Blink calls for US Level 2 charging boom
Slower charging should not be neglected in any rush to buildout ultra-fast infrastructure, says Blink boss
“DC charging is the bright shiny object; there is nothing sexy about Level 2, you hide it in a garage.” Brendan Jones, CEO of US charging form Blink does not mince his words.
But, as he told the JP Morgan auto conference in New York, in a future of widespread electrification of the US car parc, “the utilisation of the kilowatts dispensed will be overwhelmingly from Level 2”.
“We tend to think the number is closer to 90pc, so that is our future,” he adds.
More of this direct to your inbox?
Get our free weekly newsletter, plus premium data and content
No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
The reason for his prediction is, at least for those with at-home charging, the average idled rate of a US vehicle. “The Department of Transport keeps telling us that they sit 95pc of the time. I do not think having an EV is going to change that,” Jones says.
The Blink chief also argues that more support for Level 2 charging, both at-home and in the community, would act as a great leveller for EV adoption across poorer and rural areas — particularly for those who may not have the logistics for or be able to afford the upfront costs of at-home charging. A US Department of Transport policy brief from 2019 found that households earning less than $100,000/yr represented 72pc of gasoline vehicle purchases, but only 44pc of new and second-hand electric vehicle purchases.
Jones welcomes the national electric vehicle infrastructure (Nevi) formula programme as a step towards evening out this imbalance. In particular, the charging and fuelling infrastructure (CFI) grants offer $2.5bn in its community programme dedicated to infrastructure installation in community residential areas.
“If you are a rural community, the only thing that is there is a highway charger. You do not have charging in the community. The $2.5bn is going focus on that […] so EV adoption can be wholesale, not only isolated to rich areas and rich demographics,” the CEO says.
In addition, the Nevi programme makes $5bn available for charging infrastructure along highways. “That is needed because it is very difficult to get a positive ROI on those stations,” says Jones. “So that will accelerate that adoption.” But he cautions that, rather than focusing too much on DC highway charging, “we need a mix of Level 2 and DC fast chargers to really build up the infrastructure”.
Blink operates several models of charger installation, including with it as owner-operator, or as a hardware seller — the latter being especially attractive given this greater difficulty on generating positive margins on DC charging.
“If we own and operate [a charging station], we are only going to place it in where someone we know that it is 15pc or better, and we break even at 10pc utilisation on every Level 2 installation. On DC, you have got to get 20pc or better to start getting into positive station economics. On Level 2, we are starting to hit home runs,” Jones says.
“When we do DC, as an owner operator model, we want to continue to make sure we get funding to put them in the ground,” Jones said on Blink’s recent Q2 earnings call. “But when we do it as a sales model, it is very different. We get a high margin on the product and […]it also contributes greatly to revenue.”