EV Connect CEO, Jordan Ramer, has led finance, business, and product strategy at companies in clean energy, transportation, and efficiency.

Throughout the history of motorized transport, vehicles and their fuels largely lived parallel lives. With the Ford Motor Company at the helm, the automobile industry embraced the internal combustion engine and ensured many profitable decades for the oil industry, an endless stream of recurring revenue at the fuel pumps of the industrial age. After nearly 100 years of petrochemical fuels, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s dream of electrified transportation is now becoming reality. Not only are electric vehicles (EVs) commonplace on today’s roads, but we are also witnessing unprecedented growth and innovation around using electricity as a transportation fuel.

The Early Days

If we had gone directly from horse and buggy to electric vehicles, the transition to mass electrification would look substantially different. Drivers have become accustomed to the quick, efficient and familiar methods they’ve used to fuel up for nearly a century. Because public and at-home charging infrastructure was virtually nonexistent at the outset of the EV era, the early deployments of EV technology tended to be in closed environments like factories and industrial complexes. These early deployments included vehicles such as forklifts and transport trucks, and the installations were custom or one-off collections of technologies. When stations required troubleshooting, the response time was often long due to technical limitations and the challenge of geographic distribution, requiring cumbersome downloading of diagnostics information, data transfers, analysis and so on, which frequently meant days between detection and resolution. When piloted in closed environments staffed with dedicated maintenance personnel, these irregularities of early technology adoption were tolerable but not viable for mainstream car drivers.

In the early ‘00s, EV transportation faced myriad challenges, the most prevalent being the immaturity of motor drive technology, low battery storage density and the inefficiency of the combined systems. As these core vehicle-related technologies improved, new challenges quickly took their place: Where to charge when not at home; who provides charging; how much can or should charging cost; how to ensure drivers aren’t stranded between fill-ups and so on. More broadly, there was little understanding of how EV charging stations were performing as an asset class once deployed. In response, automotive manufacturers have worked with a growing ecosystem of technology providers and service partners to solve the fueling-side challenges presented by EV ownership, as well as the operations challenges faced by charging as a business. The nature of EV charging demands that vehicles and fueling infrastructure be connected in a way they never had to be in the petrochemical paradigm.

The Present

Public charging at scale requires a central, internet-connected management system. Physical access to charging stations remains important but is less critical due to remote access for maintenance engineers and their ability to extract near-real-time analytics and diagnostic data. Internet connectivity and the advancement of software and charging technology, therefore, are foundational for EV charging to work as a mass, shared service infrastructure. In fact, the choices around connectivity between charging and EVs made today are laying the technical foundations for a future of autonomous vehicles.

From a functional standpoint, simply installing conventional charging stations (e.g., Level 2 chargers) at gas stations will not produce satisfactory results. Aside from the utility infrastructure for electrical supply not being ideal for many businesses, most drivers will reject spending one or two hours of charging time browsing the shelves at a convenience store. As a result, many gas station owners elect to install Level 3, also known as DC fast charging (DCFC) as a faster service option. On the other hand, we are seeing businesses like grocery stores, restaurants and retail shops installing Level 2 charging stations to attract customers and keep them in the business longer. If at-home charging is insufficient, drivers can now carry out everyday errands while charging. That’s a win-win situation.

The Future

2022 is projected to be a pivotal year for electric vehicles. Not only will the consumer start to see radical changes in transportation options, but with new technologies emerging and more companies embracing electrification, we will start to see key players of the EV revolution accelerate forward and succeed. Why? A willingness to work together.

Through open networks and driver roaming agreements, like GM’s Ultium agreement, consumers will have more accessible charging opportunities. (Full disclosure: My company is involved in many roaming agreements, including GM’s Ultium.) These gateway adoptions introduce the ability for drivers to locate, access and pay for charging across multiple networks, helping pave the way for uncomplicated and accessible charging for drivers. The concept of driver roaming will come of age.

EV charging has come a long way, but to achieve an electrified future, an entire ecosystem of companies and stakeholders must be involved, from utilities to charge station owners and operators to retailers and drivers. The future of EV charging demands ever closer collaboration (if only through data streams) between industries that broadly do not collaborate today. Digitization holds the key to the dynamic future of EV charging.

Extracted in full from: The Past, Present And Future Of Electric Vehicle Charging (forbes.com)