In Europe and the U.S., companies operating electric vehicle charging stations are competing for prime locations to deploy public fast charging stations. Industry observers believe that as more large investors join the competition, the charging pile industry will usher in a new round of consolidation.
Currently, many companies operating public charging stations are backed by long-term investors, and more are expected in the future. The imminent ban on fuel vehicles around the world has made the charging pile industry more popular with infrastructure equity investors such as Infracapital and Intop.
Tomi ristimaki, ceo of Kempower, a finnish maker of charging stations for electric vehicles, says: "if you look closely at our customers, it's like a enclosure right now. Whoever gets the best position now can guarantee power sales for years to come. "
An analysis shows that there are currently more than 900 companies operating EV charging stations worldwide. According to PitchBook, the charging pile industry has attracted more than $12 billion in venture capital since 2012.
ChargePoint is one of the largest providers of electric vehicle charging equipment facilities and software. Michael Hughes, the company's chief revenue officer and chief business officer, said that as large investors fund more consolidation,"the outlook for the fast-charging pile industry will be very different than it is now. "
Companies including Volkswagen, BP and E. ON Power are pouring money into the charging pile industry. Since 2017, there have been 85 acquisitions across the industry.
There are more than 30 fast-charging station operators in the UK alone, and two new companies were launched in the sector last month. One of them is Jolt, an Australia company backed by BlackRock Infrastructure Fund, and the other is Zapgo, which received a 25 million pound ($31.4 million) investment from OPTrust, a Canadian pension fund.
Loren McDonald, CEO of San Francisco-based research firm EVAdoption, said Tesla is the biggest player in the U.S. market, but more convenience stores and gas stations will quickly join the market, and the number of fast-charging networks in the U.S. will increase from 25 in 2022 to 54 in 2030.
Based on a utilization rate of about 15%, it may take four years for a properly located electric vehicle charging station to become profitable. Companies that operate charging stations complain that red tape in europe's local regulations is hampering their expansion. Despite this, the charging pile industry is still seen as a good investment by long-term infrastructure investors such as Infracapital. Infracapital owns Recharge, a charging network in Norway, and has invested in Gridserve in the UK.
Christophe Bordes, managing director of Infracapital, said: "It is absolutely reasonable to invest in the right place for the long term. "
ChargePoint's Hughes believes larger players will start looking for new sites outside existing sites that can house 20 to 30 fast-charging stations, surrounded by retailers and amenities.
"It's a race for space," he said,"but finding, building and commissioning these new sites has taken longer than anyone expected. "
The competition for the best sites is getting fiercer. Site hosts can often switch back and forth between charging station operators before determining the winner.
Brendan Jones, CEO of Blink Charging, said: "We like to say that when you communicate with site hosting, no deal is dead. "
Many companies operating charging piles are also scrambling to sign exclusive contracts with landlords.
For example, InstaVolt, a British subsidiary of the Intor Group, has reached agreements with fast food chains such as McDonald's to set up charging stations in McDonald's store areas.
Adrian Keen, InstaVolt's chief executive, said: "If you can win a partnership, it's yours until you screw it up. "
Mr keene said InstaVolt planned to install 10000 charging stations locally in the uk by 2030, backed by "deep pockets" from insto, and operate in iceland, spain and Portugal. Consolidation could begin around next year, he added.
"This could open up more opportunities in the markets we are in and open doors for us to new markets," Mr Keane said. "
German utility EnBW's charging station division has 3500 EV charging stations locally in Germany, accounting for about 20% of the German market. The company invests 200 million euros ($215 million) annually and plans to deploy 30,000 charging stations by 2030, relying on local employees to compete for more charging stations.
Lars Walch, vice president of local sales in Germany, said the company also has charging network partnerships in Austria, the Czech Republic and northern Italy.
While consolidation is imminent, there is still room for multiple operators to coexist, Warch said.
Recharge CEO Hakon Vist said Norway is the world's leading electric vehicle market, but this year's Norway market has suffered from "overdeployment" in the short term as companies compete to deploy charging stations. 2000 new charging stations were added locally, bringing the total to 7200. But sales of electric cars in Norway fell 2.7 percent in the year to October.
Recharge's share of the charging station market in Norway is about 20%, second only to Tesla.
"Some companies will find themselves too small to meet customer demand and will exit or sell," West says.
And there are people who are starting companies and they know they can buy people and they know they can be bought.
When OPTrust-backed Zapgo enters the UK market, it plans to target underserved areas in south-west England and pay a portion of its revenue to landlords to get good lots. Zapgo CEO Steve Leighton said the company plans to deploy 4000 charging stations by 2030. Integration "will be a matter of funding" until later in the decade, he predicts.
"The investors with the deepest pockets will be responsible for consolidation," Layton said. OPTrust, he added,"is big, but there may be some big infrastructure fund that will hopefully buy Zapgo at some point." "
EVAdoption's McDonald said the U.S. market will also change as convenience store chains such as Circle K and Pilot Company and retail giants such as Walmart invest heavily in charging stations.
"Like all industries started by a bunch of small companies, over time big companies will join in... they will consolidate. "At the end of this decade, the businesses that will be left on the market will be completely different," McDonald said. "
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