Murphy Express in Chattanooga was the first installation of a CHAdeMO DC Fast Charge Station in Tennessee. CHAdeMO fast chargers are compatible with vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-Miev and Kia Soul EV. The station opened just over 2 years ago. That was then, and as they say, this is now. The station has been out of operation for 3 months. The latest statuses on Plugshare read
Apparently now the unit is out of warranty, the owner cannot afford the repair bill, so will allow the unit to sit fallow indefinitely.
Just across the street at Chattanooga Airport, permits have been submitted to build a Tesla SuperCharger location with 6 charging stations. Permits are still outstanding, but the location is planned to open mid August 2014 a full year ahead of Tesla’s original schedule for Chattanooga. (Update:2014-07-11. Chatanooga now shows as ‘coming soon’ on the supercharger map. Nashville is now showing as a 2014 install, previously it was 2015. Tennessee appears to have moved up in the list of Supercharger candidate installs recently).
Its rather prophetic that Chattanooga gets the first CHAdeMO station then the first Tesla Supercharger shortly after the CHAdeMO station becomes inoperative.
The CHAdeMO network of fast chargers depends upon a variety of entities to partner with equipment suppliers and car companies like Nissan to build and maintain the network. It appears the partnership model leaves something to be desired if a unit sits fallow for many months. Tesla by contrast is funding the building of and plans to maintain ownership of the equipment indefinitely. Planning and managing the network centrally is providing a more robust and reliable network.
How did this Happen?
How can a new company have a better managed quick charge network than traditional manufacturers. There are several factors at play.
1. Tesla are committed 100% to electric vehicles and their future. Other car manufacturers attention is divided between gasoline and electric cars. Tesla simply have more skin in the game.
2. Car manufacturers don’t own and manage gas stations, so why would they own and manage electric car charging stations?
Car Manufacturers are separate to energy companies. Which energy company is the EV equivalent to oil companies? Electric Utilities! Electric utilities have little to no interest in building an EV charging infrastructure, even though they could sell their electricity with the network just like an oil company sells its final products. The electric utilities are regulated and unlikely to take the place of the oil company, regulation standardizes but also kills innovation and progress. Tesla understood this from day one. Nissan are just getting the idea, they have started to build-out Nissan brand Fast Charge Units, and have worked with charging networks to partner with their EZ-Charge network which promises to simplify EV charging for Nissan customers. Other than Tesla and Nissan, no one is investing large amounts of money in EV charging (except government run projects).
3. EV Customers charge at home over 70% of the time, 100% of gasoline drivers gas up at the gas station.
This means there is less money in public EV charging compared to gasoline. Electricity is a comparatively cheap fuel as well. Public charging is less attractive to big business and investors.
The Road Ahead
What will happen when the oil finally runs out? Won’t gas companies have to settle for public charging anyway? Maybe, maybe not. If hydrogen cars become mainstream, oil companies can switch fuels from gasoline to hydrogen. The cost of building hydrogen stations will be a huge investment, however the alternative is for oil companies to watch 70% of their market or more vanish. As EV batteries increase in capacity as technology advances, drivers will need public charging less and less. Expect oil companies to partner with major car manufacturers like Toyota in pushing hydrogen vehicles and to derail the fledgling EV market.
Tesla made news releasing their patents recently. While Elon Musk released the patents for all the reasons he gave, I believe there is one reason he did not share. He cannot build a worldwide EV charging network single handedly in the time-frames he desires. My guess is he is looking for car companies to help build a network they all can benefit from. He’s got the best network and he will share if he can attract investment. Musk realizes the car companies are not his competition, its energy companies who want to keep us all tied to their pumps.
Hydrogen cars are basically electric cars under the hood with the addition of a fuel cell. We don’t hear Hyundai or Toyota making that obvious to their customers, indeed they seem to hide it.
The road ahead promises to be interesting.