HKS Students Propose Business Models for Charging Electric Vehicles

April 27, 2012
Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government

Many trends point to the likelihood that electric vehicles will assume a larger role in transportation in the future. But what type of infrastructure is required to charge the vehicles, and who will pay for it?

To answer those questions, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asked Harvard Kennedy School students to provide an independent assessment of potential business models for developing a public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

On April 17, 2012, the team presented two models to officials from Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy officials including Henry Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary at DOE headquarters in Washington, DC. One model focused on parking garage owners who would provide charging infrastructure to PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) owners for an additional monthly flat fee. The second model featured a charging infrastructure company would offer discounted service to car-share companies in exchange for adjacent parking spots for public EV charging (though a subscription service).

“The DOE project was an amazing experience - working at the intersection of business and government,” said Khalid Yasin MPA/ID 2013. “For me the best part of the experience was the actual presentation at the DOE, where we were able to present with a number of students from Wharton the ideas that we had been working on, and to get the feedback from individuals who work on this as a full time job.”

The market targeted by these business models were large county governments or twin cities areas such as Miami-Dade, Maricopa County, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Ft Worth and San Diego where driving 35 miles a day is normal. One of the key drivers of the models was the assumption that gasoline stays close to $4.00 per gallon. The students did not assume government subsidies in their work.

Next steps include the public release by the DOE of the presentation, and developing an agenda focusing on attracting private capital to invest in these ideas.

The students who participated in the project are all members of the Public-Private Partnerships Study Group chaired by Alan M. Trager, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government senior fellow. Mariya Krasteva MPA 2013/MBA MIT Sloan served as project manager. The six students on the DOE team are all enrolled in joint degree programs.

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students in a group photo

Participants (from L to R): Moses Esema MPP/MBA Harvard, Nicholas Gerry-Bullard MPP 2012/MBA Harvard, Mariya Krasteva MPA 2013/MBA MIT Sloan; Alan Trager, chair, PPP Study Group; Jane Silfen MPP 2012/MBA Harvard, Emily McAteer MPA 2013/MBA Stanford; Khalid Yasin MPA/ID 2014/MBA Harvard.

“The DOE project was an amazing experience - working at the intersection of business and government,” said Khalid Yasin MPA/ID 2013.