Electric car charger market estimated to grow 12.7 units by 2020-- but what will get it there?

IHS chartA new study by IHS automotive estimates that the global electric car charger market will grow to 12.7 million units by 2020. That’s compared to just one million today.

Experts agree that increasing the number of charging stations is crucial to encouraging adoption of electric vehicles, but there are a number of variables involved in bringing new stations to reality. Where this massive increase will come from, and how these stations will be managed, is a key question of the EV future.

Tesla is installing “supercharger” stations across the country, where Tesla owners can charge for free. The Department of Energy and localities are championing workplace charging as a crucial step. Some studies say public chargers are key to increasing EV numbers, others say the opposite.

A relatively new but promising player in the market are utilities. Just a few years back utilities were banned from investing in public infrastructure charging, but now there are mass installments coming in California, Kansas City and a number of other places

Utilities are in a unique position to really power EV growth and benefit from it themselves, argues Nancy E. Pfund in an op-ed in Fortune (Pfund is founder and managing partner of DBL Partners, which owns SolarCity). If utilities offer EV charging stations to homeowners and businesses, they’re opening a new opportunity for their own profit--the overnight charge window. This could also be good for all electric ratepayers, since the extra demand provides the opportunity to spread out the costs of operating the grid to more customers when electricity use is generally low. EV owners would benefit both from more charging opportunities, as well as the ability to take advantage of lower off-peak rates.

Poised at this brink of growth, will Michigan utilities follow California and Missouri’s leads?