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.”

 

ted fagenson volta

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.

 

scott mercer ceo volta charging1

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.”

 

volta united center

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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GSB News and Notes: Seattle Seahawks and Sounders Sell Potatoes Grown from Their Own Compost; EV Charging at Chicago’s United Center; Golf Course Bogeys Chance to Score on Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog’s News & Notes is back with Three for Thursday: CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks and Sounders, built on its already strong green-sports record by sourcing potatoes grown from its own compost. Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks, is bringing free electric vehicle (EV) charging to its parking lots. And a golf course near Portland, OR swings and misses on a chance to make a statement on climate change. 

 

 

POTATOES GROWN FROM COMPOST SOLD AT SEATTLE’S CENTURYLINK FIELD

CenturyLink Field’s reputation as one of the greenest sports venues in the U.S. is well-deserved. From on-site solar to diverting over 97 percent of its waste from landfill this season to its stellar public transit offerings that bring 35 percent of all attendees to and from Seahawks and Sounders games, CenturyLink gets it done. And, this September, the venue  went straw-free by taking part in “Strawless in Seattle,” an initiative of the Lonely Whale Foundation.

How could CenturyLink Field top all that?

By changing the way they source potatoes, that’s how!

You see, all of the french fries served at the Seahawks thrilling 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans on October 29 and the Sounders 2-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS playoff game on November 2 came from Sound Sustainable Farms, which used compost from the stadium’s food waste to grow its produce.

The Seahawks and Sounders are partnering with Cedar Grove Composting, which owns Sound Sustainable Farms, to offer locally sourced, organic and eco-friendly foods.

Cedar Grove collects about 16 tons of compost after every Seahawks game, according to a team statement. That compost served as the growing environment which yielded approximately 6,000 pounds of cut potatoes for the Seahawks-Texans game.

Cedar Grove says it brought its compost to a dormant farm in Redmond, WA earlier this year where the soil was restored for farming. And, voilà, Sound Sustainable Farms was born and CenturyLink Field had french fries made from their own compost.

 

CenturyLink Potatoes

Potatoes, growing in soil from compost collected at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, will ultimately become french fries at…CenturyLink Field (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

“This fully integrated, closed-loop cycle takes composting to its highest and best use by returning the finished compost to growing food for local consumption,” said J. Stephan Banchero, III, vice president of Cedar Grove.

 

UNITED CENTER GETS NEW JUICE FROM VOLTA EV CHARGING

So far this season, both tenants of Chicago’s United Center — the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks — can use jolts of energy. The once-legendary Bulls now reside near the Eastern Conference bottom with a 2-9 record. The Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups this decade, are in better shape than their hoops co-tenants but are lumbering along at a “meh” 8-8-2 mark.

But, there is hope.

Volta Charging, the leader in free electric vehicle (EV) charging, recently began deploying EV charging stations near the South and East entrances of the United Center in Chicago, as part of a 10-year agreement with the venue.

Through Volta’s nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, the largest indoor arena in the U.S., will offer visitors free charging facilities, supporting the United Center’s mission to reduce its environmental impact.

 

Volta Charging Greentech Media

A Volta charging station. The company recently signed a 10-year deal to deploy similar stations at Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks (Photo credit: GreenTech Media)

 

Four open-access universal charging stations will be installed, operated and maintained at no cost to the United Center or its customers through Volta’s ad-supported network model. The stations will be equipped with digital-hybrid advertising display units that will be placed in prime locations near venue entrances. This will ensure sponsor/advertiser messages reach fans entering and exiting the arena, while facilitating easy access for drivers.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an executive order committing  the city to work towards the scientific guidelines put forth in the Paris climate agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. As city departments work to find ways to reduce emissions, United Center is raising awareness about its own commitment to sustainability through its partnership with Volta.

“With over 2.5 million visitors annually, we are excited to be partnering with Volta to bring its [charging] stations to our arena and provide visitors with a convenient and easy way to charge their vehicles,” said Joe Myra, VP of Business Affairs at the United Center. “Volta’s model aligns perfectly with our plan to work towards sustainability and enables our patrons to take a personal stake in a viable future.”

Since its founding 2010, Volta reports it has delivered over 15 million electric miles, saving 136,000 gallons of gas and offsetting 6.6 million pounds of CO₂ in the process.

 

WASHINGTON STATE’S BEACON ROCK GOLF COURSE DOESN’T QUITE GET GREEN-SPORTS

Have you seen this photo? It received quite a bit of media attention back in early September.

 

Golf Fire

Photo credit: Beacon Rock Golf Course

 

It was taken on September 7 at Beacon Rock Golf Course on the Washington side of the border with Oregon.

In the background, you see the Eagle Creek fire, a 31,000-acre blaze burning all the way to the Portland area, about 45 miles away. Even though it was encroaching on the golf course, play went on.

Of course, it must be noted that the Columbia River forms the border between the two states at that point so there was little chance of the fire moving on to the first tee. And, it’s worth mentioning that many golfers have the “play through” ethos, meaning that the elements will not stop them.

I get it.

But what I don’t get are the reactions of the folks who run Beacon Rock Golf Course.

They posted the photo above to Facebook with the caption “Our golfers are committed to finishing the round!” That’s simply callous and tone deaf.

But later on, they posted this more menacing photo with a sober, much more appropriate caption:

 

Golf Fire 2

 

Yet, to me, this was an opportunity lost.

If I was asked to write this caption, it would have read something like this:

“View from the Clubhouse. A fire of this magnitude makes us 1) thankful no lives have been lost so far, 2) think of the many people who will be affected for many months, and 3) urge business as well as government leaders in Washington, Oregon and at the federal level to take serious, immediate action on climate change.” 

OK, maybe it could be a tad tighter, but you get my drift.

 


 

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