – that will be almost useless without storage (batteries) which will drive up the cost and maintenance.

    The charging time (with present batteries) will not match the MCDonalds drive thru. Not at all!

  3. Matt on October 16, 2009 7:31 AM

    Until the time to charge is radically reduced – these stations will just be ‘Green Window Dressing.’

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  6. Rory Culotta on September 9, 2011 10:34 PM

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  7. Jayson Breitling on September 22, 2011 6:36 PM

    Thanks for posting. Good to see that not everyone is using RSS feeds to build their blogs 😉

  8. Chang Welland on October 11, 2011 2:18 PM

    This post makes a lot of sense !

  9. Sri Nadesan on October 4, 2015 6:37 PM

    Hi. You refer to an RMI guide for investing in charging infrastructure. I clicked on the text above and looked on the RMI website – but could not find the guide. Could you kindly let me know how I can find this document? Thanks much.

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