Car Culture

Study: Almost 5 million charging stations by 2015

With electric car demand on the rise, Pike Research expects the number of car charging stations to surpass 4.7 million over the next five years.

Pike Research

Drivers who buy electric cars will need a quick, convenient place to recharge their batteries. And the industry is ramping up to fill that need, says a report released Tuesday by Pike Research.

As automakers move toward electric vehicles, the number of charging stations around the world is forecast to surpass 4.7 million over the next five years, says Pike's "Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment" report. The United States alone is likely to be home to almost 1 million charging points by 2015.

That need will be fueled by the more than 3.1 million electric vehicles (EVs), including both hybrids and all-electric cars, expected to be sold worldwide during the next five years, according to Pike.

"The success of hybrid vehicles in the 2000s gave drivers a taste for propulsion by electric power, and governments around the world are now highly focused on creating the charging infrastructure to support the arrival of EVs in significant numbers," Pike senior analyst John Gartner said in a statement.

Now populated by smaller, niche companies, the industry for manufacturing electrical vehicle charging equipment is being joined by a large crowd of major tech players such as GE, Panasonic, Samsung, and Siemens. This expansion is paving the road for an intensely crowded and competitive market by the end of 2011, says Pike.

Though 4.7 million charging stations over the next five sounds like a lot, that number is actually smaller than Pike's initial 2009 estimate of 5 million stations. The lower forecast is due to a drop in the projected number of sales for electric vehicles and the lack of a solid business model for public charging stations.

"The economics of selling a few kilowatt hours per charge are very challenging, and as such we anticipate that public charging station deployments will be driven mainly by government initiatives over the next several years," Gartner said.

Initially, governments will likely fund the public stations. Commercial stations, particularly in the U.S., will probably have to keep their costs low due to the availability of free and inexpensive charging stations at homes and public locations. As a result, retailers will set up commercial stations as a marketing tool rather than a way to turn a profit, the study said.

Consumers in the U.S. will mostly charge their cars at home due to the convenience, according to Pike. But drivers in the rest of the world will take greater advantage of public charging stations because of the lack of convenience in charging from their homes.