A few years ago, we hosted a couple of EV charging conferences — one in Europe and one in the UAE. One of the most fascinating things to me was that you had almost the entire EV charging industry playing one game, and then a couple of companies pushing a whole other approach, and one that, frankly, pissed off the first large group.
The thing is — almost all charging network companies have a business model based around getting consumers to eventually pay for the network, whether via per-kWh charges, per-minute charges, memberships, or something else along those lines. Volta, and also a company at our European conference that was modeled after Volta but was looking to innovate further on the potential there (ChargePolska), have what you might call “the Google approach.” Let people use the goodies for free, but run highly visible ads that pay for everything.
In my opinion, this is a very compelling and promising approach. There is a lot of money in advertising. An attractive charging station is often a great place to get great visibility from high-rolling early adopters as well as more broadly since they are often in high-foot-traffic areas. Choosing very appealing station designs makes the ad boards something you’re actually drawn to look at, unlike many other annoying outdoor (and online, for that matter) ads.
So, it is always intriguing to see where and how Volta expands. The news this week is that it’s expanding in Richmond, California, with a partnership with the City of Richmond itself. “Volta will provide the first free electric vehicle charging stations on a public right of way in California that are not funded by taxpayer dollars. The stations are located next to the BART parking garage at 1501 MacDonald Avenue.”
It appears that what Volta is getting here is free use of highly desired parking spaces where the company can set up its charging stations and sell premium advertising. In exchange, instead of funding charging infrastructure with the city’s limited budget, Richmond gets a free charging network for its residents. Well, at this point, it’s not a network, but I presume that if the initial projects go well, the partnership will expand. It’s a clear win–win, right? What more could Richmond ask for?
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