EV Connect has been playing in the public EV charging space since 2009 and continues to bring new solutions to the table 10 years later. CleanTechnica connected with CEO Jordan Ramer and VP of Business Development Ram Ambatipudi to hear what the company is up to and to learn about a deal they recently inked with Detroit’s DTE Energy.
Just Install Some Charging Stations…
“We got started in late 2009, early 2010 with the vision that decentralized fueling would require these fueling assets that we now call EV charging stations in the far corners of parking lots and all sorts of other places where a vehicle would spend a few minutes or more of time,” Jordan said. At the time, the role of public electric vehicle charging in the electrification of transportation was not well thought out. After all, this was before the introduction of the first widely available, production scale electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, was even introduced to the market.
It was the type of aspirational vision that plays well in the common area of a college dorm or in a rambling debate while lounging around having beers with friends, but to turn that into a business, some questions had to be answered. How many stations were needed? What speeds would they need to operate at? How much range would the vehicles have? What charging adapter will be used? Who is going to install these things? Who is going to pay for them? How are we going to make money doing all this?
So, back to the drawing board they went. “We spent the first 2-3 years of our existence in the market relatively conservatively looking at customer use cases,” Jordan said. Would workplace, hotels, transit stations, or other public locations be the best for EV charging stations? It wasn’t clear at the time so the EV Connect team reached out to utilities, employers, transit agencies, and regulators to find partners and slowly they built up a network of EV Connect-branded charging stations.
“Throughout our evolution over the last 10 years, we have worked very closely with the utility industry, which is a key stakeholder in the rollout of the electrification of transportation,” VP of Business Development Ram Ambatipudi said. In California, utilities play a double role as the supplier of electricity as well as being a key player in the management of environmental programs like EV charging for the state. That put them smack dab in the middle of any EV charging discussion and also make them a partner in the mission to deploy more public EV charging stations.
One Platform To Rule Them All
Very quickly upon kicking off the effort to install EV charging stations, the team realized that one of the core challenges with EV charging wasn’t so much the stations themselves, but the network required to keep everything humming along nicely behind the scenes. “These remote fueling assets would need to be managed in some form or another with software,” Jordan said.
One of the key factors that will enable drivers to move away from gasoline and into electric vehicles for their transportation needs is a broad network of EV charging stations that make it easy to find and use public EV charging when needed. It’s a lot like gas stations today. Customers don’t have to wonder where they will fill up, what nozzle the gas pump will have, what pressure it’s putting out, or how they will pay for it. Those standards have been defined and distilled down to the lowest common denominator.
To accomplish that level of simplicity, EV Connect started working to build out a platform that would enable anyone who wants to provide EV charging on their property and manufacturers building EV charging stations with the software they’ll need to do so intelligently. The EV connect backbone would tie everything together and allow station hosts to install stations and sell charging while at the same time, making it easy for customers to find and use stations.
Jordan told me that today, EV Connect has created a, “cloud based platform for managing EV charging stations.” The platform evolved organically, using EV Connect’s own EV charging network as the testbed for innovation. From early on, it was clear to EV Connect that for true interoperability, the stations would need to speak a common language. “We were the first to bring open standards to the US market,” Jordan said. Leveraging open standards gives station hosts the confidence that the stations they are investing capital in will be able to speak with any current or future EV charging management software, among other benefits.
The Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) establish a standard language for stand alone and fully networked stations to speak rather than utilizing a proprietary, network-specific communications standard. “We’re 150% supporters of OCPI. We have implemented OCPI from a technology standpoint,” Jordan said.
When EV Connect started building its cloud platform, 90% of the stations on the network were EV Connect charging stations. Since then, EV Connect has acquired many private networks, translating to a mix of, “maybe 2/3 ev connect network, 1/3 other networks that we are managing,” Jordan said. In the future, Jordan sees that mix including more private networks as EVs for fleets move beyond pilots and into scaled adoption.
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