We’re charged up about Sustainable America’s latest investment. EV Connect, a six-year-old company based in El Segundo, Calif., is working to streamline the electric vehicle charging ecosystem for drivers, property owners and electric utilities through a hardware-agnostic, open-standards, cloud-based management system.
“If you are the owner of an office building, you own the elevators, but most likely you outsource the elevator management to an elevator company. We do the same thing with EV chargers,” says EV Connect CEO Scott Jarus. “Our innovative software enables us to manage the charging station, the EV driver experience and the charging station’s interaction with the electric utilities that feed those charging stations.”
In contrast, most of the players in the EV charging industry lease spaces from property owners and put in their own infrastructure with minimal management, or property owners buy chargers and manage them themselves. Also unlike other EV charging companies, EV Connect doesn’t manufacture chargers. Instead, they work with many manufacturers to acquire EV charging stations for their customers, and then they facilitate the installation and management for the site host. This means that property owners aren’t locked into a particular hardware or operating system.
EV Connect currently manages approximately 700 charging ports located in just about every type of parking facility: corporate campuses, office buildings, universities, government properties, and multi-family residential buildings. Yahoo, the California Department of Transportation, the New York Power Authority, and various agencies within the federal government all use EV Connect’s service. In October, the company announced a deal with Hilton Worldwide to provide and manage the EV charging infrastructure for its 3,700 U.S. properties using an application specifically developed for the hospitality industry.
One feature that property owners like about EV Connect is how it allows them to control access to the chargers. “Some facility owners may wish to give away the service to their tenants or customers or employees, but others may wish to charge drivers for use of the station to cover the electricity that they are consuming,” says Jarus. “Our management platform provides them with the ability to meter and charge the driver for using the facility.”
The software also provides the ability to monitor stations in real time, says Jarus. “If a station goes into an alarm or a fault condition, we have the ability to see it, report it, and in many cases remotely deal with the problem without having to dispatch someone to fix it.”
Charging as a Service
The company is opening up EV charging to new markets by offering the industry’s first EV “charging-as-a-service” financing option (EV CaaS). Through its new partnership with SparkFund, a financing organization that works with green technologies, EV Connect’s customers can cut the up-front costs of installing chargers by turning what is usually a capital expenditure into a pay-as-you-go operating expense.
“This option is attractive to commercial office building owners who typically don’t like capital expenditures; they would rather have operating expense that can be passed along to tenants,” says Jarus. Hotels and businesses that manage parking lots under contract also like this option, he says.
Vision for the Future
Even in the current climate of lower gas prices, EV Connect is not slowing down. It just closed a $2.7 million round of equity financing that will help the company grow. Even if consumer EV sales stall for now, Jarus says other entities, like federal, state and local government agencies, are not slowing down their investment in EV infrastructure. “They have a much longer view for transportation,” he says. “They realized that $2.50 gasoline is not here to stay.”
Ultimately, EV Connect’s vision is to increase the convenience of EV charging as much as possible by becoming the industry’s common management platform, similar to what happened with ATMs. (Remember when you couldn’t get money from a machine that wasn’t in your card’s network?) “Ultimately, the EV ecosystem will need a common management platform to facilitate efficiency, ease of use and likeability across North American and, ultimately, the world,” says Jarus. “That’s what EV Connect wishes to be.”