-  Image Courtesy of Voltera

Image Courtesy of Voltera

For fleets looking to electrify at scale – whether you’re transitioning from ICE to ZEV and are looking to move beyond pilot programs or are a native ZEV fleet ready to expand – the current landscape of solutions can be very confusing.

The landscape of commercial EV charging solutions has evolved significantly over the last decade. In the beginning, public charging networks were the only options, and while fleets could use them, they were really developed for consumers. So as fleets began to accelerate and scale their transitions to ZEV – at the same time consumer demand for public charging was growing rapidly – public charging became increasingly unviable for fleets.

Seeing the enormous potential ($98 billion US + EU market for fleet EV charging by 2030), new providers began entering the market to cater specifically to fleets. Some – like logistics-focused real estate owners and distributed energy providers – were looking to add value to current offerings. Others were legacy fuel providers looking to transition their own businesses from fossil fuels. And still others were purpose-built new market entrants.

This evolution has driven innovation, which is a good thing of course. It has also made it more difficult for fleets to compare providers. We’re frequently asked how Voltera compares to other players in the market, and there are vast differences between what we do and what others do. I hope this article will provide clarity around those differences and help you navigate a path to the best fit solution.

The EV Charging Infrastructure Ecosystem

For fleets there are ultimately five prominent solutions: charging networks, Charging as a Service, Charging Infrastructure as a Service, Fleet as a Service, and real estate owners. Some companies offer more than one solution (for example, charging networks and Charging as a Service). The companies listed here are for illustrative purposes only; it is not an exhaustive list of market players.

 -  ​Image Courtesy of Voltera

​Image Courtesy of Voltera

Charging Networks (e.g. Electrify America, EVgo, Tesla)*

Charging network providers offer conveniently located charging stations within metro areas (in places like retail parking lots) and along transport corridors (in places like highway rest stops). A station typically has 2-10 chargers, which are operated by a proprietary software system that communicates with the vehicle and manages payment. Some networks, like Tesla’s until recently, are dedicated to a specific vehicle brand; others, like Electrify America and EVgo, are vehicle agnostic.

Charging networks may be ideal for:

  • Individual car owners and (potentially) rental car customers
  • Take-home fleets, as a supplement to at-home charging

Charging networks are likely not ideal for:

  • Fleets that depend on reliable, fast charging to ensure operational efficiency
  • Fleets with more than ten vehicles
  • Fleets that need dedicated charging in specific locations, e.g. near a distribution center or along a route

Charging as a Service (e.g. bp pulse fleet, ChargePoint, Shell Recharge Solutions)*

Charging as a Service providers offer what’s often referred to as “behind-the-fence” charging – that is, on the customer’s premises (such as a distribution center or logistics hub). They install dedicated charging points and may offer add-on operations and maintenance service programs, which typically rely on a network of independently contracted technicians. 

For example, “California-based fresh fruit and vegetable distributor OK Produce recently completed the first phase of its fleet electrification journey with help from bp pulse fleet, which provided the electric vehicle (EV) charging solution for the company’s 10 Freightliner EV trucks and three Orange EV yard tractors.”

For fleets, Charging as a Service (CaasS) in many ways ends up looking a lot like self-performing, since the burden of site development, permitting, and maintenance typically remains on the fleet. In fact, that is the most significant difference between CaaS and Charging Infrastructure as a Service, which is a turnkey solution that includes site acquisition and development, operations and maintenance.

Charging as a Service may be ideal for:

  • Fleets still in the small-scale pilot phase looking to learn and develop best practices for future large-scale charging
  • Fleets with the interest and the ability to manage site development and ongoing charger operations and maintenance

Charging as a Service is likely not ideal for:

  • Large fleets with sites that are already space- or power-constrained
  • Fleets not able or interested in dedicating personnel and capital to site development and charger operation

Fleet as a Service (e.g. Forum Mobility, Inspiration Mobility, WattEV)* 

Fleet as a Service companies provide the vehicles and operate the charging infrastructure. Typically they lease access to charging depots along with fleet vehicles, offering an integrated solution. For example, in May, WattEV opened a 26-truck public charging plaza at the Port of Long Beach. 

For operators of heavy-duty trucks, the Fleet as a Service model addresses two of the most significant cost drivers associated with electrification: vehicle financing and vehicle insurance.  

Fleet as a Service may be ideal for:  

  • Independent owner-operators who typically lease their vehicles 
  • Fleets whose routes fit with the location of the Fleet as a Service charging site 

Fleet as a Service is likely not ideal for:  

  • Fleets that prefer to own their vehicles 
  • Larger autonomous vehicle fleets or logistics companies with bespoke needs or very specific location requirements

Real Estate Owners (e.g. EQT Exeter, Pilot Company, Prologis)*

Real estate owners are beginning to embrace the zero-emission movement by incorporating charging and hydrogen solutions into their properties – providing an additional solution for their existing and new customer base. Prologis, for example, has more than 1.2 billion square feet of logistics properties around the globe and is helping its customers electrify. As another example, Pilot Company, which operates Pilot and Flying J travel centers across the country, is deploying 2,000 charging stalls across its portfolio.

The two companies’ approaches are quite different, as are the customers they may best serve. Charging at Pilot Company sites, for example, is essentially the charging network model, focused on passenger vehicles. (One can imagine future deployments working well for heavy-duty vehicles, still in a charging network type model.) Prologis offers more of a bespoke development solution and as such could well serve fleets with the need for more dedicated charging, in a model similar to Charging as a Service.

The real estate solution may be ideal for:

  • Individual car owners on road trips
  • Fleets still in the small-scale pilot phase with operations on a site owned by one of these providers
  • Fleets not able or interested in moving at least some operational elements off-site

The real estate solution is likely not ideal for:

  • Long-haul fleets that depend on reliable, fast charging to ensure operational efficiency
  • Fleets that need charging infrastructure in specific locations (e.g. along routes)
  • Large fleets with sites that are already space- or power-constrained
  • Fleets not able or interested in dedicating personnel to charging stations operations

Charging Infrastructure as a Service (e.g. Gage Zero, MN8 Energy, TeraWatt, Voltera)* 

In contrast to Charging as a Service, which requires significant capital investment and ongoing operational involvement from the fleet, Charging Infrastructure as a Service is a turnkey solution that includes site identification and acquisition, site development, hardware deployment, operations and maintenance. It is essentially the exact opposite of self-performing because the Charging Infrastructure as a Service (CIaaS) provider does everything needed to ensure the fleet’s vehicles are charged when and where they need to be.  

CIaaS providers coordinate the full real estate process with customers and develop on their behalf. They procure and install the EVSE hardware. And they operate and maintain the site including the chargers. Essentially, CIaaS allows fleets to “push the easy button” on charging. 

Charging Infrastructure as a Service addresses many of the limitations of other models. Reliability, availability, and speed of charging is typically guaranteed through SLAs. Because they are most often greenfield developments, CIaaS sites can be purpose-built at the right size and power scale, in the right location to meet the fleet’s needs. And the CIaaS provider dedicates the personnel and deploys the capital. 

Charging Infrastructure as a Service may be ideal for:  

  • Fleets that are ready to move beyond small-scale pilots but are space- or power-constrained at current facilities 
  • Fleets that depend on reliable, dedicated fast charging to ensure operational efficiency 
  • Fleets with highly bespoke needs such as on-site data centers or very specific location requirements (e.g. near a distribution center or along a route) 
  • Fleets not able or interested in expending capital on site development or dedicating personnel to operations 

Charging Infrastructure as a Service is likely not ideal for:  

  • Fleets not able or interested in moving at least some operational elements (even if not vehicle domicile) off-site 

Voltera’s Charging Infrastructure as a Service solution is characterized by unmatched integration and expertise. More than just charging infrastructure, ours is a comprehensive solution that includes on-site amenities such as data centers and maintenance bays, and a commitment to ongoing operations management for maximum uptime. This level of integration and expertise ensures that fleet operators can rely on a single partner to deliver everything needed to accelerate their transition to zero-emission vehicles. 

Final Thoughts

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and navigating the path to find the right solution for your fleet can be tricky. But knowing is half the battle, and educating yourself on how these solutions stack up can save you a tremendous amount of headache. If you’re interested in learning more and learning how Voltera can help you navigate electrifying your fleet please reach out at volterapower.com.