CHARGE meets Matt Teske, Founder / CEO of Chargeway – part 1.

As we approach CHARGE North America (18-19 May), we’ve been asking our top speakers and partners to reveal their approach to branding in energy. In this article, we speak to Matt Teske, Founder / CEO, Chargeway about today’s EV sector  

  1. What new business opportunities are you seeing with eMobility disruption?

The world of eMobility is continually evolving with new players coming to the market, which continues to create opportunity for those who can identify and solve pain points for both industry and consumers. At the core of the transition to electrification is battery technology. There continues to be new progress made within battery chemistry and architecture that are not only helping to reduce the costs of the technology, but also encouraging more research into product development that could inevitably lead to new breakthroughs. I believe developments in how we will effectively store and use electricity is where a great deal of opportunity lies for newcomers to eMobility. This may likely be born out of research and testing at universities, so I am very happy to see that the US federal government is offering grants for advancements in this work. Advancements in battery chemistry designs ranging from solid state, sodium, boron, or another new mineral resource process could change the industry immensely at any time.

Another area I believe is asking for innovation within eMobility is software. This continues to be a pain point for legacy industry such as the energy and auto sectors. Like the rise of business and personal computing decades ago I think understanding how to most effectively design software will be instrumental in how both industry and the general public interact with the advancements in eMobility. This could be UI related for how users understand how to engage with a particular eMobility platform, or it could be more behind the scenes for how software controls a battery management system. There are still obvious gaps in these areas that offer a great deal of opportunity to those who can most effectively solve these problems. Just this week General Motors announced that it plans to focus heavily on software in their vehicles, removing the option for drivers to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This speaks to GM’s vision for what they plan to offer drivers, but we’re at the beginning of seeing whether it will be legacy auto, a tech giant such as Apple, or new companies that create the best software solutions within eMobility.

  1. What new developments in or outside of energy do you believe will be most influential in the transition to customer-centric energy ecosystems?

I think we are at the very beginning of what we refer to internally at Chargeway as “energy ownership”. Technologically there are many solutions coming to market that have the opportunity to be extremely disruptive to both industry and the customer experience with energy moving forward, but I believe there is a great need for translating the value proposition to the public and developing business models that will create real value over time.

A great example is V2X technology for electric vehicles. This could be vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-load (V2L), vehicle-to-home (V2H), etc. There are various pilots and test programs around the United States focused on how leveraging stored energy within EVs could support load management and grid planning by utilities. For example, the promise of V2G has a variety of benefits for the grid, however this requires not just the technological capabilities of the vehicle communicating and transferring power, but most importantly buy-in from the public. We are essentially asking consumers to offer fuel from their vehicle they have already paid for to benefit the great good, so designing and communicating a clear value proposition to the public from the utility will be a fundamental key to V2G success.

In the ways that consumers personally benefit from V2X technology, such as V2H and powering their home in case of an emergency, I see a smoother path forward to explaining value to consumers. But communicating the value of V2H will fall predominantly onto the auto industry as this will be a feature of the vehicle the public can leverage for their personal gain. We have already seen a few missteps by the auto sector promoting the promising of V2H, but not successfully communicating what their customers will need in order to have this benefit. V2H setup often requires a lengthy process to install and collaboration with local utilities to execute. The resulting benefit is easy to understand, but consumers may be turned off by the journey and costs involved.

Because of these value proposition and process hurdles within V2X I think there is a lot of potential in stationary storage combined with personal energy production. The price of solar continues to become more attractive to both businesses and homeowners and as battery technology continues to improve in both energy density and price I believe there is a lot of opportunity to present these technology options in a way that will serve grid needs and provide a more clear value proposition to end users. This is where the concept of “energy ownership” comes into play. As the public continues to become more exposed to new energy technology options they will let the market know what they see more value in and vote with their wallets.

  1. What possibilities do changing consumer preferences bring to energy companies and what can they do around renewables, distributed generation and EV adoption to meet their needs?

This is a very important question for the broader definition of energy companies, which includes both electric utilities and fossil fuels. There is a huge opportunity for electric utilities to provide the public with both good information and service options based on consumer interest in “energy ownership”. As this relates to EVs there is a steep learning curve for utilities within communication who traditionally have understood their consumer product and program offerings as household items such as lightbulbs and smart thermostats. As more consumers become aware of EVs there will be a need for electric utilities to pivot their messaging and consumer profile understanding to include the automotive ecosystem. This transition will be unavoidable for all electric utilities and will require a proactive strategy to prepare for consumer expectations in their car ownership experience.

I believe there is still a great deal of misconception within the utility sector regarding the automotive buying and ownership experience and which stakeholders consumer have traditionally been influenced by in the auto ecosystem. For example, automotive OEMs have relied heavily on both the product (oil and gasoline) and messaging from fossil fuel companies to ensure their product (cars/trucks) are perceived as valuable and even a necessary product by consumers. With electric utilities now being naturally positioned as “fuel providers” for electric vehicles, this creates a great opportunity for positioning their brands as trusted leaders in the EV ownership experience. This is a cultural shift and could be a missed opportunity by many utilities if they are not proactive in their response to consumer needs.

And there is a competitor waiting in the wings. Fossil fuel companies are clearly seeing the shifting landscape of car ownership and working to position their brands within the EV ecosystem. And they know the automotive branding ecosystem well, so they are well prepared to address these shifting interests from consumers. Both Shell and BP have made large investments into the EV charging sector and I anticipate we will see more fossil fuel brands do the same. However, this is purely a brand play for fossil fuel brands. They do not produce the electricity EV drivers will need, so electric utilities still have a great opportunity to position their brand and product in a clear way that supports consumers in their changing preferences. From a marketing and branding perspective the “electric fuel” landscape is just getting started.

Chargeway has developed a comprehensive software solution that simplifies how drivers will navigate the intersection of electric utilities and the auto industry. Their focus is on the customer experience with electricity as a fuel and how it is unique to every driver based on a variety of factors starting first with the electric vehicle (EV) they choose to own. Their software interface translates plug types and power levels of EV charging into simple colors and numbers, creating an easy and transparent way for anyone to understand how EV charging works for any EV on the road. This creates a “driver first” approach where we customize the user experience of EV charging in our software to everyone individually, as opposed to forcing the public learn and navigate the complexities of EV ownership on their own.

Matt Teske | LinkedIn