Are Charging Stations The Missing Key To Electric Cars?

from the we-may-be-about-to-find-out dept

When Shai Agassi left SAP earlier this year, he talked about how he was inspired to do something in the alternative energy space. He apparently didn't waste much time in moving forward. He's now raised $200 million to try to build electric charging stations for electric cars around the world. It appears that the working theory here is that one of the things that's held back the success of the electric car is the lack of more widespread infrastructure to support it. There are gas stations everywhere, but electric charging stations are still quite rare (though, there are some). Of course, some might argue that there really are electric charging stations everywhere: they're called outlets. The second part of the plan is apparently that the company will own the batteries and charge people a service fee or rental fee to use and charge them at the stations -- lowering the upfront cost to consumers of buying an electric car. No matter what, this is definitely a "big bet" type of operation, and when you think about it, you could even ask if $200 million is even close to enough to actually accomplish the goal (meaning that the company is likely going to have to raise a lot more money). However, a bigger question is whether or not it really is the lack of these stations that are holding back the electric car industry. If you believe it's a chicken and egg issue, perhaps Agassi is onto something by getting folks to bet on building a bunch of chickens. But if the problem is that the eggs don't work right yet, then it may be quite a long time before the chickens matter. It would be nice to see this succeed, but it's a timing play. If Agassi is right about the timing, then this could become a huge business. If not, this could become another Iridium, with billions of dollars spent on mis-timed infrastructure, eventually left to rot away or sold for pennies on the dollar.

Filed Under: charging stations, electric cars, shai agassi

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  1. identicon
    tek'a, 29 Oct 2007 @ 2:19pm

    yes, moving energy generation to power plants as opposed to burning fuel in an engine is technically a stopgap solution.

    the energy does indeed need to be generated Somewhere.

    The Pro here is that generation on a large scale can be more efficient then small point generation for fossil fuel systems, and much more efficient for things like Solar, Wind or Other sources (you cant wedge a tide power generation plant under the hood of your vehicle, even if its SUV sized)

    The problem with trying to place charging stations/energy storage solutions is the lack of visible return coupled with high costs to enter.
    Will you spend the money to retrofit your service station with Super-Charge "pumps" if there is a chance that the industry and public will instead embrace the competitive Charge-Overlord system, leaving you saddled with junk you would be lucky to sell as scrap?

    And for consumers, why invest in a new ford (or whatever) with a particular system if you cant be Sure to find a station with the proper plugs and whatnot.

    You can get gasoline anywhere, pour it in a car and go, its hard to match that kind of portability of use.

    Even more hurtful to future industry, these big plans have been tenativly rolled out before (EV1) before simply slapping the face of consumers (who want the car) and everyone who wanted to do business with them (the forward thinking companies who shelled out for charging stations and the like on their property)

    its a Big Bet alright, but best we be careful before just throwing money at it.

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