[Ecotality filed for Chapter 11 on 9/16/13. Ecotality manufactured EV charging station hardware and software under the product names Blink and Minit Charger. In 2009, the company won a $99.8 million grant from the US Department of Energy to increase EV charging infrastructure in the US.]
What does the Ecotality business failure means to the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) industry?
Jordan Ramer: I would call Ecotality’s failure an example of the natural maturing of any nascent industry. Only 17,500 electric vehicles were sold in all of 2011. In 2012, that number tripled to 53,000 EV sales. Based on August 2013 year-to-date sales, over 100,000 electric cars will be sold in the US this year. The EV market is small, but growing rapidly, and the EVSE industry is not immune to the highs and lows that accompany that rapid change.
What do Ecotality’s problems mean for EV drivers?
Jordan Ramer: The financial resources invested by the DOE and Ecotality are not lost. Fortunately, the charge stations have largely been installed and are available for use. Through Ecotality’s liquidation, another company will buy them and hopefully operate them in a more efficient way.
What can corporate and governmental organizations do in the future to limit the risk that their charge stations will end up being unsupported?
Jordan Ramer: EVSE customers can look into the benefits of purchasing charging station hardware that uses open communication protocols such as the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). OCPP is a standard charge station communication protocol that allows the hardware to communicate with the network software. OCPP has taken root in Asia and Europe and is becoming popular with North American network providers. Having open communication standards like OCPP or another related open protocol, reduces the risks associated with buying hardware that uses a closed communication protocol.
With open communication protocols, if the manufacturer of both your charging station hardware and/or network software were to go out of business or raise its rates too high, you have the choice and flexibility to switch networks.
We like to say that buying charge stations that only work on a manufacturer’s “closed” or proprietary network is like buying a television that only worked with a particular satellite or cable company.
How can EV Connect help commercial and governmental organizations that purchased or received Ecotality charging stations?
Jordan Ramer: Site hosts will have to make some decisions in the coming months around how they want to operate the stations. Eventually, the company that purchases Ecotality’s assets, will have to provide a compelling offer to the owners of those charging stations.
Now would be a good time to start discussing options with EV Connect because we can help Ecotality site owners out of what could become a jam. EV Connect had been an Ecotality deployment and management services partner, so we are very familiar with their hardware and network.
We don’t manufacture charge station hardware, but we do sell hardware from our partners and offer our own OCPP-based network software and management services, should site owners want our powerful and user-friendly platform. EV Connect can also manage an organization’s complete EV charging program, including new station installations, operating and maintaining their network of chargers, and even supporting their drivers so the site host doesn’t have to provide that phone or email support.