The challenges of electrifying a fleet of commercial vehicles are many and include the high cost of upgrading charging infrastructure and price volatility. Californian start-up, AMPLY Power, believes its Charging-as-a-Service model can help soothe the concerns of stressed out fleet managers.
Auto Futures has been talking to Vic Shao, AMPLY’s founder and CEO.
Prior to launching AMPLY, Shao founded and grew an energy storage business called Green Charge Networks. It was sold to the French energy group ENGIE back in 2016.
After exiting from Green Charge Networks, Shao noticed the same set of market conditions in fleet electrification that he had witnessed in the early days of the energy storage market.
“I realized there was a lot of uncertainty about equipment performance, reliability, and ongoing operations. Furthermore, unlike diesel which fluctuates by 20% a year on pricing, electricity costs could go up or down by 300% in a single day. I came to the conclusion that if the industry was to scale, end customers needed to have certainty on operational excellence, with forecastable cost based on the resulting output.”
He started AMPLY in May, 2018 by applying the same principles from energy storage to the new and nascent fleet electrification market.
“When you go to a gas station today, you’re paying for gasoline by the gallon. You’re not having to construct the gas station, buy a bunch of pumps, storage tanks, and heavy machinery. But that’s exactly what you would otherwise have to do as a fleet operator if you want to convert from a fossil fuel fleet to electric vehicles,” says Shao.
“The Charging-as-a-Service model takes on the financial risk for a customer as it relates to charging, and takes away the complexities of electrification by managing the entire planning, financing, and charging process for the fleet customer.
“The model simplifies electrification by bundling the capital expenditures and complexity associated with establishing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including utility interconnection, operations and maintenance, energy cost, and more, into a fixed price-per-electric-mile-driven usage fee,” he adds.
Growth And Investment
In April, 2020, AMPLY’s secured $13.2 million in Series A funding from investors, including Soros Fund Management and Germany’s Siemens.
Talking at the time, Iti Jain, VP at Siemens, stated: “Time and again, the major hurdle most electric truck and bus pilots face is the charging infrastructure. In fact, charging fleets without incurring hefty utility bills is the key obstacle for most electric fleets to scale towards full deployment. AMPLY’s mission dovetails with Siemens’ strategy of making electromobility adoption easy, and we look forward to supporting AMPLY’s growth with our extensive experience in the energy and transportation sectors.”
Shao adds: “AMPLY will use this funding in order to scale the Charging-as-a-Service business model and unlock charging infrastructure for commercial fleets. This funding will help assist cities and corporations accelerate their adoption of electric trucks and buses by providing fleet operators with hardware agnostic infrastructure support and an operating system to reliably and cost-effectively charge commercial electric vehicles.”
What Does Success Look Like?
As a recent customer success story, the U.S. public transportation group Tri Delta Transit found that electric charging costs could be reduced using AMPLY’s solution, while charging a variety of bus types and chargers.
Tri Delta Transit provides over 3,000,000 trips each year to a population of over 250,000 residents in the 225 square miles of California’s Eastern Contra Costa County. Its fleet includes buses from Proterra and BYD.
“When Tri Delta Transit struggled to manage charging operations and energy costs for their new electric bus fleet, it contracted with AMPLY Power for support. After some data analysis, AMPLY identified up to 40% energy savings could be achieved with a managed charging strategy that took advantage of low energy prices and minimized excessive demand charges,” says Shao.
Steve Ponte, Chief Operating Officer of Tri Delta Transit, adds: “For any transit authority, guaranteeing that all of our buses are ready for their morning roll-out is critical. Electric buses bring a new process to our operations and electricity use, and we knew we were better off, in the long run, leveraging the expertise of AMPLY’s model.”
“By 2030, we expect fleet operations to go even deeper, especially when it comes to real-time monitoring and automation.”
Many transport experts we talk to believe that the coronavirus pandemic will hasten the transformation of the industry towards clean energy and electrification. Shao is no exception.
“Covid-19’s ‘shelter-in-place’ requirements have allowed many cities to observe the state of the possible in terms of clean air quality and the damage brought by burning petroleum. For example, residents in Los Angeles are rediscovering the mountains usually hidden behind the smog.”
“We believe that this will cause many cities and states, and even residents, to begin making the permanent switch to electric transportation. Truck and bus fleets hold the golden opportunity to leverage current market forces and commit to 100% electric now.”
Finally, we asked Shao what fleet management will look like in the future.
He told us: “Since electric bus demand is outpacing production, it’s only a matter of time before we begin seeing growth in software that allows commercial fleet operators more visibility in routing and cost savings in their EVs. Managing an electric fleet can be quite different from operating one based on liquid fuels. Fleet managers have to track routing, ensure vehicles are charged, as well as track the time-of-use to ensure they are not overpaying for electricity during peak times when electricity demand is high.”
“While there are companies that offer platforms that allow this type of visibility today, by 2030, we expect fleet operations to go even deeper, especially when it comes to real-time monitoring and automation. The software will model depots, and track trends such as real-time charge and schedule tracking, and fuel cost per time period, maintenance schedules, charge order, and more,” concludes Shao.