The Electric Vehicle Charger

With growing consumer interest and adoption of electric vehicles comes the need for charging stations. Cathy Zoi, CEO of EVgo joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss this growing need and industry.

TRANSCRIPT

With growing consumer interest and adoption of electric vehicles comes the need for charging stations.

Joining me now to discuss this growing need and industry is Cathy Zoi, CEO of EVgo.

Thanks for joining us.

So tell me, how big is this market going to get?

Huge, huge, huge, huge.

We expect there's going to be 2 1/2 million EVs on American roads in the next 3 years.

Okay, and that... Right now it is still the land of nerds, tree huggers, technologists that are really interested in it, but, I mean, are we talking about a wholesale change in the industry?

Because even if you have a couple of million cars, that's nothing compared to all the gas vehicles that are out there today.

Well, it's growing really rapidly.

I will tell you that since between September and June, the EV sales doubled.

I mean, it is really like a rocket ship growing.

Give me an idea of the scale of EV charging stations compared to gas stations today.

I mean, you've got a lot of catching up to do.

Oh, we sure do.

I mean, what we're trying to do is what Wayne Gretzky said -- We're trying to skate ahead of the puck.

So the cars are ramping, and we are... You know, EVgo, now, we've got more than 1,000 fast chargers out there.

We've got more fast-charging stations in the country than anybody else, but we're just beginning.

Right now, most of the EVs are being driven around in California with some in Northeastern states and few there round and about, but that's going to happen nationally.

So we're doing a national build-out to meet that demand.

Another thing you asked about was is it just tree huggers that are buying these cars?

And, you know, I could say... I would call them early adopters.

Sure.

And for the most part, in the past few years, those early adopters bought an EV and had the comfort that they could charge at home.

Maybe they had a garage, but the whole -- as this product, as EV is becoming -- Those are people that live in apartments.

Those are people that don't have garages.

Those are ride-share drivers that are driving EVs.

So for us, EVgo, we're there ready to provide convenient, reliable, affordable charging away from home that's fast.

How fast is fast, right, and how is the technology improving?

What is a fast charge today would have been unthinkable 5 years ago?

When people charge at home, it normally takes overnight to charge your car, and that's what they call level two.

A DC fast charge takes somewhere around 30 to 45 minutes to get your car up to the proverbial full tank.

At the moment, the speed of fast charging is limited not by the charger but by the speed that the battery in the car can take.

Right now, one of the things that people are familiar with is it's about a, I don't know, 30, 45-second, maybe a 2-minute long job to pump your car full of gas.

Are we ever going to get to that point, where we can put in enough juice into a car to get you 100 or 200 miles in a very, very short amount of time?

Well, look.

The technology is changing really quickly.

What we have right now -- I mean, EVgo has a charger that is capable of 350 kilowatts, but there's only one car out there that can charge that fast, and so it will charge really quickly.

The practical engineering of it is, if you think about the cabling needs to be bigger.

It ends up being heavier, and it ends up being hotter.

So what you have to do when you go to these super fast chargers, you have to liquid cool the cables.

So all of those things are technologically handleable, but there's going to be a point at which you think, 'Well, isn't this fast enough?

Is 15 minutes fast enough?

Is 10 minutes fast enough?'

I mean, what we like to say to our customers is, 'Look, It takes you 1 minute to plug in, and then you have 29 minutes to go to something fun.

Go do your grocery shopping.'

I mean, we site our chargers at grocery stores and at shopping centers and near convenient things that people want to go spend some time on.

How about battery technology itself?

I mean, right now it seems that the capacity of vehicles and how far they can go on a charge is still using battery technology that hasn't advanced that much.

What's coming around the corner to -- What are the breakthroughs that you're seeing?

Well, I would argue that the battery technology has advanced.

I mean, I was...You know, in a previous incarnation, I was at the Department of Energy, and when I went to the Department of Energy in 2009, the cost of a car battery was about $1,200 a kilowatt hour.

It's now down to $100.

The energy density is much improved.

It's still lithium-ion, but they're basically changing little bits of chemistry in the lithium-ion, so it's dramatically improved.

Now, is it going to be exactly the same next year and the year after?

Probably not.

I mean, you know, my friends in Silicon Valley and in Cambridge and in Detroit are working on new battery chemistries all the time, so I think we're going to continue to see improvements that are really, really exciting.

Is there interoperability, meaning regardless of the type of car that I buy, if I go to your charger versus an automobile manufacturer's charger, am I going to be able to get that same amount of energy into my vehicle so I can keep driving?

You bet.

You bet.

I mean, we... EVgo chargers charge any car, so we charge the Nissan Leaf, the BMWs.

With an adapter, we charge the Teslas, so for us, it's all about a reliable, convenient customer experience.

All right.

Cathy Zoi, CEO of EVgo, thanks so much for joining us.