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I want to start a vehicle charging business

CjRichMar

Member
Aug 21, 2015
108
86
Houston, TX
Living in a major city which has the following types of charging stations available:

1. Two Superchargers located outside of city limits
2. Level 2 Chargers available only to hotel guests / employees / etc
3. EV Chargers that haven't had maintenance since before Climate Change existed and therefore no longer work
4. Charging stations that can only be found by 8th level Illuminati brothers following the secret symbols

I think I've identified a market need: EV stations that, like gas stations, are easy to find (think giant "Flying J next exit" signs on the highway), but also have the following features:

1. A portion of their energy comes from renewable energy coupled with energy storage solutions
2. Payment can be achieved with any basic credit / debit card (no need for a membership to an EV charging club that may or may not actually exist)
3. Close to places people will stay for an extended period of time (movie theaters, gyms, apartment complexes, office buildings, etc)
4. Independent entities, i.e. NOT tied to patronage of a hotel or restaurant
5. Possibly some long term parking / security section for overnight stays
6. Charging solutions for every type of electric vehicle
7. Bathrooms

The problem is, I have no business acumen nor the capital needed to invest in such an ambitious venture. Any ideas on how I could get started?
 

Tiger

Active Member
Oct 31, 2016
1,696
1,256
Estonia
I think you should first solve problem 1.4. how to find the gems and see their status in real time (charging capacity, occupied or not?, estimated remaining occupancy time, etc.) and then 2.2. payment with any basic card and 2.6. compatibility and then all the other nice-to-have things beginning with 2.3. close to places like superchargers (trip routes, city centres, shopping malls). Open API for integration with trip planners.

Possibly you could partner up with a credit card company or a bank or something, you would expect them to love credit-card-only solutions.
 

trace

Member
Dec 28, 2017
147
118
Michigan
Good idea.

I see a potential need to have convenient chargers where you already park. Image if every single parking spot at the grocery store had an EV charger that was added onto your bill inside the store. Obviously it'd be overkill currently but once EVs get wide spread adoption it'd make sense. Figure that out with a large company such as Walmart and you have a business installing and designing parking lots for life.
 
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Webeevdrivers

Active Member
Jan 2, 2017
2,319
4,013
Canada
Good idea.

I see a potential need to have convenient chargers where you already park. Image if every single parking spot at the grocery store had an EV charger that was added onto your bill inside the store. Obviously it'd be overkill currently but once EVs get wide spread adoption it'd make sense. Figure that out with a large company such as Walmart and you have a business installing and designing parking lots for life.

A well dressed barrista (you) during busy hours. good sandwiches, muffins etc but no kitchen, comfortable small lounge with very large screen TV, laptop and phone working area in lounge with blistering wifi. People will make it their office and meeting place. That’s what you want.
 

LMichel

Member
Sep 29, 2017
175
136
Rochester, NY
We have a grocery chain here in the northeast (Wegmans) that is planning something very similar. Your charging, plus idle time is automatically added to your receipt when you go through the cashout line.
The thought is also that you are credited based on your total purchase as well.
...Stay Tuned... ;-)
 

CjRichMar

Member
Aug 21, 2015
108
86
Houston, TX
I think you should first solve problem 1.4. how to find the gems and see their status in real time (charging capacity, occupied or not?, estimated remaining occupancy time, etc.) and then 2.2. payment with any basic card and 2.6. compatibility and then all the other nice-to-have things beginning with 2.3. close to places like superchargers (trip routes, city centres, shopping malls). Open API for integration with trip planners.

Possibly you could partner up with a credit card company or a bank or something, you would expect them to love credit-card-only solutions.

This makes a lot of sense. Are you suggesting solving 1.4 to compare their traffic to any other potential business, or to solve the problems people have finding them? Also, solving the payment information as the foundation is a good idea. Thanks for the pointers
 

Tiger

Active Member
Oct 31, 2016
1,696
1,256
Estonia
This makes a lot of sense. Are you suggesting solving 1.4 to compare their traffic to any other potential business, or to solve the problems people have finding them? Also, solving the payment information as the foundation is a good idea. Thanks for the pointers

In my experience key problems are:
  • finding a charging place's exact location, photos of installation and exact address/gps in a way that can be easily navigated ("one click to initiate maps navigation"). Other things I need to know beforehand is expected charging rate which is important when planning route.
  • second problem is that often when I arrive at a location, it is reserved. Would be very useful to know in advance if it is occupied AND if occupied, how long is estimated remaining charging time (if too long then I could look for an alternative without wasting the driving time to this one).
  • third problem is payments, currently multiple charing statinon operators and not interoperable. Credit card would make sense.
 

FlyinLow

Enjoy the journey
Feb 5, 2018
335
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29036
I see a potential need to have convenient chargers where you already park....Figure that out with a large company such as Walmart and you have a business installing and designing parking lots for life.

We have a grocery chain here in the northeast (Wegmans) that is planning something very similar.
...Stay Tuned... ;-)

Yes. Partnering with a national or regional chain makes sense. This model is working on a small scale, why not on a larger one?

My guess is that your biggest challenge is going to be convincing popular franchise stores that they have potential for profit. Getting these installed ahead of the EV wave would be nice...but likely we are still early.

Also, the charger really needs to supply enough current that a meaningful amount of electricity is supplied in a 15 to 30 min time frame.

Sheetz and Wawa gas stations that have super chargers are a good example of a successful small scale model. NJ and PA are easy to navigate as a result.

Can this be done at the “city level” with Starbucks or 7-11? Tesla city chargers, ChaDeMo, or ChargePoint are options.
0F9D0A43-C79C-4064-B4E0-463E723646C6.jpeg
 
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RyanDe

Member
Aug 24, 2016
202
137
Massachusetts
I was thinking about this on the way home the other day in my ICE car. I didn't want to go out of the way to get gas and would love to pay $5 for someone to bring me gas. Would this work for charge too? A truck that has some batteries that can come to you, charge you up and be on it's way?
 

Uncle Paul

Well-Known Member
Nov 1, 2013
6,296
6,862
Canyon Lake,CA
When I lived in Michigan, many of the retail centers had 120v plugs from the light poles. We used them to plug in engine heaters during the colder parts of the winter. Made the cars easier to start.

If there was 120v everywhere there would be no need for faster chargers. You usually charge over night at home or on the road at superchargers, and plug into inexpensive 120V every where else to get enough range to get to your next errand.
 

nwdiver

Well-Known Member
Feb 17, 2013
8,115
10,583
United States
The problem is, I have no business acumen nor the capital needed to invest in such an ambitious venture. Any ideas on how I could get started?

The Chargepoint CEO had a great quote that stuck with me. Selling Gasoline is a terrible business model... selling electrons just makes it worse. Gas Stations make most of their money on $3 monster drinks not $3 gasoline. The only way for public charging to be viable is if most of the revenue comes from not EV drivers. Chargepoint makes most of its money from hosts to use its network. Hosts like Target pay for Chargepoint to get customers not to sell electricity (Charging is usually free). Tesla funds Superchargers from vehicles sales. Even the revenue from paid Supercharging will only pay for the electricity... not the cost of the infrastructure or profit. Voltas business money is based on paid advertisement.

If there's a way to make money selling electricity to EVs... many have looked... no one has found it. Very likely that it simply doesn't exist.
 

CjRichMar

Member
Aug 21, 2015
108
86
Houston, TX
The Chargepoint CEO had a great quote that stuck with me. Selling Gasoline is a terrible business model... selling electrons just makes it worse. Gas Stations make most of their money on $3 monster drinks not $3 gasoline. The only way for public charging to be viable is if most of the revenue comes from not EV drivers. Chargepoint makes most of its money from hosts to use its network. Hosts like Target pay for Chargepoint to get customers not to sell electricity (Charging is usually free). Tesla funds Superchargers from vehicles sales. Even the revenue from paid Supercharging will only pay for the electricity... not the cost of the infrastructure or profit. Voltas business money is based on paid advertisement.

If there's a way to make money selling electricity to EVs... many have looked... no one has found it. Very likely that it simply doesn't exist.

This is great information. My question would be, how to electric companies do it? I may be naive, but there have gotta be parallels between companies that charge money for powering homes and companies that charge money for powering vehicles.
 

NeverFollow

Active Member
Aug 9, 2010
1,278
732
3. Close to places people will stay for an extended period of time (movie theaters, gyms, apartment complexes, office buildings, etc)
4. Independent entities, i.e. NOT tied to patronage of a hotel or restaurant
You raise an interesting issue of finding a simple way to create new EV stations.
I would advise reviewing the business model of companies like Volta
(The largest free electric car charging network in the US).
 

BrettS

Active Member
Mar 28, 2017
2,112
2,520
Orlando, FL
Personally, I suspect that EV charging stations are going to move to more of a gas station model in the not so distant future and chargers at places like supermarkets and movie theaters are going to go away.

Even with my Model S 60 I charge almost exclusively at home. I get about 180 miles to a charge and I almost never travel more than 180 miles in a day. I never use charging stations at places like supermarkets and the like. Other EV’s that have a significantly smaller range might benefit from chargers at places like that, but I think that short range EV’s are on their way out. Battery technology is increasing rapidly and I suspect that in a few years just about all EV’s will have 200+ mile ranges and no one will really need to charge while they are out running errands.

Looking toward the future I think the only place chargers will really be useful will be for long distance travel. Chargers like gas stations along the highways (and the supercharger network is already there for Tesla owners) and maybe chargers at hotels so you can charge while you sleep (although that’s really only beneficial when it takes a long time to charge the car. When technology gets to the point where you can pull into a gas station type charger and charge in 5 or 10 minutes then we won’t really even need chargers at hotels anymore)

If you really want to run an EV charging business then I think the only long term success you will have is putting chargers near the highways for long distance travel. People aren’t going to pay to charge at a supermarket if it’s cheaper for them to charge at home and they have the range to make the round trip without charging.

There may be a short term need for chargers in places like supermarkets and city centers right now, but I really think that need will disappear in a few years. If you can put chargers there with very little cash outlay then you might be able to profit for a few years, but if you sink a lot of money into deploying into those places expecting to make it back over 5 or 10 years then I suspect it will never happen.
 

NeverFollow

Active Member
Aug 9, 2010
1,278
732
Personally, I suspect that EV charging stations are going to move to more of a gas station model
in the not so distant future and chargers at places like supermarkets and movie theaters are going to go away.
...
Battery technology is increasing rapidly and I suspect that in a few years just about all EV’s will have 200+ mile range
and no one will really need to charge while they are out running errands.
...
When technology gets to the point where you can pull into a gas station type charger and charge in 5 or 10 minutes
then we won’t really even need chargers at hotels anymore.
I agree that this is the use case model that people who live in a city and park their car in the street will follow.
They would like to continue charging their car only when needed, like once a week.
This is why currently, some people choose buying a fuel cell vehicule using hydrogen, as it takes minutes to refuel the tanks.

Even with my Model S 60 I charge almost exclusively at home.
I get about 180 miles to a charge and I almost never travel more than 180 miles in a day.
I never use charging stations at places like supermarkets and the like.
Even if you have a home, and can plug your car every night, there are many household with two or three cars,
so even in this case, one or two of the cars might have to be parked in the street in front of the house.

Still, the best use case when owning an EV, is to be able to charge at home, when you are sleeping.
This is the most economic solution, for both instalation cost and usage cost.

Also, it might not recommended to always charge using a Supercharger, especially if there is no thermal management system.

There are some residential street charger projects, and I beleive that will be more demand for it.
Nation's First Residential Curbside EV Charger With Free Electricity!
Curbside electric car charging stations arrive in Berkeley, CA
Public Library Electric Vehicle Charging (EVC) station
 
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nwdiver

Well-Known Member
Feb 17, 2013
8,115
10,583
United States
This is great information. My question would be, how to electric companies do it? I may be naive, but there have gotta be parallels between companies that charge money for powering homes and companies that charge money for powering vehicles.

There are some major differences between utilities and selling kWh publicly for EVs..
  • Utilities are usually a regulated monopoly with a profit guaranteed by law
  • Utilities can get super-low interest loans, bonds or even pre-charge rate-payers for new infrastructure
  • Utilities generate a kWh for ~$0.02 and sell for $0.10 and no one could beat $0.10 (until now with solar)
  • A car charging business would need to buy retail and compete with retail... while also paying for charging stations....
Personally, I suspect that EV charging stations are going to move to more of a gas station model in the not so distant future and chargers at places like supermarkets and movie theaters are going to go away.

PAID charging perhaps... but I can see free charging as becoming an increasingly common perk, possibly only during certain hours. As the cost of solar plummets daytime electricity is going to become less and less expensive. I can see a supermarket or movie theatres giving away electricity that's next to worthless to them from 10am to 5pm.

Public L2 is certainly still useful. I'm visiting family and the local mall recently installed Volta Charging stations. They're also within walking distance of some nice trails and the dog park. I figured I could plug in for a couple hours every other day... get some exercise and never run up the electric bill at my Moms house....

Increasingly abundant free charging also kinda puts a damper on the business model... as far as making a business with L3 chargers I think it would be difficult to charge less than the per mile equivalent of gas. That's going to either deter EV drivers to make trips or they'll just take their ICE. Really need funding from a LAME, government or host to make it work.
 
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FlyinLow

Enjoy the journey
Feb 5, 2018
335
328
29036
Been a bit since I've thought about this and it was interesting catching up here.

I've changed the way I describe what is happening now in the world of EVs. The EV revolution happened and is winding down now that almost all major car manufacturers have acknowledged the demand. Now we are in the EV "transition." Ford just announced it's change of priority by eliminating almost all ICE cars from its manufacturing for 2019 and has officially released the first tease pictures of its BEV crossover.

It seems J1772 has been widely adopted as the Level 2 standard. Even Tesla includes a J1772 adapter.

Standardization:
What plug will a privately run national charging chain pick to install? Will they provide charging stations with several plugs (CCS, Tesla, J1772) for now? This will increase initial installation expenses.

Funding:
Sponsorship from investors who have a long term view and are patient for a return on their investment will be required.

1. Established Highway Travel Stops: Fast DC chargers needed.
Would a partnership with an established travel stop network like FlyingJ, Pilot, Love's, Travel America, etc. work to jump start a true EV charging network? A small business focused on working with these companies for repeat installations could be large scale since we're at the beginning of the EV transition.

2. Parking Garages: Type 2 Needed (i.e. J1772)
A large portion of the car owning public will soon be buying their first EV. Level 2 charging while parked overnight in parking garages for apartment dwellers will be a big business opportunity.

3. Challenging Situations: lamp post charging for street parking is a city infrustructure thing and will be slow and depend on taxes collected to provide that electricity for anyone on a first come, first served basis.

4. Charging at Work: Type 2 Perfered (i.e. J1772)
approaching businesses throughout cities and towns to install Level 2 chargers at businesses who are willing to provide electricity for their employees to charge could be lucrative. Likely the employer would even buy the charger, cable and supplies, the company installing them would only need to work through the permitting process with the local authorities and do the manual labor to connect the charging network to the existing infrastructure as long as it will support the load.

As we see a serious transition toward BEVs at Ford from recent announcements, it is sure to be an exciting transition toward sustainable transport as we look toward 2020 and beyond when all these vehicles will be in production in the U.S. and around the world.

I would enjoy hearing from anyone who is actually pursuing an opportunity to become one of the many small businesses that we will need to build the charging infrastructure around the world. My prediction is that it will happen MUCH faster than it did during the wide adoption of gasoline over 100 years ago.
 
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