Sometimes, earning trust just means sticking around and waiting for your moment.
When Simon Lonsdale joined ChargePoint seven years ago, it was what he called a “chasm, a quiet period” in the auto industry’s effort to introduce electric vehicles to the mass market. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf had launched in 2010 and were having their ups and downs, while the next wave of big plug-in vehicles was still in the future.
In that quiet period, the automakers and the companies that they would need to make their next-generation vehicles a success — the charging infrastructure companies, the utilities, the hydrogen fuel suppliers — didn’t have a clear road map to follow.
“In the early days, the OEMs were very secretive,” said Lonsdale, who is now ChargePoint’s chief strategy officer. “They were just used to dealing with suppliers. They didn’t understand the ecosystem that was necessary. They would just demand we send them a charging station, and we’d send one, and a couple months later they’d send it back and say thank you very much. They would not really involve us in testing very much.”
In the transforming auto industry, bathing everything in secrecy is like planning to fail. The size and range of batteries, and the charging infrastructure needed to power them, keeps changing. Tesla has already introduced 120-kW charging, and the upcoming Porsche Taycan will have 350-kW charging, which are massive leaps in charging technology.
Automakers have realized they won’t be able to keep up with the fast pace of change unless they are willing to be more open with partners. Unlike the early days, “today, they’re getting very used to working in a mobility ecosystem with smaller players like us,” Lonsdale said. “The car companies are working with us more on their future road map.”