At the end of June I attended the unveiling of the first electric vehicle (EV) fast-charge station in Amsterdam, showcasing technology from our portfolio company, Epyon Power, with cooperation between the Dutch utility, Essent, and the City of Amsterdam. The station was one of several to be installed along the ring road circling Amsterdam, and it mirrors what is being done in cities throughout Europe, as well as the highway corridors that connect them to eliminate the range anxiety problem that has been the last key hurdle for mass adoption of EVs.
Plug in your car, grab a coffee, and 15 to 20 minutes later your vehicle is charged. It’s automatic and intelligent, remotely diagnoses your battery’s health, sends any maintenance notices to your dealer, and automatically takes care of billing. It even pays for your coffee. Seriously, the equivalent cost per gallon to fill your car with electricity vs. gasoline in Amsterdam is $3 vs. $8/ gallon. A normal car’s gas tank is about 13 gallons, so you save about $65 charging the equivalent electricity vs. an average fill. That’s a lot of cappuccinos!
And although gas is cheaper in the U.S. at about $3 per gallon, there are still significant savings to be realized. According to the E.P.A., the Nissan Leaf gets the equivalent of 92 MPG on the highway and 106 MPG in the city, so on a dollar-per-mile basis, the cost of an EV is much lower. To top it off, the cars themselves are now competitively priced with their gasoline cousins.
Given these economics, demand for both cars and Epyon fast-charging stations to service them is currently vastly exceeding supply. But that situation is about to change -- fast. A flood of EV model launches by all of the major OEMs are announced in the coming months. Nissan itself, the front-runner along with Mitsubishi, was slowed by the supply disruptions following the Tohoku earthquake in Japan in March of this year, but has announced significant production increases. This includes the building of new plants dedicated to supplying the Leaf, with the first to be located in Tennessee. The supply of EVs soon will not be a problem, nor will supply of the charging stations.
A major milestone was marked last week with the acquisition of Epyon by the huge power and automation equipment company ABB, as part of ABB's strategy to expand its global offering of EV infrastructure solutions. The scale, channel capability, and manufacturing horsepower of ABB combined with the advanced technology and market leadership of Epyon will create a world-leading supplier of EV charging solutions.
So for the skeptics out there who still think the dawn of EVs is eternally on the horizon, I ask: what’s left to hold them back?
Mike Sherman is Partner with Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital. He is Chairman of the Board of ReliOn, a Director of PurFresh, and an observer on the Boards of Epyon BV, Lilliputian Systems, and General Fusion. He manages interaction with Chrysalix’ European affiliated fund SET Ventures, based in Amsterdam, and currently leads Chrysalix’ investment activities in electric vehicle infrastructure, advanced batteries, thermal conversion, water technologies, green buildings, and distributed power.