The San Francisco to Silicon Valley corridor made many a millionaire during the dot-com boom as companies wanted their mail to arrive at a place close to technical talent and potential investors. While much smaller in scale, the industry for electric vehicle charging technology is also being largely centered in the Bay Area for similar reasons.
Since their inception, Better Place (Palo Alto) and Coulomb Technologies (Campbell) have leveraged local product development talent that came of age during the ‘90s technology boom. EV charging stations use many of the same technologies that inflated the bubble, including telecommunications and IP networks. Company founders (such as Better Place’s Shai Agassi) could also tap into the many investors who in recent years have shifted from Internet tech to cleantech.
Charging equipment supplier ECOtality, which was founded in Phoenix as eTec, announced last week that it is moving its headquarters to downtown San Francisco, adding a third well-established company to Northern California. The company accurately stated that the Bay Area “is the nexus of the EV industry” as well as one of the largest market for EVs. Other EV-related companies in the Bay Area include automaker Tesla Motors and smart grid company Silver Spring Networks. EV charging equipment company Clipper Creek is about 2 hours away in Auburn, California. Automakers looking to partner with charging companies can now easily access the leading players within an hour’s drive.
ECOtality is leading the installations of more than 12,000 federally-funded EV charging stations across the country, including metropolitan areas in its former home in Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee and California. Despite local government commitment to EV charging infrastructure in San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco, the Bay Area was surprisingly omitted from the original DOE grant recipients last year , but earlier this month Coulomb Technologies received a grant to install charging equipment in nine areas including the Bay.
Along with the SF Bay Area, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles are likely to see the highest penetration of EVs, and each region has its own crop of EV companies. EV charging equipment company Aerovironment and EV makers Coda Automotive and Aptera are all based in Southern California, while Portland is home to EV charging companies Optimization Technologies and Shorepower Technologies.
Not surprising, many of the utilities that have been the most supportive of EVs are located in these same areas, including Pacific Gas & Electric, Portland General Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric.
These West Coast areas will see an inordinate percentage of the EVs delivered during the next two years, and will experience most of the lessons that will be learned in EV charging. This concentrated effort will provide valuable information before EVs are slowly rolled out throughout the rest of the country.
Article by John Gartner appearing courtesy Matter Network
photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kim_scarborough/147970066/”>Kim Scarborough