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Keeping private charging infrastructure off-limits to the EV-owning public means leaving cash on the table
Buses, coaches, company cars, delivery vans, taxis: across Europe, vehicle fleets are going electric to cut operating costs and contribute to a more sustainable future.
At the same time, the owners of these fleets—from private companies to public administrations—are investing in charging infrastructure.
The upfront costs of these charging systems are high and fleet owners may wonder if there are other ways to offset this investment. Indeed, two significant business opportunities beckon.
The first, and most obvious source of income, is to open the charging infrastructure up to the public. This may sound odd to fleet owners wishing to guard their vehicles and associated assets—and in some cases, it might be impractical to let third parties use your charging infrastructure.
For instance, if it is in the middle of a busy bus depot or if local regulations require charge point operators to register as energy suppliers.
But most of the time, giving others access to your charge points is a straightforward affair.
A charge point platform provider can show drivers when and where they can use this infrastructure. The owner gets to decide how many charge points are open to the public, and at what times, so enough capacity to service the fleet is retained. The owners can also set the charging price for public use.
DEMAND SIDE SERVICES
Alongside this obvious source of income, there is also a potential charging revenue stream that most fleet owners are not even aware exists. Unlike petrol and gas fuelling, EV chargers are essentially an extension to the grid, which means they can provide valuable grid services.
An example is demand response programmes where a grid operator compensates electricity users for reducing their consumption during high-demand periods.
EV charging operations are particularly suitable for demand response because they can quickly downscale, delay, or completely turn off the electricity capacity in their networks.
For grid operators and utilities, demand response provides a cost-efficient method to handle peak power demand and alleviate grid strain without resorting to expensive infrastructure upgrades. For charge point operators, this presents a chance to earn additional revenue.
Both revenue streams mentioned here can be captured with a minimum of fuss with the support of a smart charging platform.
PROGRESS FOR PROFITS AND PLANET
As for the expected returns, these will naturally depend on a range of factors, such as the type, number and location of charge points offered up, the time they are available, and the pricing of the service. However, in the case of one taxi firm in Copenhagen, its charge point utilisation more than doubled after the infrastructure was opened to the public.
The revenues have been so good that the taxi firm now sees EV charging as a commercial opportunity rather than a cost. This is likely to be the case for most fleet owners who have invested in fast chargers, which are in demand across most EV markets and currently command a significant premium from the driving public.
Beyond the attractiveness of the business case, here is also the societal good that opening charging up to the public can achieve. At a time when global temperatures are already around 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, the energy transition needs all the help it can get.
Vehicle electrification is a vital part of that transition, yet today the availability of charging points remains a barrier to EV adoption in many places. This could be largely overcome by freeing up private charge points when not in use.
According to the analyst firm Berg Insight, there were 4.5 million dedicated charge points across Europe in 2021. This is almost ten times the 479,000 public charge points that were estimated to be in operation in the European Union last year.
Freeing up just a fraction of those private points for public charging could go a long way toward simplifying life for millions of EV owners while making money for infrastructure owners in the process. •
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