Almost all EV charging station companies have one thing in common — either a company hosting the chargers has to pay for them or EV drivers who use them have to pay for them. Volta does things differently. It uses the Google method, or the cable TV method — the station is free to use, while advertisers pay to get their product or story in front of you.
A few years ago, CleanTechnica hosted an EV charging conference in Europe that brought together many leaders from across the charging industry. There was clearly great loathing and concern for free EV charging, because “free” has a tendency to warp the market and encourage inefficient, irresponsible activity. However, people like free stuff (sometimes to an irrational extent), and one company, ChargePolska, was following the Volta model. That model is built around an offer of free charging alongside paid advertising. Naturally, that abnormal position led to some interesting debates. But the big question is — will the market support an ad-based charging station model? Well, Volta has been doing quite well, and investors recently poured an extra $125 million into the company to supercharge growth in an oversubscribed Series D financing round.
Volta also points out that its EV charging network has the highest utilization of any EV charging network in the United States. Free helps, but there are other reasons why Volta performs so well. “Strategically placed in front of essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and hospitals, Volta’s EV network supports a larger consumer trend toward vehicle electrification by placing fueling stations in parking lots directly where consumers already spend their time and money.” Volta has also benefited from a strong focus on California, where EV market share is very high relative to the rest of the nation. Nonetheless, Volta has sprawled out into more than 200 municipalities in a total of 23 states.
Volta’s charging stations employ a gigantic 55″ screen (digital display), which they aim to keep aesthetically pleasing. Drivers get free charging, and businesses get more business. In the case of the partners deploying these stations in front of their stores or offices, Volta notes that research has shown that they have benefited from an “increase in spend, dwell time, and engagement on site.”
“The electrification of mobility is one of the largest infrastructural shifts of our generation and Volta’s charging network is ready to anchor the accompanying consumer behavior that will change along with it,” said Scott Mercer, Founder and CEO of Volta. “As we transition out of the carbon economy, we will see a fundamental transformation of our existing fueling infrastructure. Businesses anticipating this shift can take advantage of a revenue transfer from gas stations to retail locations in the community where consumers go, live, shop and play.”
To new funds bring Volta’s total equity financing to $200 million. With the new funding, the company is looking toward international expansion.
Note that the company has already signed agreements with retail corporations such as Albertsons, Giant Food, Regency Centers, Wegmans, and Topgolf, and advertisers have included GM, Hulu, Nestlé, Polestar, Porsche, and Unilever.
“Since our initial investment in Volta in 2018, excitement and interest in electrification – and specifically solving for public charging solutions – has continued to gain momentum,” said John Tough, Managing Partner at Energize Ventures, a major and existing investor in this round. “Our conviction in this team has similarly grown, and we believe Volta is poised to lead this market as the most capital-efficient and highly utilized EV charging network in the country.”
Image courtesy of Volta