ChargePoint CEO: “Now's the time to crack Europe”

US electric car charging company ChargePoint enters European market with £81m investment led by Daimler

Mercedes EQ electric SUV - front tracking

Earlier this year Daimler announced it would lead an £81 million round of investment in Californian EV infrastructure firm ChargePoint, enabling it to enter the European electric charging market. We spoke to ChargePoint founder and CEO, Pasquale Romano, at this month’s Geneva Motor Show to see why the time is right for firms in Europe to start investing in electric chargers as well as cars.

“Until now we have resisted the urge to enter Europe. The reason is, we wanted to get established in every segment of EV charging and wait until the company was sufficiently mature. We didn’t want to make a mess, so to speak”.

With the finances in place, ChargePoint can dedicate considerable resources to major European markets, including the UK. The firm plans to launch a continent headquarters in Germany, sitting alongside its Californian base and receiving equal attention and resource. But why did Daimler pump so much money in?

BMW i3 vs Audi A3 e-tron - charging

“We work with a lot of major auto brands”, Romano claims, listing BMW, Toyota, Honda, GM and VW as just a few examples.“But Daimler is especially keen on developing the European infrastructure market. Look at their new products and you can see why”. Romano cites Mercedes’ all-electric EQ concept, plus the growing number of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the range.

Daimler is only one of a number of major carmakers who have invested in infrastructure, with Ford, VW and BMW all announcing similar cash injections recently. “The big brands are catalysing infrastructure that benefits everyone, including the consumer and smaller carmakers”, Pasquale says.

ChargePoint’s business plan is slightly different from companies such as Ecotricity. “We’re like AirBnB for chargers – letting individual businesses buy chargers and pay us a flat fee to keep it on our network”. This means the business can choose to charge EV or PHEV drivers whatever they want (even nothing) to plug in their car in order to drive customers in.

According to Romano, companies won’t be investing in huge banks of electric chargers overnight. “One parking lot at a time, one business at a time, that’s the way we work. Anyone trying to buy and install chargers everywhere at once will fail, it’s impossible, like trying to boil the ocean. But if you invite people to boil it one cup at a time then eventually you will achieve your goal”.

VW Golf GTE - charging cables

Recently, UK rival Ecotricity started charging users a flat £6 fee for 30 minutes use – courting some controversy from the public and media alike. Romano says it is “fair”, however, to charge a “convenience oriented fee”, on motorways at least.

“Those chargers enable you to use an EV as your only car – saving a tremendous amount of money in fuel and maintenance costs. You’re only going to use them a dozen times a year.  For everyday use, that sort of charge would be crazy, which is why chargers in town will be highly discounted – you’ll largely get electricity for nothing”.

Romano also has distinct views on innovation in the industry, claiming technology solutions don’t need to be overly complicated. “There is an awful lot of unnecessary futuristic hype about electrified roadways and inductive charging – plugging in your vehicle really isn’t that hard. Inductive tech is awesome if you have a private garage, but it’s unlikely to be used in public charging as it creates an overly complicated situation”.

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