U.S. electric vehicle (EV) sales increased by roughly 80% in 2018 as consumer demands continued to shift from internal combustion engines to EVs, which offer increased performance, cutting edge technology, and lower carbon emissions and maintenance requirements. As the number of EVs on the road increases, the public and private sectors are responding by deploying charging stations to meet growing consumer demand. Within the retail sector, many nationwide chains are installing EV chargers at their stores to meet corporate social responsibility goals, reduce environmental impact in local communities, and to attract business from a new generation of consumer. At Altura, we leverage data analytics to help our clients build, manage, and optimize EV charging infrastructures so they can maximize returns from their customer-centric, environmental investments. We collect data on energy use, demand and utility cost impacts, customer satisfaction, and charging frequency to help our clients optimize the costs and benefits of EV charging.

Since 2017, Altura has worked with an international retailer to meet corporate social responsibility goals and increase future sales by installing EV chargers at over 500 franchise locations nationwide. This was an enormous undertaking involving numerous stakeholders from the corporate team, individual franchises, third-party installers, and the charging equipment provider. Altura was responsible for gathering feedback from and educating the new charging station owners, providing the client with a detailed analysis of customer satisfaction and EV charging data, and devising strategies to make the program successful. The main challenges were maintaining consistent engagement from the franchises and effective communication between program stakeholders due to the number of parties involved and the vast scope of the project.

These challenges and the feedback from individual franchises taught Altura many lessons and required us to strategize how to make a project of this nature more successful. The client engaged one installer to manage rollout of EV chargers nationwide, which posed several challenges including delayed timelines, inefficient communication, and a lack of resources in rural regions. Several franchises also mentioned they would have preferred a local installer to speed up the process and reduce cost. Encouraging the franchises to use their local installer could have alleviated some of these challenges. It also would have been beneficial to think strategically about which regions to adopt EV chargers. Altura has done comprehensive modeling on well-to-wheel GHG emissions of EVs, taking into account regional electric grid emission factors. We conducted an analysis on seven different vehicle types and their environmental impact within different electric grids. Our conclusions showed that EVs actually have a worse environmental impact compared to internal combustion engines in dirtier electric grids. This project could have lessened its impact on the environment if the EV chargers were primarily installed in regions with cleaner grids.

Although this project had room for improvement, once the chargers were installed, the individual franchises reported a positive impact from the EV chargers; one even said their sales increased by 60% in one month!  The EV chargers have provided the franchise employees with the opportunity to interact with new customers and enhance their reputation in their community. Several employees offer the EV drivers a beverage or snack while they charge which improves customer satisfaction and increases their ratings on the EV charging site. Additionally, many station owners receive monetary benefits by setting a charging fee either per minute or per kWh consumed. One retail store made over $3,000 in the first year after installing their customer-facing chargers.

The EV growth seen in 2018 is just one indication that our society is moving in an environmentally-conscious direction. As electric grids get cleaner, this will enable more markets to adopt EVs and EV charging stations. Altura will continue to work in this space and utilize our skills in data analytics and our passion for this movement to help our clients reach their goals and better the environment.