Read’s vision extends further: He points to the company’s agreements with Best Buy and Arco to put Level 3 charging stations at 12 stores and 45 gas stations, respectively, as an indicator that retailers will come to view charging stations as a way to lure in and hold customers. These 480-volt chargers will “fuel” an EV in under 30 minutes, and ECOtality is planning to put in 350 of them as part of the EV Project. Read sees EV drivers on the way from Portland to Seattle stopping midway for a cup of coffee and a charge. The Blink fast charger is outfitted with a screen for advertising, which Read says will be targeted to the individual — another revenue stream for ECOtality, and a way to keep charging costs lower to consumers.
ECOtality is counting on a subscription-based business model for charging service, similar to mobile-phone service. Fast Company reported that ECOtality will charge $20 to $50 per month for subscriptions, but details are fuzzy and attempts to clarify what EV drivers who get a Level 2 charger from ECOtality through the EV Project can expect to pay went unanswered.
As far as the Department of Energy is concerned, that’s all up to the companies it handed the millions to; it just wants the data. “The DOE does not have a preferred business model for public charging — we believe the market will respond to consumer preferences,” said Chris Kielich from the department’s Press Office.
Over at Coulomb, Lowenthal talks about the months ahead in more nuts-and-bolts terms that Read, focusing on the big job of getting thousands of chargers in place, in homes and elsewhere. In states and localities that are aggressively pursuing an EV infrastructure, the permitting and inspection process for charger installations is far less burdensome than in other areas. Lowenthal said his company, which has already been installing its ChargePoint device, is more than ready for an onslaught.
Asked how he thought ECOtality would fare, he said: “I love those guys, but they’ve got a lot to do in a little bit of time. They’ve got to deploy 15,000 chargers. That’s a lot of concrete to break up. The logistics of our business are pretty complex. Hopefully, they’re ready.”