It is no secret that the burgeoning electric vehicle market faces something of a chicken-and-egg conundrum. People have very real range anxiety, which can be alleviated by a public charging network. But vast charging networks can only make money if lots of people have electric vehicles.

This problem is only magnified when it comes to direct-current fast charging, which is being installed worldwide despite a standards war and many questions about the business model.

During a recent webinar conducted by Navigant Consulting, Fast DC Charging: CHAdeMO, Combo Chargers and the Future of Electric Vehicle Charging, panelists tried to map the road bumps ahead.

For early enthusiasts that want an electric car but don’t live in a single-family home, networks of fast chargers will be particularly important, said John Gartner, research director with Navigant. His firm estimates that there will need to be about one DC fast charger for every nine EVs.

The Problem of Cost

DC fast chargers are significantly more expensive than level I or level II EV chargers. The cost dropped $10,000 in just the past year, to about $16,000 in 2012, although installation costs can match the equipment costs. Level II 240-volt charters are a few thousand, by comparison.

The cost will continue to come down, but it is unclear how low it can go. Even so, Navigant expects about 100,000 fast chargers deployed worldwide by 2020, mostly in Western Europe and Asia.

Some networks are popping up in the U.S., including NRG’s Freedom Charging Network in Texas, a planned highway network of fast chargers along the West Coast and another in Tennessee.

One option to offset the cost of the chargers, especially for fleet managers, is to leverage the EVs during other times in ancillary service markets or maybe even demand response programs. The EV to grid (eV2g) concept, as it’s known, is fraught with its own set of challenges, however.

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Tags: dc fast charging, ecotality, electric vehicle, ev charging, fast charger