TAM Hock Chuan, Managing Director | TAN Ying Jie, Director posted on 09 Jul 2021
“To go electric, or not?”
Up until a few years ago, the idea of an Electric Vehicle (EV) future was murky with consumers doubting the viability, economics and infrastructure necessary to support the EVs market.
Today, the Gaia gods are smiling and the EV stars have aligned. The modern world is racing to adopt policies aimed at lowering carbon footprint and driving EV adoption. On the automobile front, Tesla led the charge with the introduction of its all-electric supercar (Roadster) in 2008 . Global automakers followed suit by introducing new EV models (such as the USD 4.5K Hongguang Mini) along with the emergence of EV-only players like Byton and Rivian . Consumers’ consideration for EVs has increased steadily, and EV car sales have remain unfaltered despite the COVID-19 global pandemic.
With the global EV fleet expected to reach 230 million vehicles in 2030, Asia is gearing up to join the EV wave .
EV infrastructure – An obstacle to adoption?
With the recent surge in EV interest, EV infrastructure is racing to catch up.
Dr Anshuman Tripathi, Program Director, Autonomous Vehicles and Electromobility of Energy Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, shared that most people are aware of the advantages that EVs present, but are wary of making the switch without proper infrastructural support such as the availability of charging stations.
“Many vehicle users are apprehensive about how long EVs could travel per charge and where can they charge them. We currently lack sufficient EV charging stations in areas that will best service all kinds of EV users.” he says.
Virta, Europe’s fastest-growing EV charging service provider, empowers enterprises to launch and scale their own EV charging business. Virta works with corporates and SMEs in oil, energy, real estate, hospitality and various other sectors to rapidly set up and deliver wide-scale EV charging networks to consumers.
Virta’s digital platform handles the end-to-end software requirements for setting up and maintaining an EV charging network. The Virta platform includes integration to 200+ different charging models, remote configuration, monitoring of charging points’ functionality and utilisation, automated invoices and advanced analytics for payments and energy use. Customer touchpoints such as online registration form, mobile app interface to locate the nearest available charger and CRM management are also available as white labelled or Virta co-branded modules.
In comparison to other providers, Virta is hardware agnostic and allows businesses to select and integrate with charging stations of different brands and models. This allows businesses to grow their EV setup with a plug-and-play model, alongside API integrations that offer flexibility in deploying Virta’s software feature sets.
Transforming the energy and utilies space
To date, Virta has over 1000 business customers across 30 countries in various industries, including energy and utilities.
An example includes E.ON, one of the world’s largest electric utilities service providers. Today, E.ON provides the densest charging networks in Europe across more than 10 countries. The company’s Europe-wide presence created one of the largest public electric charging networks in the continent solely managed with Virta’s platform .
Virta’s innovative solution allows energy flow optimization to avoid energy peaks during charging and reduces charging cost for EV drivers. Virta holds multiple patents in Dynamic Load Management (DLM), and its smart energy features help to balance the grid – especially when fast charging stations require a huge energy output. This reduces the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.
“Our vision is to create a better tomorrow for our customers. In E-Mobility we can make this reality by enabling private and business customers to easily enter into a new sustainable, green, electric mobility world. With Virta, we can offer best innovative EV charging and fleet solutions to our customers across Europe.”
Beyond DLM, Virta is also an early mover in Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technologies . In short, V2G allows energy reserves from EVs’ batteries to be pushed back to the power gird, in what is known as bi-directional charging. By sending energy back to the grid, EV owners help balance the grid and can earn a small fee to offset charging costs.
In Aug 2020, Nissan kickstarted its first V2G EV charging with E.ON, enabled by Virta’s digital charging platform . Virta’s platform automates charging and energy export in line with signals such as energy grid demand, energy prices and the carbon intensity of energy consumption. The project trialed V2G at intervals designed to replicate corporate fleet schedules – mainly overnight, but also for chunks of time during the day.
Retailers’ alternative revenue stream
Apart from the energy and utilities players, retailers are also joining the EV bandwagon and adopting these solutions as a value-added service for their consumers. Hesburger, a leading fast-food chain with 450 restaurants in 9 countries, saw the opportunity to provide customers a place to charge their EVs while dining. Virta’s turnkey solution of pre-configured hardware from selected partners and easy station management enables Hesburger to focus on its core business while delivering an additional service to diners .
“Seamless customer experience at the charging point and 24/7 customer services are important. They ensure our restaurant personnel can focus on the business.”
By partnering Virta, companies like Hesburger have built an extensive EV charging network with ease to ensure that their business offers the necessary conveniences to the growing number of EV drivers passing through their doors. This sets the stage for a profitable new line of business in EV charging.
Driving Asia’s transport electrification
With Virta’s track record and successes in Europe, Vertex Growth is confident in the company’s potential to penetrate the Asia market.
Jussi Palola, CEO & Co-Founder of Virta, sees Virta’s value proposition to Asian businesses as twofold. First, Virta’s solution greatly decreases the setup complexities for companies and provides future proofing with its ability to support massive scalability. Second, Virta’s wealth of experience working with charging point operators to establish and grow their business comes in handy as advice for early market movers.
“For instance, we have learned from our work in Europe that it is essential to set up an EV charging platform which can manage the operational quality and expenses of the charging service. It is important to understand that operational expenses are more crucial to business success than one-off investment to infrastructure*. Applied digital platform capabilities define the operational efficiency of the charging business.”* says Jussi.
With the strategic implementation of EV charging networks, Virta could play a role in progressing the development of EV infrastructure and compounding uptake of EVs in dense Asian cities, where traffic-related pollution is a significant problem.
For instance, Virta’s roaming feature allows businesses to make their charging networks interoperable, by taking care of data sharing and payment reconciliations necessary to facilitate such collaborations. Roaming collaborations would bring about increased volumes for the operators of each charging point, and offer greater availability of charging options for their registered users – all in all facilitating the maturity of the EV charging infrastructure in a given geography. It is important to choose a platform which is capable of operating real roaming charging transactions today as it would be problematic to begin to learn this by doing only afterwards.
Virta has made inroads into the Japan market with ENEOS Corporation as its first Japanese customer and investor. Virta has also set its sights on Southeast Asia (SEA), where it sees the EV market accelerating swiftly. It considers Singapore a leading hub in the region for EVs – given the country’s strong government support for electromobility, such as plans to deploy 60,000 EV charging points by 2030 and the commitment of SGD 30M over the next five years for EV-related initiatives . Singapore is also anchoring itself as an R&D leader in SEA’s EV industry with manufacturing commitments from automakers. For instance, Hyundai Motor Group has announced plans to build an Innovation Centre with automated EV factory incorporating first-of-its-kind features by the end of 2022 and aims to produce 30,000 EVs annually by 2025 .
Getting a head start on a greener future
For Jussi, Virta’s mission revolves around the idea that people should use pollution-free mobility and energy.
"In 2009, I was jogging in the streets when a car drove past me and I was hit with a whiff of its gasoline emissions. As I was already driving an EV, I realised that it doesn’t have to be this way. Many years from now, we’ll look back and wonder how we allowed internal combustion engines to expel poisonous gas at our children in the street." says Jussi.
Indeed, in 2020, government bodies across the globe mandated policies to reduce carbon emissions in hopes to achieve Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 . As the urgency to fight against climate change increases, both the government and private sector have a part to play in decarbonization. In response to the climate emergency, companies are shifting their focus to Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) values.
“For the first time in history, we see the confluence of regulatory, demand and supply factors accelerating the adoption of EVs. We believe to successfully deploy an EV charging service, a field tested and scalable platform is essential. Virta is one such platform. It is not trivial to develop a high volume and reliable real-time transaction platform. We are excited to be involved in Virta’s expansion of their footprint in Asia.” says Tam Hock Chuan, Managing Director of Vertex Growth.
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