GREENSBORO, N.C. — The future, and increasingly the present, is electric.
That’s according to Deepesh Nayanar, global director of e-mobility for Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Greensboro, N.C. The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) might seem farfetched looking at most U.S.-based fuel forecourts today, but Nayanar says the U.S. does not represent the rest of the world when it comes to EV adoption.
“The [United States] has generally lagged behind because of lack of a broader federal centralized policy,” says Nayanar. Three years ago, Nayanar moved from his role as Gilbarco’s marketing director for fuel dispensers to advocate for the company’s line of EV charging products, instead. He says China is the leader in the global EV market, followed closely by Europe. Even so, legislators in California, New Jersey and at the federal level are attempting to push the U.S. toward adopting electric fuel more broadly.
Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would require all new cars sold in 2035 to produce zero carbon emissions. The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2020 is similar to the executive order recently passed by California Gov. Gavin Newson, which also requires all new passenger vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2035. More recently, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called for the state to reduce the sale of carbon-emitting cars by 80% by 2050.
“The year 2035 looks like it’s far out,” says Nayanar. “It really is not. They have to act today to get to that kind of ambitious goal.” He says the government has a “real problem” and a “perceived problem” with making EV charging more widespread.
“The lack of charging infrastructure: That is a real problem,” says Nayanar. “But it's also a perceived problem in a sense of people thinking that they'll get stranded somewhere.” Nayanar says some EVs manufactured today can drive for more than 300 miles on one charge, far surpassing the distance typical drivers travel in any given day. Still, with the perceived problem, consumers considering purchasing EVs can be convinced to stick with gasoline-powered cars due to the lack of charging infrastructure in the U.S. today, Nayanar says.
All in on EVs
And government isn’t the only entity in the United States looking to bolster the country’s EV charging infrastructure. Nayanar has overseen a sharp uptick in the number and frequency of EV fueling products at Gilbarco Veeder-Root since the company made a minority investment in Brisbane, Australia-based EV charging manufacturer Tritium in 2018.
Gilbarco Veeder-Root has been selling Tritium’s Veefil-RT DC fast-charging stations in the U.S. for the past two years due to its investment in Tritium. Since that investment, Tritium has opened a U.S. manufacturing facility in Los Angeles and signed its first U.S. contract with an EV charging network, and one of its charging stations was installed at the first Shell-branded EV charging location in the United States.
“In 2018, I want to say 80% of our industry were naysayers,” says Nayanar, describing reactions from the fuel retailing industry when Gilbarco announced its partnership with Tritium. But things have changed. “I would say 95% of this industry now understands that EV is not just one of those alternative fuel fads,” he says. He points to building interest in EV charging from industry councils, forums and publications for evidence.
“Most people are not thinking: Is this thing real?” says Nayanar. “They’re thinking: When do I need to react?” Nayanar says fuel retailers along the East and West coastlines of the United States, including Florida and Texas, are where EV charging infrastructure is growing the fastest. Once those hot spots have more charging ports, Nayanar says more ports will be built along interstate highways between big cities.
“If you’re in a hot spot, it makes sense for you to put in your own EV charging infrastructure,” says Nayanar, especially because there are government-backed programs to secure funding for EV charging ports.
The Fueling Experience
While charging an EV from empty to full still takes considerably more time than filling up a car’s gas tank, Nayanar argues that charging and fueling times are about equal where it counts. He says a typical EV driver could stop by a fueling station, plug in his or her vehicle, spend five to 10 minutes inside the store buying coffee or a snack, and have enough of a charge in the car to get through the rest of a typical day.
Gilbarco is exploring plenty of ways to improve the EV charging experience and to make EV charging more widespread in 2020 alone. In February, the fuel dispenser manufacturer made a minority investment in Driivz, an Israel-based provider of an intelligent cloud-based software platform for EV charging service providers. It joined another company, Centrica Innovations, which invests in energy and electric mobility startups, in an $11 million round of series C funding for Driivz.
“The software is very sophisticated, but it's got some interesting algorithms like self-healing, which basically can diagnose an issue without human intervention and take action,” says Nayanar.
Later, in July, Gilbarco partnered with EV amenities provider SemaConnect to introduce the Amps2Go charger, which is capable of Level 2 charging. Level 2 chargers are the most widely available type of charging today, and are most relevant for fleet fueling. The Amps2Go charger is the latest addition to Gilbarco’s charging lineup, which includes fast charging devices that can charge an EV in about 30 minutes and is more ideal for convenience stores, the company says.
Gilbarco is also working to make the payment process more frictionless for EV users. Nayanar says Tritium’s fast-charging RT175-S is plug-and-charge capable, which means the chargers have the ability to make payments from the user’s account to the charging station automatically, without swiping a card. Currently, Nayanar says this feature is only in use in Europe, but it is a sign of the frictionless capabilities of EV chargers. One bonus of EV charging in the United States is that it does not require an outdoor EMV upgrade.
If the ease-of-use of EV chargers in Europe is any indication, EV charging could have a bright future in the United States.