US electric vehicle charging giant ChargePoint has teamed up with the newly formed operator Instavolt to see the first 200 rapid chargers of a new EV network deployed across the UK.
After building the largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network of 34,000 commercial charge points across North America and Canada, ChargePoint has today announced its entry into the European market after signing a supply deal with its first UK customer.
The agreement will see 200 of ChargePoint’s Express Plus rapid chargers purchased by Instavolt, which was set up in November by the former co-founders of solar and storage developer Anesco.
Speaking to Clean Energy News last week, Simon Lonsdale, vice-president of business development at ChargePoint, said: "We're happy to announce this will be an exclusive relationship for Instavolt with Chargepoint as the technology provider. This is our first customer [in the UK] and they're a greatly significant partner.”
According to chief executive Tim Payne, the company has already secured a “significant number of locations” where it will lease land on which to install the rapid chargers.
He added that the company was in deep discussions with a number of potential sites, which are expected to be in garage forecourts, at retail spaces and offices. The company is also in talks with local authorities to deploy on street chargers.
Tim Payne, CEO at InstaVolt, said: “We are delighted to partner with ChargePoint to deliver a best in class EV charging infrastructure. We own, install and maintain rapid electric vehicle charging units all over the country, giving landowners the opportunity to earn a rental income by housing them, and giving EV drivers access to the fastest charging available.”
Instavolt were originally to use rapid chargers from ABB due to Payne’s previous relationship with the company, which supplied inverters to Anesco.
However, ChargePoint were selected due to the charge points’ ability to be configured to meet precise requirements of any site and can be scaled incrementally as demand for higher rate charging increases.
“We investigated in detail the technology partners we could use. When you look at the roadmap for EVs, battery capacity is going to increase with range and therefore charge rates are going to increase and the potential to end up with stranded assets was quite an issue,” Payne told CEN.
“So then we looked at ChargePoint and the new chargers have modular power packs so it can be scaled up. They can be linked together and then can a power cube can be added to get even higher. So it’s very scaleable and future proofed which was a really big consideration for us.”
He added that the status of ChargePoint as a large company with a single focus on EV charging was also an attractive proposition, adding Instavolt felt “more aligned” with company’s offering.
Unlike existing UK charging networks, Instavolt will charge drivers through a combination of the unit price of the power used and the time spent at the charge point. They will pay for as little or as much electricity as needed, while the second charge is intended to discourage drivers from lingering in the EV charging space.
The pay as you go model will operate via contactless card payment or through a mobile app, and has been designed to be as simple as possible for drivers to use.
Despite these efforts, both Instavolt and ChargePoint admit that the company is unlikely to see profits for the first years of operation. Existing network operators supplement the cost of maintaining their sites with over elements of the business, with Ecotricity admitting last year that its Electric Highway network loses the business “hundreds of thousands of pounds a year”.
Speaking about the company’s new partner, Lonsdale said: “We have done a lot of analysis of the fast charging economics and yes it will lose money for a few years. That's a guarantee because there's just not going to be enough cars on the road in the early years but they're not just in this for the next few years.
“They recognise that the first mover advantage they have from setting this up means that as the cars come, and recently the AA put out a study saying 500,000 cars in the UK by 2020, by 2022/23 the company that owns the fuelling infrastructure for EVs will be in a great position. They'll have brand recognition, they'll have longevity and we believe that with our technology which is future-proofed and bringing software and the services that are managed, it’s a great combination.
"One of their strengths is that they understand financing as well as the operation of these assets so I do think they have longevity. They have good backing, they have a good line of being able to raise more finances; we just need to walk together to get the first 200 units in the ground."
Payne went on to explain that while he too was not expecting a cash positive business in the early years, recent changes in the UK’s automotive market suggested growth of EVs on UK roads could be set for a huge surge.
“The whole issue of air quality has really ramped up quickly and I imagine the sale of new diesels will probably fall off quite quickly now. At the moment petrol is probably seen as a better option but we mustn't lose site that petrol was the originally starting point,” he explained.
"DfT projections say there will be 1.2 billion EVs on the roads by 2020, the AA says it will be half a million by 2020. My gut feeling with the way things have moved in such a short period of time, I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't exceed the 1.2 billion by quite a considerable amount.”