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Charged Up

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

With the recent rise to super-stardom of Tesla and its eccentric yet brilliant founder Elon Musk, electric vehicles have captured the spotlight within the renewable energy space.

Despite their chic and style, there are many questions one might ask about this fad. How much emissions are saved with an EV? How many miles does the average EV range? How quickly can one charge an EV? Is Elon Musk part robot?

For today’s purposes, we’ll zero in on the second to last, looking at companies that make charging stations. Some of the larger players in this space, outside of Tesla, include Blink Charging, EvGo, and ChargePoint.

With a total of over 174,000 ‘charging ports’ ChargePoint currently operates the largest network of charging ports(1). Blink charging comes in second, at around 30,000 charging stations(2). If we assume 3 ports per station, that’s around 90,000 ports total. EvGo, on the other hand operates only 850 stations as of December 2021, for a total of 3103 ports(3).

Not all stations are created equal, however. In EV charging jargon, ‘Level 1’ chargers use a 110 volt outlet, similar to those found in one’s home. As a result, Level 1 charging can be tedious – charging overnight gives one 30 – 40 miles of driving range. Level 2 chargers are backed by 240-volt outlets, which would power something like a clothes dryer. Charging on these can take around 5 hours(4).

Enter DC fast chargers (‘DCFCs’). Powered by roughly 480-volt outlets, these can top up an EV sometimes in under an hour(4). When looking at an EV charging company, the type of stations they operate can be just as important as the number of stations overall. If we are talking convenience, DCFCs take the cake.

ChargePoint isn’t always transparent with the exact number of DCFC stations it operates, mostly because their business revolves more around Level 2 chargers. However, I estimate that the number is roughly 3,000 ports, or roughly 2% of its total network(1)(5).

Similarly, Blink doesn’t disclose the exact amount of its network running on DC, but of its 90,000 ports, I estimate that 1,500, or 1.67% of its total network (See sources below for derivation of estimates) (2).

Whatever the exact number may be, these companies employed more of a ‘Level 2 first’ strategy when building out charging infrastructure.

EvGo is an interesting company as it took a slightly different approach to its peers. Of its 3100 ports, 54% are DC fast chargers (3).

For EvGo, this is no small feat economically speaking, as DCFCs can sometimes cost roughly $100,000 per station in upfront costs (4). Yet their robust ability to quickly and efficiently charge EVs may allow for more commercial usage. Generally speaking, their timeliness likely makes them less of a headache for the modern-day EV owner.

On the other hand, one must consider price. An analysis done by PwC suggests, unsurprisingly, that fast chargers cost roughly 34% more on average then do their slower level 2 peers(6).

During a time of rising energy prices, this does not help any sort of convenience analysis. Conversely, 34% might be a small price to pay for an efficiency increase of 5x. I’ll leave the ultimate decision to the reader.


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