Infrastructure needed to keep pace with electric vehicle use 

click to enlarge Customer Philip Liang test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S sedan electric vehicle. - LAM YIK FEI/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
  • Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Customer Philip Liang test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S sedan electric vehicle.

The electric-vehicle market is here to stay. That was the message recently sent by Gov. Jerry Brown when he stood shoulder to shoulder with automakers and corporations at the Drive the Dream summit to show that the EV market is not just a dream, it's a reality.

Yet more remains to be done to expand this reality. In many ways, the challenges facing the industry can be summed up as a classic chicken-or-egg scenario. To install more charging stations, there need to be more EVs on the road, but EV sales will only increase if drivers have access to charging stations in convenient public locations. When we started in 2007, ChargePoint's goal was to create a connected global EV community through a public-charging infrastructure. Workplace charging is critical to accomplishing this goal.

We are off to a good start. The electric cars are cool, and much of the electric car industry is homegrown in California. It's no wonder Californians are buying these cars in record numbers. The health of the industry is good and the sales of these cars is strong. The month of August represented the highest number of EVs sold.

At ChargePoint we welcome this growth. Currently, about 70 percent of all networked charging spots are on the ChargePoint network. These stations are frequently located at workplaces — from large retailers to industry leaders such as Google and Facebook. The behavior of drivers is driving the demand in the market: drivers want to charge wherever they park for more than an hour — at home, at work, or while out shopping or eating. That is why meeting the desire for out-of-home charging is critical to accelerating the adoption of EVs.

This week is EV Week — but for the increasing number of Americans buying and driving electric cars, every week is EV Week. With EV sales continuing to grow and many major automakers releasing new models, the number of EVs on the road will continue to increase at a fast rate. Unfortunately, charging stations are not keeping pace with the growing demand.

Now is the time for more private-sector investment in the EV market. The lessons of the 1990s demonstrate that a product that is completely subsidized by government will never survive. We need a true public-private partnership.

And that's especially true in reaching the governor's goal of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025. To do so, the state will face a $2 billion infrastructure gap that can only be filled by private funding.

That's why ChargePoint was proud to join Brown and other industry leaders in San Francisco for the Drive the Dream summit organized by the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative. We discussed how charging infrastructure can meet increasing demand, and several CEOs at the summit committed to further investments in workplace charging. The governor has laid the groundwork for having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2025 and installing more than 10,000 charging locations across the state.

We already have an example to guide us. We can and should explore financing models that reflect the successes in the solar market in California. We should have no-cost upfront financing, broaden the qualification of small businesses so that we can expand workplace charging and put highly leveraged financing in place to lower costs for adoption.

The debate about whether EVs will succeed is over: EVs are here to stay. Now, we need sensible policy and financing that help make offering EV charging services more accessible for more companies. It not only makes good environmental sense, it makes good business sense. Providing charging at the workplace allows for employees to spend significantly less on gas, equating to a 3 percent to 5 percent pay raise for the average Californian. Productivity also increases, because workers are able to take advantage of the carpool lane and spend far fewer hours sitting in traffic.

As we celebrate EV week in California, let's embrace the challenge to continue to drive adoption with innovation and lower the costs to consumers so that all Californians can get behind the wheel of an electric car and drive to their own dreams.

Pasquale Romano is the president and chief executive officer of ChargePoint, which operates a network of independently owned electric-vehicle charging stations in more than a dozen countries.

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