ChargePoint, the world’s largest network of recharging stations, has announced it will enter the European market after an $82 million (€78 million) funding round led by Daimler, among others including BMW i Ventures.
The Silicon Valley-based firm controls a network of more than 33,000 charging stations at more than 7,000 sites in the US (Europe currently has 90,000 charge points). Sites range from major retailer Target’s stores to small garages, where owners can pay ChargePoint to install, run and monitor their electric refuelling points. The company can therefore reach critical niches in the charging ecosystem – commercial businesses, retail stores, public institutions, fleet customers and individual drivers – and so could be instrumental in boosting the presence of electric charge points at key locations across Europe, including petrol stations and company car parks. The company already has some US customers with European operations, it says, which are preparing to use ChargePoint to roll out stations in the region – giving it a base to build on.
It says that transferring its technology from the US is relatively easy, and that the challenge is in building up sales operations in order to convince business owners to install changing points in their car parks.
ChargePoint chief executive Pasquale Romano points to clear evidence that the introduction of electric charge points in public places fuels a disproportionate uptake of electric vehicles in that area. He said to the Financial Times: ‘It’s a question of chicken and egg, but when you get one egg a lot of chickens tend to turn up.’
The news comes as demand for petrol is forecast to peak in only a year’s time in the US, and globally as early as 2021, according to energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. The company says this will happen due to the continuing reduction in average fuel consumption through newer, less polluting vehicle models. The rising number of hybrid and electric vehicles being sold, in addition to higher fuel standards in the US and Europe, will contribute to this historic consumption shift too. Finally, Wood Mackenzie says this early peak is due to the dramatic drop in oil prices during 2014, which brought oil consumption to record highs last year. The expected recovery in oil prices will therefore be an important factor in petrol demand growth falling.
Oil companies and processors are set to face a period of immense change, with several nations and a United Nations-backed plan considering abolishing the use of fossil fuels entirely within the next 20 years or so. Instead of the current electric push, many oil majors are betting on hydrogen cars to divert their future gigantic investment potential. They joined forces with major carmakers to form the Hydrogen Council this year in order to further this aim.
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