Tesla Launching Commercial EV Charging Arm — Focus On Apartments

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Tesla has long supplied Destination Chargers to hotels, restaurants, Airbnb units, Tesla stores, and other common destinations for Tesla drivers. However, it is doing something new now in this arena.

Perhaps the first sign of the new Tesla business arm came from well known white-hat Tesla hacker “green” (@greentheonly), who routinely spies on changes in Tesla firmware code and shared the following on November 30:

The explanation in the tweet is perhaps a little confusing — I saw people reading it in different ways (responding with clearly different assumptions about what it meant). However, a couple of responses following a little bit of side sleuthing seem to spell out what’s going on here.

That quote from the Tesla page — “With a growing number of Tesla cars on the road, a Wall Connector can pay for itself over time. Property managers will soon be able to set the price of charging sessions while Tesla handles payments automatically and securely – with no monthly fees.” — is under a new subheading titled “Automatic Payments.”

This is all on a new page titled “Commercial Charging,” which highlights a few key matters a business aiming to make some money on a Tesla charging station would want to see.

The second section of the page focuses on apartments. As someone who has talked to property managers at several apartment complexes about the matter of charging, as well as parking garage managers in residential areas, home charging for people living in such places is one of the last major practical hurdles to wider EV adoption. It appears that Tesla is well aware of this (of course) and rolling out a simple yet probably highly effective solution.

“Enable residents to wake up to a full charge everyday by providing convenient and reliable charging. Property managers will soon be able to seamlessly collect payment for energy consumed,” Tesla writes.

I have actually offered an apartment complex a free charging station, but it got passed up the chain and ignored from there. I was not surprised. Also even with a free charging station, they’d have to pay to have it installed. Unless they are very forward looking and progressive, and probably quite concerned about climate catastrophe, the people in charge of such matters (no pun intended) just don’t want the hassle of a new technological and financial issue, and there’s not enough obvious demand to push them to go down this road right now. However, this changes things.

For one, Tesla is an extremely well known brand at this point, and very popular. I’ve been surprised on many an occasion when discovering certain people I met in the real world were excited about Tesla — the company pulls in all types of humans. I think most people in this business would immediately assume a Tesla-specific solution would be elegant, high-tech, fairly easy to implement, and good for business.

Secondly, Tesla knows what talks — money. This new commercial EV charging arm allows the property managers to make money on the investment. Yes, so does ChargePoint and other smart charging players, but what I’ve seen is that there’s typically a closed and perhaps locked door in people’s heads when bringing up less well known EV-related companies, whereas people quickly perk up and are eager to ask questions or offer their own thoughts when the topic of Tesla comes up.

In other words: Telling an apartment property manager that they can install a ChargePoint charging station at a fairly low price, decide how much to charge people or whether to leave it free as an amenity that pulls in more tenants, and end up making money on it won’t generally lead anywhere. Telling an apartment property manager that they can install a Tesla charging station at a fairly low price, decide how much to charge people or whether to leave it free as an amenity that pulls in more tenants, and end up making money on it might lead somewhere. We’ll see how this program goes.

The second portion of Tesla’s Commercial Charging page is about getting a return on investment and, as noted above, automatic payments — to help you get there.

Tesla also highlights that such charging stations are Wi-Fi enabled. “With a Wi-Fi connection, Tesla will update your charging stations over time, provide you with monthly data reports and let you know when it’s time to install more Wall Connectors.”

In other words, Tesla does all the heavy lifting, keeps your tech up to date, and sends you clear and useful reports.

The last portion of the Commercial Charging page answers the last major question that an apartment property manager, shopping center manager, restaurant owner, or other interested party will probably want to ask: how do I get one installed? Tesla provides a link to help you find an electrician to install the chargers from the company’s pool of 1,400+ certified installers.

Aside from apartment complexes, shopping centers, hotels, and restaurants, individuals with a Tesla destination charger at their homes may be interested in making money on their chargers as well. You can put a home charger on PlugShare, for example, whether you are offering it up for others to use for free or charging for it in some way. It’s not clear yet if participation in the commercial charging program will be open to such individuals, but I am inclined to think it will — for a couple of reasons.

Image from 2015 Tesla–Airbnb partnership announcement.

First of all, Airbnb is indeed a big thing, and many Tesla owners have Airbnb properties. Tesla has partnered with Airbnb in the past, but when it comes down to it, Tesla’s partnership mostly ends up being with the individuals. I would assume Tesla would want to expand this offering to Airbnb hosts.

Whether you’re offering participation in the program to Airbnb hosts, Neal Communities, KB Home, Joe Schmoe, or Earl of Frunkpuppy, Tesla will want processes that scale easily and lump in all sorts of parties. Most likely, everything is implemented via a few options on your Tesla account or the Tesla app that involve minimal or no human interaction. I assume you just connect a charging station to your account (or more than one station) and choose from a few options regarding payments. We’ll see.

Do you have any other thoughts about Tesla’s new commercial charging business arm?

(Of course, on Tesla’s side, even if it takes a tiny cut — Office Space style — it could make a lot of money on this.)

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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