Image credits: E-DRIVE Founding Partners (left to right): Rodrigo Centineo (CTO), Pedro Corral (COO), Daniel López (CCO)

E-DRIVE: Leveling Up Mexico’s Charging Infrastructure

By Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 05/17/2021 - 06:00

Q: How did the pandemic influence E-DRIVE’s business?

PC: Despite car sales and home charging services slowing down, the non-residential infrastructure part of the business continued and kept us busy executing projects such as the first High Power Charging Network in Mexico for Porsche, CFE’s Fast Charging Network, fleet solutions, ChargeNow expansion with BMW & Nissan, Porsche Destination Charging and Tesla Supercharger Network, among other private charging locations.

DL: Overall, at the end of 2020 despite the adverse scenario the market grew and diversified, proof of that are the more than 50 available plug-in models for sale, eBuses Pilots like Metrobus in Mexico City, more electric fleets and last mile delivery companies running pilot projects with electric delivery units such as Amazon, Mercado Libre and Bimbo. This market diversification goes in parallel with our unrivaled EV charging services experience that now represents more than 85 percent of the market, resulting in consistent double-digit growth for the fifth consecutive year in line with our Business Plan.

Q: How has the landscape for electric mobility in Mexico changed?

DL: The most significant change is that charging services are becoming more and more of a commodity. Market diversification is proof of the first signs of industry consolidation at all levels of the electric mobility ecosystem and value chain, resulting on new business opportunities in electricity supply, charging networks, fleet electrification, last-mile delivery, public transport and battery handling, recycling and second life projects.

In this sense, as a charging services market leader, E-DRIVE installed and operated eight out of 10 EV chargers in Mexico. We are uniquely placed at the intersection between technology, engineering and market knowledge to support clients through this transition. For that reason, as of 2021 we are investing on the deployment of the first non-auto OEM charging network in Mexico. We completely renewed our headquarters in Mexico City and we are now the only Compatibility Lab in Mexico and Latin America and developed a whole array of specialized e-mobility services and specializations for personnel to bring the e-mobility game to a whole new level.

Q: What best practices can Mexico follow to foster electric mobility?

RC: Including a Home Charging Solution when purchasing a plug-in car. As we discussed during Mexico Automotive Summit, Mexican dealerships include charging and installation with every new vehicle sale. This makes it easier for the user to transition to e-mobility. The industry in Mexico has understood that change can be difficult and rather than creating additional troubles to their customers, it needs to make things easier. That is why most OEMs in Mexico have decided to partner with E-DRIVE to offer their customers an all-in-one trouble-free solution for home charging: we supply, we install and we maintain their chargers throughout their lifecycle.

DL: Other best practices include the professionalization of the segment. In our case, all of our technicians are trained and certified locally and internationally on both technical and regulatory matters. Second, we are proud to say that we have made E-DRIVE the electric mobility University in Mexico. The learning curve is important for all our staff. They not only understand the market, the technical side and the commercial side of infrastructure but they live e-mobility on a daily basis. Surprisingly, we are the only Charging Services Company to own an EV fleet and thus, the only one to truly live e-mobility daily. Our proven expertise and professional approach to e-mobility are some of the main reasons we have become e-mobility partners of the most important charging manufacturers all over the world such as ABB, BTCPower, Circutor, Circontrol, enelx, IES-Sinergy and Tritium.

Q: Previously, you highlighted the potential of creating robust systems to manage the power grid. How have these projects advanced?

PC: We have advanced to the point of connecting our network at the national level. We now operate the largest smart charging installed base in Mexico in real-time and we are monitoring our own chargers and those of our customers. This allows us to provide advanced management functions, preventive maintenance and billing services, among other features. The next step will be to actually charge a fee either for the energy supplied or the charging service provided.

RC: In 2020, we increased the number of charging points connected to our platform by 200 percent. This is a really important milestone for the Mexican market and a step in the right direction for controlling the charging points. Today, we are ready for this step but some of our customers are still choosing their charging option. By the end of the year, we may see the new charging model, in which the end-user will use an app to pick the best location and pay. Electric charges are way cheaper than gasoline. Public charging points will eventually charge for the vehicle charged.

Charging infrastructure adapts itself to the user’s way of life, whether that means charging at home at night or during the day while at the office. The fast-charging concept comes into the picture when you are traveling between cities and states or are in need of a quick charge even at an urban area.

PC: Fast Charging and Ultra-Fast Charging will play a different role as they require a higher investment because they need an electric station. The charger costs between US$30,000 and US$90,000 and the infrastructure is at about US$50,000, so business models will need to evaluate ROI schemes.

Q: How does charging infrastructure help OEMs achieve carbon neutrality?

DL: The Auto Industry has embarked on the transition to carbon-neutral transport and electric mobility plays a huge role to reach this destination. OEMs have been very aggressive in this regard announcing their goals to be fully electric in the coming decades (some as fast as the end of this one) and carbon-neutral from production all the way to usage a few years later.

Cumulative EV charging infrastructure investment only in the US and the EU is projected to be around US$60 billion by 2030 and around US$192 billion by 2040. At this point, there is no doubt the future of mobility is electric but still, the environmental aspect of the business is yet to be fully addressed. To do so, the Auto Industry has embarked on the transition to carbon-neutral transport and charging infrastructure is one of the single most important conditions towards achieving this goal.

First, the industry and Companies like us need to ensure that charging is fast, safe and seamlessly integrated into the grid. For this to happen, we need open and standardized market interfaces between the vehicle, charging point and back-end as well as energy management systems that guarantee accelerated charging infrastructure growth that is always evolving and improving hand in hand with the e-mobility ecosystem. This way a future-proof charging infrastructure and thus, carbon neutral transport is guaranteed.

Q: How does the lack of fiscal incentives for electric vehicles affect their market?

RC: Without a doubt, the government plays a large role in the electrification of mass transportation. The Mexican government has yet to take an active role in promoting electric vehicles and renewable energies. That being said, some incentives are in place for those taking a leap of fate into e-mobility such as exemption of local taxes, emission control verifications, toll discounts and preferred parking spaces.

Today, an electric vehicle is way cheaper in the long term and offers competitive costs for companies and governments, which is one of the reasons that allowed sales to grow despite the lack of incentives. We receive calls every day from companies inquiring about the advantages of electric fleets. Even with minor incentives, the technology provides significant economic and environmental benefits for companies and consumers.

Q: What is necessary to make Mexico part of the EV development chain?

DL: Government involvement, public investment and sources of funding. It is imperative to scale up cities’ e-Mobility initiatives in terms of infrastructure and financing models to reduce the emission of major pollutants, such as with ICEs. The government needs to make it attractive to invest in the whole EV value chain by providing strategies that will benefit cities, companies and citizens economically, socially and environmentally. Mexico’s electricity reform and momentum must focus on addressing climate change and thus giving a true chance to set the stage for the long-term adoption of electric vehicles. E-Mobility is a big part of a larger ecosystem of sustainable transport that pushes for a cleaner energy generation.

RC: Today EVs may well represent a minimal segment of Mexico’s total vehicle market. The moment those percentages reach 1, 2 or 10 percent, the market will start to thrive and if Governments do not address this growing market in time they will lose the opportunity to become Latin America electric mobility market leader. We are ready when they are and we are sure governments will benefit from our unique market knowledge, holistic and long term approach to electric mobility.

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst