Mike Calise, Tritium Americas: “The tipping point to EV uptake is emerging”
Ten years ago (2010), a shadow of doubt over whether or not electric vehicles (EVs) would make a real impact on the automobile industry was in the minds of many people throughout the world.
However, with vehicle manufacturers slowly but surely embracing the idea in recent years, this doubt is starting to shed away and private companies as well as governments are preparing themselves for the transition.
One such preparation calls for deploying EV charging stations throughout cities and along intermunicipal routes, something that international power electronics technology company Tritium is doing in North America and abroad.
In my one-on-one with Mike Calise, the company's president for the North America region, we discuss the company’s new RT175S recharger, EV trends in the United States and industry forecasts. Mr. Calise has been working in the EV arena since 2010.
Could you start by telling me a bit about your experience before coming to Tritium?
Calise: I have seen – and helped – the industry make tremendous leaps and strides during the early adopter decade (2010-2020) when most doubted the impact of EV. Prior to Tritium, I held chief executive officer and senior vice president roles at Blink Charging Co. where I was responsible for Blink’s NASDAQ listing, as well as customer facing and strategic partner activities.
Before that, I held leadership roles at Schneider Electric as Head of EV Solutions North America, and I founded EVadvise, an independent advisory firm focused on mass scale EV infrastructure. While there, I authored ‘Electrify Your Business’ sponsored by Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and I was a contributing author of ‘Ready, Set, Charge, California!’
The tipping point to EV uptake is emerging this year and this means that a lot of heavy lifting and pivoting will be required over the next 10 years by companies committed to the mission. Tritium is one of them.
Tritium is now marketing the new RT175S charger. How is it different from other rechargers on the market and what is your sales target this year?
Calise: We don’t share our sales numbers, but I can tell you that we have already piloted the RT175S and that we are just starting production.
Interest in the charger has been exceptional and it will continue to grow in many applications from Fleet to Retail to Utility where higher and shorter dwell times are needed. It’s ideal for fleets, quick service, c-store, retail, fuel stations and truck stops.
The charger can also be flexibly designed to fit bespoke requirements: last year we announced a deal with the Port of Long Beach to supply 33 modified RT175S chargers with an automatic charging capability supplied by Stäubli.
This design allows the port to electrify its fleet and meet compliance regulations. The whole charging experience will be zero-touch for drivers, and it is this kind of flexibility which sets Tritium and the RT175S apart.
What is the difference between vehicle charging operators and electricity retailers?
Calise: One is a subset of the other. Obviously, not all electricity retailers are vehicle charging operators. However, vehicle charging operators are electricity retailers if they own and operate the equipment.
While some companies only sell hardware and manage the network, there are some that actually own and operate the equipment as well as sell electricity, and others that do it all.
California is ahead of the game when it comes to implementing electrification in the United States. Why is that?
Calise: California starts by the need to solve some of its own problems such as traffic congestion, poor air quality and high carbon emissions. It also has a large population so in many ways this defines the best automotive market.
Moreover, as a progressive state, there’s been favorable policies that have been the catalyst for the early adoption. Other reasons are that it has an exceptional climate, a limited mass transit system, and long distances between major cities. Being the home of Tesla doesn’t hurt either.
Do you think the California EV trend could spread out to other states or even down south into Latin America?
Calise: A few states are following California’s lead as a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) state, among them being Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Others to mention are favorable high-density population EV markets like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Washington and Virginia.
Latin America is starting to deploy chargers. It’s a nascent but very interesting market and utilities are scrambling to deploy the infrastructure needed to meet future vehicle launches.
How many hybrid or electric vehicles do you expect to see in the market by 2025? And when do you think we will see these vehicles dominating the market (more than 50% market share)
Calise: In 2025, we believe we will see new BEV [battery electric vehicle] and Hybrid car sales hitting north of 25% market share, and in certain markets even higher than that.
It won’t be long before battery costs hit below 100kWh, and at these levels it will no longer be profitable to make ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles.
Once we overcome this cost barrier, you will easily see 50% of new car sales being EVs. Since there’s over 275 million vehicles on US roads, however, it will take some time before EVs represent 50% of all cars. This could take approximately a decade.