Updated: Oct 3, 2022
Koulomb Co-Founders Jeff Constantineau and Justin Taylor
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law seeks to develop a national electric vehicle (EV) charging network of 500,000 chargers by 2030. It includes up to $7.5 billion in dedicated funding to increase EV charging accessibility, with money distributed based on the state’s federal highway funding formula. There is a $2.5 billion discretionary grant program and a $5 billion formula program. These are applied along Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFC), a U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) designated network of plug-in EV charging (and other fuels) infrastructure along national/state highway systems. Each state’s Department of Transportation is tasked with making sure that its funding is disseminated thoughtfully, and was required to submit a plan for proposed spending to the U.S. DOT by August 1st.
Opportunities for Charging Businesses
Currently, ChargePoint, a California-based EV charging infrastructure company, operates the largest EV charging network in the country with 30,000 stations and over 47,000 individual charging ports. Tesla, the second largest, has fewer than 6,000 station locations and about 25,000 charging ports. While the majority of Tesla’s charging ports are DC fast chargers, most ChargePoint locations are Level 2. Level 2 chargers operate between 208-240 volts and the power output provides 18-28 miles per hour. On the other hand, DC fast charging have a maximum output of 350 volts and can charge an EV battery up to 80 percent between 20-40 minutes.
With the rise of EV charging in the next couple of years, there will be many ways to deploy options for ownership, financing, and serving customers. Until recently, companies used one of only two business models. Under the first, companies sell electricity from public charging stations they own and operate. Under the second, companies collect service fees for installing, operating, and maintaining charging stations at locations like shopping malls and parking garages. But now there are so many other options. For example, parked EVs that require charging may imply a business model for service aggregators. A parking facility company may manage low-power charging and perhaps frequency services (grid services) that would balance costs.
Koulomb as An Example
It is also possible to draw on clean energy technologies such as solar energy and apply that knowledge to EV charging. To understand all these issues more fully, I sat down with Jeff Constantineau, Co-Founder of Koulomb, a new EV charging infrastructure company that started just two years ago.
How did you decide to begin a new EV installation company? What were the main reasons?
Koulomb’s vision came from my partner and Co-Founder, Justin Taylor, who is also the President of Pure Power Contractors, a company that designs, engineers, installs, and maintains PV systems. The EV infrastructure industry needs an understanding of the baseline technology (AC to DC infrastructure) as well as changes in battery integrations, relevant DC speeds, vehicle original equipment manufacturer roadmap, and other details. As a solar energy contractor, Pure Power brings that technical expertise for the new company.
We believe it is our social responsibility to help grow EV infrastructure. In North Carolina where we are headquartered, over half of our emissions come from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are scaling EV assembly lines to build vehicles that are technologically superior and more aesthetically pleasing than ICE vehicles. But there is a gap in the ability to charge EVs, and we believe we can meet demand.
Is it a stretch to take the work in solar energy installation and apply that to EV infrastructure?
Not at all. In solar we are leveraging technologies to turn DC electricity into AC, and EV charging just happens to be the reverse of that. Of course installing a Koulomb charger is more complex than plugging your car into your garage outlet or a Level 2 charger, but our existing corporate infrastructure is well suited for that effort.
One aspect of this business that cannot be underestimated, however, is the need for reliable operations and maintenance resources (O&M) that scale with the expanding footprint of the charging network. We are on the forefront of this technology, and with early adoption comes scarce parts, unforeseen issues, and unpredictable consumer behaviors. We have been highly focused on ensuring our O&M procedures are up to task to support such fast growth and we have a material head start in our partnership with Pure Power Contractors.
What is your main business model and how do you seek to differentiate your company from others?
Our partners want to monetize their land and capitalize on the foot-traffic generated by EV charging, but fast chargers can be complex to operate and maintain. Our turnkey business strategy takes away the hassle. We procure, install, interconnect, operate, and maintain the chargers on our partners’ properties. As a network operator, we do all the upfront work and then earn revenue via point-of-sale payment by the EV drivers who use the chargers as a part of their normal day. Charging your car is certainly cheaper in your garage, but we make it very affordable to do it away from your home and at a fraction of what gasoline costs.
Where do you see the EV charging market heading and where do you see your company say 3-5 years in the future?
We think there’s room for many different models to successfully serve the wave of EV charging needs. We focus on the ultra fast DC segment for consumers who need a quick charge in a premium location. Our model provides a “gas station” experience with destination chargers in high priority corridors; these will meet the federal government's needs, be there in emergencies, and give folks the comfort that they can travel longer distances without experiencing range anxiety.
Koulomb also believes that the next 3-5 years will bring more sophisticated integrations with property owners via rooftop solar generation, fleet electrification, and logistics-industry support. We are focused on standardizing our equipment and their configurations to grow the business uniformly and keep operating expenses low and predictable. But we also expect to do some interesting ancillary work and test new models.
The EV charging infrastructure market is an exciting one and we will be paying attention to its future growth.