ChargePoint shares began trading on the New York Stock as a wave of electric vehicle startups and established automakers ready dozens of battery-powered cars and truck models that will need a lot more public and commercial fleet charging stations. The Biden Administration is likely to help make that happen through a broad push involving multiple federal departments and incentives, says ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano.
Details of how that’s going to happen are still in the works, but “my expectation is this is going to be very cross-departmental,” Romano tells Forbes. “We’re seeing some headlines about how the administration thinks clean technology and this transition to addressing climate change through transportation, energy, etc., is really an economic policy. And I believe that’s the case.”
Shares of the Silicon Valley company, which says it’s the world’s first publicly traded global EV charging network, fell about 1% in New York on Monday to close at $30.58. The listing was the result of a SPAC merger with Switchback Energy Acquisition Corp. announced in September 2020 that generated $480 million for Campbell, California-based ChargePoint.
Billions of dollars have been raised by would-be Tesla rivals including Rivian, Lucid Motors, Fisker Inc. and Lordstown Motors to get their vehicles to market, and companies including Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Hyundai are all adding new EVs to their lineups, but U.S. sales of battery vehicles remain low, accounting for less than 2% of new vehicle sales in 2020. Tesla, the country’s top seller of EVs, early on built an extensive network of rapid-charge stations to help persuade customers to take a chance on the brand.
ChargePoint and competitors including EVgo, which both support Tesla drivers, see a big opportunity to help expand the electric car market. Its network includes more than 115,000 charging ports in North America and Europe, not counting household units, of which more than 2,000 are DC fast-chargers.
Joe Biden discussed adding at least 500,000 public chargers to help wean drivers off of gasoline during his presidential campaign and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted that goal in his Senate confirmation hearing last month.
“Industry is increasingly bringing EVs to the point they pencil out or represent cost savings to a consumer,” Buttigieg said. “The more that’s the case, the more the hesitation will be range anxiety, wondering whether you can get to where you’re going. That is why the president’s commitment to half a million charging stations is so important.”
Both the Transportation and Energy Departments will likely play major roles, Romano expect “some general federal policy put in place to help influence utility commissions in different states to try to get some uniformity. But general economic, commerce and labor (issues) come into this.”
“Half the cost to install a port for charging is labor, it’s not the tech, but it’s not a consolidated jobs program,” he says. “It is by definition a very diffuse infrastructure stimulus.”
New U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who along with Buttigieg will shape policies that support opening more charging stations, is also likely to have well-formed views on the topic because she has been a member of both ChargePoint’s board and that of and Silicon Valley-based electric bus and truckmaker Proterra. Granholm is also a former two-term governor of Michigan, and familiar with automotive industry matters.
Rebates or subsides for businesses to install chargers in parking lots for customers or employees, with “some limits or justifications around the amount per business” is one option, Romano says. “The answer is not one size fits all, it’s by segment. What you would do for home charging and what you would do for workplace charging, what you would do for multi-family, what we do for long distance fast-fill (charging), those are all very different programs.”