Electric cars lost their image of being flimsy, slow and perhaps slightly embarrassing a long time ago.
The public’s priorities have changed. A lot of people, especially the younger generations, consider looking after the environment more important than roaring down the freeway in a fantastic muscle car.
The second option sounds good though.
But even there, newer electric cars have a turn of speed that would leave many muscle cars flapping in their exhaust fumes – if they emitted any.
And while the radical tree-hugging types among us might have relished the prospect of seeing fossil fuel companies suffer an erosion of their mountains of money and oodles of power, diminished by the clean energy sector, it looks like they’re going to be disappointed.
Oil and gas companies are apparently adopting the well-known business motto, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, and look set to integrate electric charging points at fuel stations as standard – it seems only a matter of time.
Meanwhile, all the top automakers have been developing electric cars and, unlike in the past, taking them much more seriously because, whereas in the past, the huge question of infrastructure remained unanswered, now, the political, social and technological environment is such that there is already a large number of charging stations all across the US and in many other countries in the world.
And there are more on the way. These past few weeks and months, Robotics and Automation News has reported on numerous new developments in electric vehicle charging technology.
So it seemed a good idea to collate them in this article, and present them in the form of a list, which is not really ordered in a strict way – just 20 companies that are either developing EV charging technologies or are already supplying them to the market.
We’ve decided to concentrate more on commercial or public EV charging points, but we have also included some that are meant for private household use.
It’s not meant to be exhaustive, if you’ll pardon the pun, but we hope you find it informative and useful.
It’s estimated that there are more than 1 billion cars on the world’s roads. Of these, around 2 to 3 million are pure battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the International Energy Agency, which forecasts that there may be 300-400 million EVs on the road out of approximately 2 billion vehicles by 2040.
Nanalyze suggests that the US alone needs about 2 million EV charging stations for the 40 or more electric car models that are likely to be on the roads in their multitudes.
Right now, according to the Open Charge Map, there are almost 150,000 charging stations across about 75,000 locations around the world. This sounds like an under-estimation, but at least someone’s counting. The countries with the highest number are:
- United States ~ 21,000 charging stations
- Germany ~ 12,000
- Netherlands ~ 8,000
- United Kingdom ~ 7,000
- Italy ~ 4,000
And even though home-installed chargers can be bought for $500 to $1,000, there will still be a demand for public chargers because electric vehicles don’t go very far on a single charge – they need to be topped up regularly.
So, a gigantic market in the making, whichever way you look at it.
ChargePoint – previously called Coulomb Technologies – claims to manage the world’s largest network of electric vehicle charging points.
In 2017, it took over General Electric’s 10,000 charging stations, which added to its pre-existing 35,000. Latest figures suggest the company has around 60,000 in total.
ChargePoint says its public and private stations are dotted across the US, Canada, Mexico, and other countries.
The company, which was established 12 years ago, raised $240 million last year for its expansion plans, and currently reports annual revenues in the region of $42 million.
We report a lot on ABB’s activities in the robotics sector – the company is one of the largest industrial robot manufacturers in the world. But a much larger part of ABB’s business is power generation equipment.
So it’s probably inevitable that it will become one of the leading suppliers of “downstream” power equipment, and ABB has unveiled a range of charging solutions for fast charging of buses and cars.
However, it is not yet among the leaders in EV charging stations market, although its recent partnership with Porsche – to develop EV chargers – will inevitably raise its profile.
The famous energy giant is probably more interested in electric power than is good for its oil and gas business, especially as some people think the apparent societal shift to electric vehicles will negatively affect the fossil fuels sector.
Nonetheless, BP claims to be the largest provider of charging points in the UK through its ChargeMaster subsidiary, acquired for £130 million last year, with almost 7,000 units. It followed the acquisition with a £25 million investment in fast-charging technologies.
More recently, BP invested in a Chinese EV charging platform provider in China called PowerShare. Other initiatives include a $5 million investment in FreeWire, which makes mobile charging stations.
Another energy giant, along with BP, Shell also appears keen to get in the electric vehicle charging market and is doing so through its GreenLots business unit, which it acquired at the start of this year for an undisclosed amount.
Shell claims to be investing $200 million a year in alternative energy solutions and says it will increase that to $1 billion a year by 2020.
Shell also took part in the investment round of a company called Ample, which says it offers an alternative to conventional charging by using proprietary autonomous robotics technology.
Moving away temporarily from the commercial or public charging points segment, or at least big oil, Webasto is a diversified technology company which provides a mix of home and on-the-road charging solutions.
The company spent $35 million acquiring the “efficient energy systems” business of Aerotech, another diversified technology company whose products also include EV systems.
Webasto, which claims to be among the world’s top 100 suppliers to the automotive industry, has an online shop, through which EV charging points can be bought for around €700.
Hyundai has partnered with another car manufacturer, Kia, to develop a wireless electric vehicle charging system.
It appears to be part of the two companies’ integrated autonomous car offering, which they plan to launch commercially in a couple of years.
For now, what they have demonstrated is an autonomous electric car parking itself over an EV charging point.
Wireless charging is being looked into by other companies as well. Among them is Daimler Mercedes-Benz.
Although not the same technology, another of Hyundai’s innovations is probably worth mentioning here: a solar charging system for cars, whereby the solar panel is integrated into the car roof.
Daimler has been developing electric cars for some time, and is looking to bring them to market when the time and conditions are right – some time this year.
And rather than wait for others to develop the infrastructure, the automotive giant has partnered with RWE to construct 500 EV charging points across Germany and Europe.
RWE is a European energy giant and has many divisions. The one which is building the EV charging infrastructure is called RWE Effizienz.
RWE claims to be the only company in Europe to manufacture various types of charging stations in-house, to install these stations in both public and residential spaces and operate them using a custom software solution as well as supply them with eco-electricity.
RWE is a good example of an energy company or a utility company entering the electric vehicles market.
8. Daimler Mercedes-Benz
As well as its partnership with RWE, through which it will effectively own or at least have access to 500 EV charging stations, Daimler is partnering with other companies.
One of those is another European energy company, EnBW, which is working with Daimler to set up 700 charging points in south-west Germany.
Daimler has also reached an agreement with NewMotion – the company mentioned above as having been acquired by Shell – through which the two companies will develop charging solutions for fleet customers.
So, although it will only have a couple of hundred electric cars in operation, mainly for testing purposes in the near future, Daimler is already creating an ecosystem in which they will likely flourish.
Europe’s largest engineering company has been giving its employees free top-ups for their electric vehicles for the past couple of years through its own charging stations.
Siemens has demonstrated a number of charging solutions, both for standard and fast charging, for the home as well as public roads.
The company was an investor in ChargePoint a couple of years ago, and has since installed hundreds of charging points across Europe.
Siemens claims it has established a leading position within this growing market and is prioritizing fast charging solutions as well as extensive technical support.
EVgo claims to operate the largest network of public electric fast-charging stations in the US. It recently partnered with ABB to establish what it says is the first “high-power” fast charging station in Fremont, California.
The difference appears to involve going from 150 kW to 350 kW with an upgrade. Put more simply by EVgo, its systems go like this:
- Level 1 charging: up to 2 miles, 30 minutes;
- Level 2 charging: up to 10 miles 30 minutes; and
- Direct current fast charging: up to 75 miles, 30 minutes.
EVgo says it has so far installed a total of 1,050 chargers in more than 66 metropolitan areas across the US.
This is another company which could claim to operate the world’s largest network of EV charging points, with approximately 60,000 installed across the globe.
The company also has 700 fast charging stations which it acquired through the takeover of EVTronic last year.
Specializing in electric vehicle charging systems, EVBox provides a range of hardware and software solutions which include home and public chargers.
A startup founded in 2010, EVBox has partnered with many companies, including energy and utility companies such as Engie and Eon.
French oil and gas giant Total last year acquired fast-charging solutions provider G2Mobility for an undisclosed sum at around the same time as it bought clean energy supplier Direct Energie for $1.7 billion.
G2Mobility not only develops charging points but is also developing an electric vehicle ecosystem. Although more recent figures are not immediately available, it managed 10,000 charging points about 18 months ago.
13. Pacific Gas and Electric
Back to big energy again for another example of traditional fuel merchants edging into the clean energy space and becoming more like utilities.
As noted already, a large number of utilities are entering the electric vehicle market, and we could fill a list of 20 with just those.
In the US, as well as Pacific Gas and Electric, other utilities such as Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric are among the many partnering with electric car companies to create networks of charging stations.
Quartz reports that Pacific Gas and Electric is installing “thousands” of fast-charging stations in the state of California.
Things change fast in the world of advanced technology at the best of times, and in new markets like electric vehicles and related infrastructure, things are even more dynamic.
Blink was a company that was tipped by analysts to become the biggest in the market. Now that title probably belongs to ChargePoint.
Nonetheless, Blink Charging is a sizeable company with a market capitalization of almost $70 million. It has around 150,000 registered members and has installed somewhere in the region of 15,000 charging stations in the US.
And Blink’s recent partnership with Tauriga is in line with its plans to install another 5,000 by the end of this year.
Big oil could probably fill up this list of 20. Utilities certainly could. And so could car companies.
Automotive companies are, of course, at the heart of this new emerging ecosystem. It’s their vehicles that charging station technology needs to be compatible with.
And in terms of technology, Renault is offering an innovative solution it calls “vehicle to grid charging”. What this means is that the station and car would modulate the charging and discharging of electric vehicle batteries.
According to Renault, this will mean that the electricity grid optimizes the supply of local renewable energy and reduces infrastructure costs.
Probably not one of the better-known companies, but Phihong contacted Robotics and Automation News directly with information about their new AC32 electric vehicle charger.
And we always appreciate even a tiny amount of acknowledgment of our existence.
Certified for the North American market, Phihong’s EV charger is said to be suitable for locations such as residential, parking lot, gas or service station, as well as commercial fleet operators.
17. Schneider Electric
Another name that is recognized within its sector but not a household name, Schneider Electric is probably best known for its data center solutions, such as uninterruptible power supply units – which keep the servers running if the grid goes down.
Schneider has a range of electric vehicle charging solutions which are designed for home and public applications.
The company is tipped to have a significant presence in this nascent market in the future.
And going from less well-known to possibly obscure, Efacec is a Portuguese energy, engineering and mobility company. Actually, it’s claimed to be the largest such enterprise in the country, with annual revenues of approximately €500 million.
Efacec’s electric vehicle charging stations encompass “quick charging” to “ultra fast charging”, and are available for private as well as public use, although the public segment is emphasized by the company itself.
Data on the number of Efacec’s installations are not immediately available, but Portugal is estimated to have a total of fewer than 1,000 public EV charging points, so it’s probably a potentially good market.
This company is very well known in the industrial space, but perhaps not many knew it produced an electric vehicle charging station.
It’s said to be designed for home or commercial use, and the company appears to be offering customized solutions to suit the client.
Looks like a brand new startup, but worth mentioning because it’s been of interest to many investors, including Shell, as mentioned above.
In all, Ample has raised more than $31 million in funding so far.
What’s particularly interesting to this website is that Ample reportedly plans to use an autonomous, possibly mobile robot to charge the electric car.
And it’s also talking about smart battery technology, which could refer to the ongoing innovations some companies are making in that field.
Who knows? More as we get it.
Silently roaring down the freeway of the future
It’s taken a long, long time for electric vehicles to gain acceptance in the minds of the public or consumers, and a lot of that is probably down to the industry’s reluctance to build the infrastructure. And governments may have been too beholden to big oil in the past.
There was a perception that electric cars would be poor choice of vehicle, unfashionable, geeky at a time when geeks weren’t cool. But that still doesn’t explain why trucks and other functional vehicles didn’t switch to electric.
It’s probably a combination of lack of infrastructure, shortcomings in technology, and the challenges therein.
But now, it seems the whole world is waking up to electric vehicles and their growth will probably mirror that of automatic cars, which have all but replaced manual cars in many countries.
And on the subject of automatic, another interesting aspect of electrification is, of course, that it makes sense to integrate more electronics into vehicles – meaning, more autonomy.
But that’s a whole other article.
Even in this article, we haven’t been able to include something on all the companies we looked into. But worth mentioning are:
- Clipper Creek
Most of these companies are from a report by Research and Markets, which forecasts the electric vehicle charging stations market will grow from $5.3 billion in 2018 to more than $30 billion in 2023.
And last but not least, Bosch, one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive technologies, also makes EV chargers.
We probably should have included them in the top 20, but they get plenty of publicity anyway, especially on this website.
One interesting aspect of Bosch’s activities is that the company also develops fuel cell technologies, which are sort of in competition with electric.
It will be interesting to see which “new energy” wins out and becomes the main alternative to petrol over the next few years. We’ll be covering it as much as we can.