Business Monday: Keeping up with EV growth
With the novelty days for all-electric vehicles in the rearview mirror, the industry now is tasked with keeping up with the demand while at the same giving motorists the confidence they won’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere with an uncharged car.
“Previously, all you had to know about a vehicle’s ecosystem was whether it was gas or diesel, and what was the octane rating,” Cody Thacker, the head of electrification at Audi of America, told an Aspen Ideas Festival audience during a June 24 panel discussion. “And we didn’t have to worry about anything else. Clearly for the consumer, if we’re going to make electric-vehicle ownership a practical reality, we have to think about the ecosystem in much broader terms.”
Between Aspen and Snowmass Village, electric vehicles are growing in presence. The website plugshare.com most recently showed six public spots to charge electric vehicles. Among those are the city-owned Rio Grande Parking Garage, for example, which has seven charging stations.
Free test drives of the Audi e-tron also were provided at the Gondola Plaza from June 12 through Sunday. Host Aspen Skiing Co. also had Thacker speak about Audi’s innovations in the electric-vehicle world.
Large metropolitan cities are addressing the logistical challenges that come with the booming industry. Atlanta, for instance, passed a law in 2017 that 20% of parking spaces at new commercial and residential developments have the necessary infrastructure for charging stations.
The industry’s rapid expansion puts pressure on the automakers to keep up with the demand of consumers. In turn, the makers and installers of charging-station must keep up with automakers’ production level. And utilities must be a partner in having the infrastructure to support the charging stations.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Chris Womack, executive vice president and president of external affairs at Atlanta-based Southern Co., a gas and electric utility. “It’s coming, so we know it’s coming,” he said, adding that “we just have to be there to support the evolution.”
Jonathan Levy, vice president of strategic initiatives at EVgo, a public network of fast chargers for electric vehicles, said players in the EV industry must keep pace with each other.
“If we could leave you with one message today,” he said, “my biased one is, this is here now. EVs are here. EV infrastructure is here. It’s growing; it’s got a lot more to do. And we have to work together to do that.”
The road to growth has had its bumps with consumers, including not having charging stations compatible with all EVs. Thacker liked it to the VHS/Betamax confusion of the 1970s and ’80s.
Most drivers, about 80 to 9%, charge their vehicles at home. But when they stray too far from home, there’s the chance no charging stations are in vicinity.
Audi plans to make 22 million vehicles in the next 10 years, according to Thacker, and “over the next five years we’re putting in $36 billion in electric vehicle development. … We’re not waiting for anybody else to come along.”
That’s where company’s like Southern Co. come in.
“For us, we want to make sure we’re integrating and enabling, so that is not a barrier for you in making that decision,” Womack said.
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