Electric vehicles

What one industry vet thinks of the state of US electric vehicle charging

We caught up with Brendan Jones, president of Blink—a major US EV charging network.
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

Two weeks ago, we covered the emergence of a potential US EV-charging giant when Blink Charging bought SemaConnect.

Last week…We caught up with Blink president Brendan Jones as part of our monthly Twitter Spaces series on the fast-evolving world of climate tech. You can check out the audio replay below, or keep reading for a quick recap of the conversation.

On that sweet, sweet infrastructure-law money

The TL;DR: “The Biden Administration money is a big windfall,” Jones said.

Recap: In February, the administration earmarked $5 billion of the infrastructure law’s $7.5 billion in EV-charging funds for highway charging specifically. The remaining $2.5 billion will mostly go to rural and disadvantaged communities, though the White House hasn’t yet released detailed guidance on how that will shake out.

The highway plan aims to create a gap-free network of fast and reliable EV charging stations along the interstate highway system. The guidance emphasized the installation of DC fast chargers, which are costly but more convenient than other alternatives, and stipulated that stations are built no more than 50 miles apart on major highways.

  • “They’ve done it in a very interesting way,” Jones said. “So they’re saying to a state, here: Here’s your percentage of this pot of $5 billion. Submit a plan that closes off this corridor.”

ETA: Jones said he expects to see some of this money awarded to projects in Q4 of this year and for installations to begin in 2023 and stretch through 2024.

  • “If it’s pushed into ‘25, I’d be surprised,” he said. “But in that time frame, we should get it all done.”
  • $615 million of these funds will be made available in the 2022 fiscal year.

On the need for software to scale up, not just hardware

Building a 500,000-strong public EV-charger network will require a ton of hardware to be manufactured and installed. But it will also require significant investment in software, Jones said, in order to ensure chargers don’t fail due to network reliability issues.

“We’ve been staffing up for the last 18 months on developers, app developers, cybersecurity, everything, because you’ve got to move this into a new technology era,” Jones said. Blink has a development center in India with 40 engineers working on troubleshooting, he added, and with its acquisition of SemaConnect, the company inherited a “massive” development team.

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  • In total, he said, the company of ~420 has nearly 100 employees on its engineering team.

Also…“It’s not just the charging experience,” Jones said, noting that software is also needed to stitch together the back-end connection between a charging station and energy sources like battery storage and solar.

“Every company that is going to be here in 10 years is doubling and tripling down on app development, software, new integrations, vehicle-to-grid, vehicle-to-home, and then, battery and storage integration simultaneously,” he said.

On consolidation in the EV charging industry

Last week, two of the largest EV networks in the US—Blink and SemaConnect—linked up. And they’re not the only ones with consolidation on their mind.

“Definitely for us in the US, we’re seeing consolidation,” Jones said. Days after the Blink-Sema announcement, EVConnect, another large charging network in the US, was purchased by energy company Schneider Electric. And earlier in June, Ford purchased EV software startup Electriphi and plans to integrate it with Ford Pro, the automaker’s fleet-focused EV services arm.

  • There are more than 20 companies operating public, networked EV chargers in the US right now, per June AFDC data compiled by EV Adoption.

“But simultaneously, you’re still seeing a lot of new startups pop up, because the opportunity is massive,” Jones said. “The amount of chargers we need to put in by 2030 is in the millions, and so, this pie is pretty big. What we’re trying to do at Blink is increase our slice.”

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