Leading the Charge – Barron’s

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By Tom Sullivan, Barron’s:

High summer gas prices may help drivers decide that this is the year to test drive an electric vehicle (EV). But until charging stations replace gas stations, EV adoption may lack juice. So, who will develop the infrastructure necessary to support electric cars?

“We sure hope that we do,” says Colin Read, vice president of corporate development at ECOtality (ticker: ECTY), one of four key players taking on the largest deployment of electric-vehicle-charge infrastructure in history.

The San Francisco-based pipsqueak lost $1.78 per share last year on revenue of $14 million, and despite its size, in 2009, it beat larger competitors Aerovironment and Coulomb Technologies, winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest single grant to deploy EV-charging stations ($99.8 million to install 14,000 chargers in 18 cities). “ECOtality won, because [it is] more attuned to the retail market,” says Jonathan Naimon, managing partner at Light Green Advisors.

In May, the company installed its first 1,000 residential charging stations on the West Coast, and recently opened commercial charging stations (direct-current, fast-charging stations set up like gas stations) in Oregon and Arizona, and announced a pilot program in which Sears will install the chargers in 10 of its parking lots.

Folks in the Northeast may wonder why all the infrastructure seems to be happening out West. It seems that plug-in vehicles are better suited to “temperate” climates, because running the car’s heater prematurely drains the vehicle’s batteries—significantly more so than running the air conditioner.

June 18, 2011

This article can also be viewed on Barron’s website here.

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