Voltera helps fleets overcome biggest roadblock to electrification
The adoption of electric vehicles has grown at a rapid pace over the last decade, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.
In the U.S., there are now some 3 million electric vehicles on the road and 135,000 public EV chargers, according to a White House briefing. Over the next decade, it’s expected consumer demand will continue to be fueled by environmental concerns, more vehicle choices, stronger battery capacity and cost savings.
The transportation industry is the lead emitter of greenhouse gasses in the U.S., contributing nearly one-third of emissions. Of transportation’s emissions, medium- and heavy-duty trucks make up 23%.
Pressure is being put on the freight transportation industry in the form of governmental regulations and incentives to decarbonize as quickly as possible. Despite the growing need to reduce emissions, the industry has been slower to electrify, still grappling with nuanced challenges surrounding recharging that makes replacing current vehicles with EVs a more complicated task.
“There are fleets that can access a public network of charging stations, especially lighter-duty fleets, but I think what we’re still in the very early days of is charging for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles or even all-electric light-duty fleets at the scale they need,” said Scott Fisher, senior vice president at Voltera.
The lack of availability of EV charging infrastructure is one of the biggest roadblocks in this transition. Diesel has long reigned supreme as the fuel of the trucking industry, and as such it is widely available throughout the U.S., with fuel stations seemingly every few miles off any given interstate. EV charging infrastructure, on the other hand, is nowhere near as widely available to the public. It also takes hours compared to the minutes it takes to refill a diesel tank.
“Fleets are finding out how challenging and time-consuming it is to get the amount of power they need, especially at a medium- and heavy-duty level,” Fisher added.
Fleets need a way to secure dependable access to charging ports in key off-site locations along routes and near facilities, but private EV site development can be a long and complex process. Fleets need to acquire real estate, plan, construct, own and maintain sites — a monumental undertaking most companies are unequipped to tackle alone.
While the transition to EVs is a significant commitment, Voltera believes that it is achievable and worthwhile. Not only will fleets transform their environmental impact, with sufficient utilization, they should eventually see cost savings.
“We recognize and understand the fact that this transition to electrification is not particularly easy, but we’ve built Voltera to deal with the hard challenges that fleets are going to be facing. We’re facing them right now and learning from them,” Fisher said.
Voltera is partnering with fleets in their individual electrification journeys by doing two key things: providing the upfront capital and expertise needed to help fleets acquire and utilize recharging sites.
The company works with companies to identify their requirements, helping them build a highly customized site based on their requirements. It considers factors like: Where are charging sites required? How much power is needed? How many charging stalls? Are ancillary amenities required? Are they open to sharing the site with other customers?
Voltera does not shy away from the fact that it could take anywhere from 18 months to three years before a site comes online. The company offers its partners the ability to acquire preselected, “thesis-driven” sites in key locations like near ports and major industrial areas, which expedites the timeline to functionality so a fleet can electrify as quickly as possible.
Recognizing that electrification is not the only path to decarbonization, Voltera also sees hydrogen as an emerging alternative fuel source with great potential. As part of a recent partnership, Voltera plans to build, site, own and operate an open network of 50 hydrogen refueling stations in North America over the next five years, which will help hasten the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
“We’re setting ourselves up with the right expertise and the right financial partners to help make fleets successful in this challenging transition,” Fisher said. “It’s certainly helpful to us and many of our customers that we have an investor who understands infrastructure and is willing to put capital to work for a couple of years before a project starts.”
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