Green-Sports Startups, Part 7: Volta Charging Brings Free EV Charging to Sports Venues

Volta Charging is pioneering free electric vehicle (EV) charging in the U.S. Their business model is to sell video advertising atop charging stations to brands that want to reach high value audiences in high foot-traffic locations. Sports venues, not surprisingly, figure prominently in the San Francisco-based startup’s growth strategy. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Ted Fagenson, Volta Charging’s senior vice president of business development, to gain a deeper understanding of the company’s plans for the sports sector.

 

For Ted Fagenson, the beauty of Volta Charging’s business model is found in its simplicity.

“We make charging simple for EV drivers and host venues,” said the telecom and EV business veteran who now serves as the startup’s VP of business development. “Drivers don’t need to carry a card with an RFID chip. They just pull up, park, plug in and go. It’s convenient and it’s free, for both drivers and hosts! That’s all there is to it.”

 

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Ted Fagenson, Volta Charging’s VP of business development (Photo credit: Volta Charging)

 

Getting to this level of simplicity required Volta to do something that’s far from, well, simple: Disrupt the still-emerging public EV charging market.

“Right now, public EV charging companies mainly operate under one of two business models, neither of which are sustainable,” shared Fagenson. “One is to sell the charging stations to parking lot owners, shopping mall managers, retail establishments, sports venues, etc. The drivers then pay the host venues. But do those folks really want to own charging stations? No! Model two is to install the charging stations for free, charge the driver for the electricity and then split the revenue with the host venue. That’s too complicated for all concerned and in the long run, unprofitable.”

It’s not only too complicated; it’s also too costly for the driver.

According to Fagenson, drivers pay between 20-39¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh) at non-Volta public charging venues. That’s about 4 to 5 times as much as the 6-10¢/kWh it costs EV drivers to charge at home overnight.

The result is not surprising: Most EV drivers avoid using public charging stations unless they’re desperate. Per Fagenson, “They charge at home. But many would like the convenience of simple, low cost, daytime charging.”

 

FREE, MEDIA-SUPPORTED PUBLIC EV CHARGING

Future-focused tech entrepreneur, car-lover, and vintage automotive restoration business owner Scott Mercer saw a significant market need — a public EV charging model that makes financial sense for drivers and venues. His idea was to make public EV charging free to drivers by selling video ad units that would run atop the chargers. Host venues get free installation, free chargers, free maintenance, free customer support. Increased dwell time — shoppers staying longer to get a better charge — also benefits malls and other retailers.

 

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Scott Mercer, founder and CEO of Volta Charging (Photo credit: Volta Charging)

 

So Mercer, who ran a vintage automotive restoration business, sold a restored 1967 Jaguar XKE to fund the beginning of what would become Volta Charging.

The media-supported, charge-EVs-for-free business model quickly attracted the attention of mall and grocery chain executives in states where the EV market is well developed (California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, etc.).

 

SPORTS VENUES CHARGED UP

Sports stadiums and arenas are a high priority for Volta Charging.

“Stadiums make perfect partners to drive exposure, engagement, and inspiration for fans by showing that EVs are here, and their community is ready to make this change,” Mercer said at last June’s Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta. “Teams benefit from new fan engagement opportunities using the digital screens on the stations, where we dedicate one of the rotating digital sponsorships to their use. This is so much bigger than providing a few plugs for EV driving fans. It is about leveraging the power of stadiums as iconic cultural centerpieces to show the world that clean mobility is here, and it’s for everyone.”

Management at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, home of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, agreed with Mercer and now has two Volta chargers. Even though the team is moving to San Francisco and the new Chase Center next season, the Volta chargers will remain for fans of the Oakland A’s who play at the adjacent Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. That is expected to be the case until the A’s move to their proposed new stadium in 2023 at the earliest.

Chicago’s United Center, home to the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks, sports four Volta chargers next to the arena’s entrance.

“Our model works really well for sports venues,” Fagenson said. “Volta chargers are situated close to the stadium or arena entrance so that guarantees high fan foot traffic on game days.”

 

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Two Volta Charging units outside an entrance to Chicago’s United Center (Photo credit: Volta Charging)

 

VOLTA’S MEDIA—SPONSORSHIP BUSINESS MODEL

The Volta stations on site provide exposure for brands looking to reach fans attending sporting events, concerts, and more. The two sided digital hybrid stations offer 6′ tall LED backlit static ads on one side, and a digital screen on the other. The screens are formatted with a 64 second repeating ad loop, including multiple flips (or images), each of which run for eight seconds. Six of the eight ad placements are reserved for sponsors, Volta uses one for promotional purposes and the eighth is earmarked for the venue host.

Pricing for Volta’s media takes into consideration a number of factors including market, target audience (size, composition, etc.), length of run, and size of the network purchased. Since the company’s revenues are derived from media sales, those buying media on Volta Charging get the halo effect of making EV charging free. Host venues also reap the benefit of providing a value-added, green service to fans on site.

Not surprisingly, EV automakers, including Nissan and Jaguar, have become Volta sponsors. Other categories buying in include Consumer Packaged Goods, Entertainment, Finance, and Technology, among others.

 

EXPANSION IN 2019

As of now Volta Charging’s biggest markets are San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago. Boston, Houston, Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Oahu, are also up and charging.

The venture capital-funded company is poised for significant growth in 2019. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Dallas and Miami are on deck, with Atlanta, Denver, and Detroit making up the next batch of expansion markets.

“Sports venues are key targets in all of our markets, current and future,” Fagenson said. “There is some complexity to stadiums and arenas as the city owns the parking lot in some cases. So we need to negotiate with multiple parties. In other situations, we work directly with the host venue.”

 

GSB’S Take: Volta Charging’s business model looks like the rare sustainable business win-win-win-win. WIN #1: Free, away-from-home EV charging. WIN #2: Host venues, including stadiums and arenas, receive free EV chargers for their customers/fans, and free advertising. WIN #3: Sponsors get access to their target audiences in a new, exciting medium. WIN #4: Free EV charging means more EV miles driven. While the odds of success for any startup are long, Volta Charging’s “quadruple-win” business model gives it a leg up. Watch this space.

 

 


 

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Chase Center, Future Home of Golden State Warriors, Goes for (LEED) Gold

The word gold will feature prominently in this blog post.

The Golden State Warriors are fashioning one of the golden eras of NBA history, having been to the last three NBA Finals, winning championships in 2015 and 2017. And while the Houston Rockets — and perhaps others — look like they will be a worthy challenger, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the rest of the “Dubs” are favored to bring home championship gold to Oracle Arena in Oakland this June.

Gold will also be an operative word when the club moves to San Francisco and the new Chase Center for the 2019-20 season — as in the LEED Gold certification the arena is expected to attain. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Peter Bryan, VP Construction and Development for the new Warriors arena, and Molly Hayes, LEED certification project manager for Mortenson︱Clark, to get a better sense of how, from the Warriors/Chase Center perspective, green is golden.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Managing the construction for the new arena for the Golden State Warriors, an organization that demands the best from top to bottom, is a big job. Congratulations! How did you get here?

Peter Bryan: Thanks, Lew. I worked for 19 years at Clark Construction, starting in 1997 in Bethesda, MD, working up to running all of the company’s pre-construction in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Clark built the MCI Center (now the Capital One Arena) in DC, home of the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals, while I was there, although I didn’t work on that project. I moved to Clark’s Bay Area office in 2004. There, I was involved with pre-construction for my first sports venues — Galen Center, home of USC Trojans basketball, and the renovation of the press boxes at the Rose Bowl. Then I was involved in Clark’s bid on the new Warriors Arena at Piers 30-32. We came in second but kept in touch. When the site moved to Mission Bay, Piers 29-32, a new RFP was issued and we won it. I handled pre-construction. Then the Warriors replaced the person heading construction on the project. I had a good rapport with Steve Collins, Chase Center’s Chief Operating Officer who was overseeing the project for the Warriors. I approached him about coming to the club to run construction; one thing led to another and I signed on in May 2016.

GSB: You have a championship-level responsibility for sure. Talk to us about where sustainability fits in…

PB: Absolutely. Sustainability has been embedded in the project since its inception. Prior to my joining the project, sustainability consultants — as well as mechanical, plumbing and electrical engineers — Smith Seckman Reid developed a LEED scorecard and the sustainability plan in June 2013, held sustainability workshops with my predecessors two months later, and infused the project team with lofty sustainability goals and aspirations, as well as with a “what’s possible” point of view.

 

Peter Bryan Jordan Bell Karl Mondon-Bay Area Media Group

Peter Bryan (r) gave the first tour of the Chase Center construction site to a Warriors player, Jordan Bell, in December 2017 (Photo credit: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

GSB: What are Chase Center’s key sustainability features and benefits resulting from those lofty aspirations?

PB: Well we went into it with a broad definition of sustainability. Let’s start with the Mission Bay site, purchased from Salesforce.com. Located in a redevelopment zone that was once a bay, it is in a reclaimed brownfield area. Since before I came on board, mass transit and alternate transit have been a big priority. There will be a bike valet with 300 spaces…

GSB: …Wow…that’s the biggest bike valet I’ve heard of at an arena.

PB: …Then once I joined the team, we put a big priority on water efficiency. The arena will feature a top quality water re-use program and other water use reduction measures.

GSB: That makes a lot of sense for any new stadium or arena but especially one in California during the era of the five-year drought…

PB: Without a doubt. In addition to our water re-use program to reduce potable water use, we will have a very robust building management and HVAC system that will result in significant energy and water conservation. The HVAC system features IDEC or indirect evaporation and cooling air handling units. There are no high water usage, high energy use chillers involved in Chase Center. Instead the system is condenser-based, which is much more efficient given our local climate. Savings will also come from a gray water recovery system. We’ll recover the storm water off the arena roof, store it in the parking garage, treat it and put into a storage tank. From there, we’ll use it for irrigation, the toilets and urinals.

 

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Aerial view of the Chase Center construction site in the Mission Bay section of San Francisco in March 2018 (Photo credit: Golden State Warriors)

 

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Artist’s rendering of the completed Chase Center in the foreground (Credit: Golden State Warriors)

 

GSB: In light of the mega five-year California drought, these water conservation measures could not be more timely or important. You mentioned mass transit before. Tell us more.

PB: We have a lot going on mass transit-wise. There is the extension of the MUNI platform next to our plaza, which will feature the 18,000 seat Chase Center and two, 11 story office buildings (580,000 square feet of office space). That extension will handle more cars, allowing more people to get out faster. The MUNI connects to BART and also CalTrain commuter trains a mile away. Multiple bus lines will service the arena, with added buses on game days. And there will be shuttles from different points of the city.

 

MUNI SFMTA

Artist’s rendering of the MUNI station in the shadow of Chase Center (Credit: SFMTA)

 

GSB: Do you have a projection of the percentage of fans that will use alternative and/or mass transit?

PB: The project’s environmental impact report estimates that fans arriving in cars will range from 52-59 percent…And some portion of those vehicles will be EVs. The on-site parking structure will have 29 EV charging stations

GSB: …So 41-48 percent using mass or alternative transit and 29 EV charging stations? Impressive. Now let’s turn to waste. Will there be on-site composting?

PB: No, we won’t compost on-site — we don’t have the space like they do over at AT&T Park…

GSB: …Home of the San Francisco Giants

PB: But we will have a three-stream waste system: recycling, compost and landfill. The organics will be sent offsite for composting. The challenge is how do we get our guests to put their food waste in the right receptacles.

Molly Hayes: Yeah, the Warriors consulted with the Sacramento Kings’ Golden One Center and the team leading the renovation of Madison Square Garden regarding waste diversion and one thing that’s unique about San Francisco is that 100 percent of waste streams must be sorted correctly.

 

Molly Hayes Warriors

Molly Hayes, LEED certification project manager for Mortenson︱Clark at Chase Center, the future home of the Golden State Warriors (Photo credit: Golden State Warriors)

 

GSB: That seems like an impossible standard to meet…

MH: …San Francisco has strict standards that we will have to meet.

PB: We’re actively talking with the San Francisco Department of Environment to get to the best result.

GSB: What about on-site renewables and energy storage?

PB: We talked a lot, and conducted several studies about, the feasibility of solar and wind at the site. Our conclusion was that the surface area was insufficient and that we didn’t want to do it just for show. Now, we are working the utility PG&E to deliver electricity from clean sources. Energy storage is not in the mix right now — we did look at it for backup emergency storage, but due to the facility type, regulatory approval from a fire and life-safety standpoint, and additional onsite space allocation needs it was not a viable option. A bioswale^ at the perimeter of the roof was considered but we decided against it, in part because of the drought. That said, a significant portion of our food —managed by Bon Apetit Management, a division of Levy — will be sourced locally,

GSB: Very impressive, really. Now, I understand that Chase Center will be seeking LEED Gold certification but not Platinum. Reasons?

PB: I think it comes down to lack of on-site renewables. But we are very happy to go for the Gold. Our first submission to the USGBC is this spring.

GSB: Good luck…

PB: We’re excited about being able to operate a LEED Gold arena and office campus and for our opening in Fall 2019.

 

^ Bioswales are landscape elements designed to concentrate or remove debris and pollution out of surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides (less than 6%) and filled with vegetation, compost

 


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