According to CEO and cofounder of EV Connect Jordan Ramer, it is estimated that by 2030 there will be roughly 5M to 15M publicly accessible commercial charging ports for electric vehicles, and this is a global estimation. EV Connect has been on the forefront of the electronic vehicle (EV) industry since its inception. This cloud-based software platform manages EV charging stations and their interaction with utilities, energy management systems, and drivers. This platform takes an open and standards-based approach which lets site hosts pick and choose the charge stations that are best suited for them and their respective use cases.
LA TechWatch had a chance to catch up with Ramer about the company’s Series A round, which brings the total amount raised to $13.9M over 7 rounds.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a Series A round, which included the conversion of Convertible Promissory Notes previously issued by the Company. Ecosystem Integrity Fund led the round, with existing investors and Montage Capital also participating.
Tell us about EV Connect’s product or service.
EV Connect has created EV Cloud™, the most innovative, robust, flexible and feature-rich cloud-based software platform for managing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and their interaction with utilities, energy management systems and drivers.
EV Connect’s EV Cloud is used to manage and control EV charging stations, and to interact with the various constituencies within the entire EV eco-system (e.g., EV drivers, site hosts, electric utility grid management systems, etc.). The EV Cloud provides its service by remotely connecting to – and interacting with – charge stations, as well as third-party systems (e.g., electric utility control systems, demand response systems, reservation systems, and other charge station networks, to name a few) and devices (vehicles, RFID cards, building management system interfaces, et al) to provide advanced command & control options, including access control, usage pricing, demand response and load management. The latter two being critical components for the electric utilities.
Are you seeing the cost of hardware in your industry falling quickly? When do you think we will hit a point where it is a no-brainer for businesses to provide for their customers?
We are continuing to see price reductions in EV charge stations and expect this trend to continue. In certain use-cases, it is already a no-brainer, but certainly continued cost reductions of both the hardware and installation costs will drive further adoption.
What inspired you to start EV Connect?
I was inspired to start EV Connect when it became clear electrification of transportation was inevitable and technologically feasible. This inevitability led me to envision a future where a new generation of EV fueling infrastructure was completely decentralized compared to the status quo of the centralized gas station. Fueling with electricity in a decentralized manner would require millions of fueling stations in parking lots around the world that will ultimately require ongoing management. Our approach has been to leverage foundational technologies, such as cloud computing, standardized machine-to-machine protocols, and established cellular data networks to provide charging services to the electric vehicle ecosystem.
How is EV Connect different?
Since EV Connect’s founding 9 years ago, we endeavored to provide an open and standards-based approach for site hosts and inclusivity for EV drivers – this openness remains a staple of our philosophy today.
Providing an open platform enables our site hosts the ability to pick and choose the charge stations that are best suited for them and their respective use cases. This ultimately translates into a better user experience because the stations that are selected are the best for their particular charging application. It also gives our customers the power to choose the best stations available at the current time and not be stuck with a small selection of stations that only work on one network or are more expensive than available competitive products.
An open, standards-based and flexible architecture is at the core of our software solution and hardware partnerships. EV Connect’s EV Cloud™ software platform and management services are built on a unique plug-in architecture allowing us to provide industry-specific solutions by simply adding or removing features specific to our customers’ needs. These plug-in capabilities in our platform enable us, or our customers, to build features and functionality specific to their needs to maximize their return-on-investment (ROI) and minimize their total cost of owning (TCO) an EV charging network. We are also able to build private labeled networks off the platform.
EV Connect has built an Active Management engine that minute-by-minute monitors the health of charging stations on the EV Cloud platform. We have built tools that assess and fix stations prior to most customers even realizing there is an issue. We also use information crowd-sourcing from drivers, our call center, our software tools, and 3rd parties to determine if certain charge stations inoperable or not working at 100% effectiveness.
Through our open standards-based philosophy, we have built our platform to work well with other systems. We have built APIs (Application Programming Interface) that enable 3rd parties to build integrations into our platform, such as specialized reporting modules or tie-ins to affinity programs. We also provide APIs to enable driver interoperability with other EV charging networks so drivers can limit the number of access control types (i.e., keys, fobs, cards, etc.) they utilize.
What market is EV Connect targeting and how big is it?
An increase in EV adoption in the U.S. marketplace necessitates growth in the fueling infrastructure to support them. This has manifested itself in:
- increased residential charging (both single and multi-family);
- workplace and destination charging;
- fleet charging; and
- high-speed charging, i.e., DC Fast Charging (“DCFC”), particularly on the nations highway systems and scattered throughout major metropolitan locations. EV Connect is now deploying a significant number of these DCFC stations for various projects.
It is estimated that there will be approximately 5M to 15M publicly accessible (commercial) charging ports globally by 2030, as compared to a couple of hundred thousand today. This does not include the millions of private or single-family home charging ports expected to be sold.
What’s your business model?
In the U.S., our business model is to bundle our Platform as a Service (PaaS) with industry-leading EV charge stations and sell them through channel partners or large programs. Outside the U.S., we partner with local or regional companies, or electric utilities, who utilize EV Connect’s EV Cloud platform to provide EV charging services to their customers.
While EV Connect does re-sell charging stations and helps coordinate installation, it’s primary business model is the operation and monetization of the EV Cloud. It is a recurring revenue model with the average life-cycle of a customer typically lasting 6+ years.
What was the funding process like?
The electric vehicle market, and specifically the charging infrastructure segment, is at a time of rapid growth and market adoption. As such, we experienced increasing investor interest between the time we started fundraising to when we closed the financing. That’s not to say that it was an “easy” process. Part of the challenge of raising money in an emerging and evolving industry is that it requires a great deal of education. Most people don’t drive electric vehicles, so there is a lack of understanding of the way the product and its support services work. We discovered that there was very little belief about “if” the EV marketplace was going to reach general adoption, only “when” it was going to occur. Those funding sources who are more risk averse tend to wait to see how markets evolve before stepping in. Unfortunately for them, they oftentimes miss the initial market inflection point and it becomes a more expensive investment. However, those that have the foresight and risk profiles to participate in early-market adoption have an opportunity to ride a longer (and more profitable) wave. These are the funding sources, such as Ecosystems Integrity Fund, that make great partners for EV Connect.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
One of the biggest challenges was finding investors interested in energy technology companies and specifically, the evolving EV charging segment.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our EV Cloud platform is quite special and, once understood, becomes an obvious critical component of the entire EV charging infrastructure eco-system. We’ve built a unique offering around our technology and have proven customers and use cases who clearly recognize the value of the platform.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We will be building out our team to expand our presence in the utility market, as well as further penetrate new foreign markets. In addition, EV Connect has a very healthy backlog of sold business that this funding will help escalate deployment.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Find your niche, stay focused, be disciplined on your spending, and listen to your customers. Raising capital requires a great deal of patience, intestinal fortitude, excellent story-telling, and commitment.
Where do you see the company going over the near term?
We are going to continue to grow within our key market segments and penetrate new ones. EV Connect will also be taking advantage of several international opportunities which have presented themselves. We also expect that other players in the EV charging marketplace will embrace the EV Cloud service, and we will become the ever-increasing manager of multiple charging networks.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
That’s tough. There are so many good restaurants. Recently, I’ve enjoyed some really good meals at Cassia in Santa Monica. Our Executive Chairman loves Havana Mania in Redondo Beach. As a group, we like the Fish Bar in Manhattan Beach for lunch.