It only takes one look at recent U.S. electric car sales figures to see how dramatically the electric car market has grown in the last twelve months. With cars like the Nissan LEAF breaking sales record after sales record and more cars coming to the market every month, there have never before been so many plug-in cars on the roads of the U.S.
That rise in Plug-in car sales has been mirrored in the charging world, where charging providers are seeing more public charging sessions than ever before.
Take Californian-based ChargePoint for example. It took four years for the company to reach its one millionth electric car charging session, which the company recorded in August 2012. The two millionth charging session logged by the network took place in April last year, and the three millionth was recorded in September.
But it’s taken just three months to pass from the four millionth charging session milestone — which took place in February this year — to the five millionth, which the company said happened last month.
Despite the expectation that most new electric car drivers will initially charge at home, the growth in public charging sessions almost perfectly matches the growth in electric car growth, indicating that new and existing electric car drivers are using ChargePoint’s network.
This also shows that new electric car drivers are just as happy to be adventurous with their electric cars and travel beyond the range of their car — or perhaps be as cautious and charge as often as they can — as electric car ‘early adopters’ from two or three years ago.
There is of course, one question not answered by ChargePoint’s data, something many in the industry have been struggling to answer for years: what’s the return on investment in the charging station buisness?
In ChargePoint’s case, the investment may already be paying off, although we should note that we have no knowledge of ChargePoint’s financial situation, only its buisness model.
Unlike traditional charging networks where charging stations are owned by the provider, ChargePoint sells its charging stations to its customers, who can then choose to charge electric car users for using their station or offer it free as a value-added feature. ChargePoint then maintains that charging point as part of the ChargePoint network, handling billing on behalf of the buisness owner.
For the buisness owners who own the level 2 charging stations however, charging stations are invariably a loss-leader, albeit one which helps encourage electric car drivers to use their business in the same way that free WiFi did ten years ago.
The same is true in the case of charging providers where the network is owned and maintained by the provider — and electricity is charged to users using contract-based or pay-as-you-go charging — we’d hazard the guess that the cost of installing and maintaining the network is still far higher than any income gained from charging station tariffs.
We’ll leave that particular discussion to better-qualified buisness analysts, but we can tell you that if the number of charging sessions recorded by networks like ChargePoint continue on the trend they’re currently setting, it won’t be long before millions of electric cars are plugged in each and every week in public charging stations across the world.
And that tells us one very important thing: electric cars are finally here to stay.
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