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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Golden State Warriors React to Winning GSB’s “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” Award for 2017

The reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors otherworldly performances on the court are well known around the world. While the Bay Area club’s sustainability record — along with that of its LEED certified home, Oracle Arena — is much less well-known, it is also top shelf. That combination earned the Warriors its first “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” designation from GreenSportsBlog. The club commented on winning the award.

 

The Warriors’ sustainability record is a reflection of the Bay Area’s strong environmental ethos. The club, working with Oracle Arena management and concessionaire Levy Restaurants:

  • Powers its practice facility with solar panels
  • Reduces energy usage at Oracle Arena through a smart energy management system
  • Introduced a rainwater recapture system that uses the harvested H₂O to feed the plants and vegetation surrounding the arena.
  • Partners with a local vendor who turns oils from concessions into bio-diesel,
  • Implemented a system which utilizes water, salt and electricity to create an eco-friendly cleaning solution
  • Reduced the carbon footprint of, and the waste produced by the food service. In partnership with Levy Restaurants, the club uses compostable cutlery and flatware and composts food waste.

For the above and more, Oracle Arena earned LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in September.

And, because the team won its second NBA title in the last three years and is a favorite to do so again next spring, Golden State earned its first “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” award from GreenSportsBlog.

“We share this award with our Oracle Arena partners Levy [Restaurants] and AEG, who are also committed to making the Bay Area a more sustainable community,” said Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts. “It is important to the entire Warriors organization to continue to do our part in making the Bay Area one of the most eco-friendly places to live.”

 

 

Rick Welts Warriors

Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts (Photo credit: Golden State Warriors)

 

The Dubs will up their sustainability game when the club moves to the new Chase Center — expected to seek LEED Gold certification — in San Francisco in 2019. So,  it will be on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry & Co. to keep up their end of the bargain if Golden State is to dominate the “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” award going forward.

 


 

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The Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2017

The Green-Sports world saw some important firsts in 2017: The first UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action in Germany, the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference in Sacramento, and the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium in the US are but three examples.

Beyond the firsts, eco-athletes, from sailors to snowboarders, used their sizable platforms to promote ocean health and the climate change fight. Some even lobbied members of Congress. 

But in this Age of Trump and with the ascendancy of climate change deniers and do-nothings in the upper reaches of the US Government, the Green-Sports world needed to go much bigger, move much faster.

Against that backdrop, we bring you the BEST AND WORST OF GREEN-SPORTS, 2017.


 

BEST GREEN SPORTS STORY OF 2017

Protect Our Winters (POW) and Winter Sports Athletes

 

POW Athletes at Capitol Credit Forest Woodward

Photo credit: Protect Our Winters

 

The photo above is the perfect visualization as to why Protect Our Winters (POW), the organization of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for substantive action on climate change, is the winner of GSB’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2017.

You see, the 21 folks captured in front of the US Capitol made up most of the 25-person delegation of active and retired skiers, snowboarders and more, who, along with staffers, descended on Washington this fall to lobby 22 members of Congress and their staffs. Topics included carbon pricing, solar energy and electrifying transportation.

That winter sports athletes are more concerned about climate change than any other group of athletes I can think of makes sense since they can see the negative effects of warming temperatures on their playing fields (i.e. ski slopes, snowboard courses, frozen ponds) in real time.

That they have built POW into the only climate change action advocacy group led by athletes, Olympians and world champions among them, is the amazing thing.

In recent months, GreenSportsBlog interviewed retired Olympic silver medal winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler and Olympic cross country skier Andy Newell, about their involvement with POW.

Bleiler takes part in “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes” school assembly programs, which helps  make “climate change engaging, more relatable, and more personal for students.” She spoke at COP21, the global climate conference in Paris in November 2015 that led to the Paris Climate Agreement. Newell helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April and has written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014.

Both were part of the POW 2017 DC fall lobby team; their firsthand experiences — and those of their colleagues — with the effects of climate change are powerful aspects of their presentations to Congress.

Here’s Bleiler: “[I share] my own experiences as a professional snowboarder who’s traveled around the world chasing snow! Reduced snow pack, warmer temperatures and shorter winters all mean a hit to the sports we love, but these changes also impact the economies of all the mountain town communities where I compete and train. This has all been happening in my lifetime…”

Given that the vast majority of the Republican-led Congress, the head of the EPA, as well as the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, are virulently opposed to fighting climate change, POW’s 2017 legislative efforts did not bear immediate fruit.

But, in the climate change fight, POW is all in for a marathon.

It is a race cross country skier Andy Newell has no doubt POW and, well, we — as in the American people — will win: “If we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy, the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community.”

Certain House members and Senators will hear from POW in 2018. The group’s main goal for the next year is to, in the words of Lindsay Bourgoine, manager of advocacy and campaigns, “get down and dirty in the midterm elections in November…We have identified ten ‘battleground elections’ where we feel it is really important to elect a climate friendly leader, whether Democrat or Republican.”

Honorable Mention: Land Rover BAR, Great Britain’s Entry in 2017 America’s Cup; Most Sustainable Olympics Bids Ever Earn Paris and LA the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games.

 

GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OR EVENT OF 2017

US Open Tennis/US Tennis Association

Formerly titled the Greenest Sports League award, this year the category expanded to include mega-sports events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, the Masters, and the US Open. The latter is GSB’s choice for the GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OR EVENT OF 2017. 

The Open —which draws over 700,000 fans over two weeks in late August/early September at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, NY — earned the award not only for its stellar sustainability performance at this year’s tournament but for its decade of green-sports leadership. 

King was there at the beginning of the US Open’s/USTA’s greening efforts in 2008. And she wanted to go BIG.

“Billie…wanted to make the US Open the most environmentally responsible tennis event in the world,” shared Dr. Allen Hershkowitz^, then a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the nonprofit that would manage the sustainability project. “I told Billie that doing so would take years. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.'”

 

 

Billie Jean and Allen

Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)

 

Ten years on, the fruits of King’s and Hershkowitz’ vision can be seen in virtually every nook and cranny of the National Tennis Center. The event:

  • Is zero-waste, meaning 90 percent or more of food waste is diverted from the landfill, thanks to a sophisticated composting and recycling operation
  • Powers itself solely by renewable energy
  • Uses the tournament’s daily draw sheet (schedule of play) to share “eco-tips” with fans
  • Promotes mass transit use and the fans have responded: More than 55 percent arrived by subway, Long Island Railroad or bus, making the US Open the most transit-friendly professional sporting event in the country
  • Collects and recycles over 17,000 tennis ball cans
  • Boasts two LEED certified structures; the two year-old, 8,000 seat Grandstand Court and the upgraded transportation center.

 

Grandstand Court Brian Friedman USTA

The LEED certified Grandstand Court rocked during the dramatic comeback win by Juan Martin del Potro over Dominic Thiem on Labor Day (Photo credit: Brian Friedman/USTA)

 

2018 will bring a big sustainability advance as the new, 10,000 seat Louis Armstrong Stadium will open as the world’s first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof.

Honorable Mention: National Hockey League, Pac-12 Conference, Waste Management Phoenix Open (golf)

 

GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2017

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C.

When Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C., announced in November that it had earned LEED Platinum certification, it became the first pro stadium in the U.S. to achieve such a designation. Just one month later, it won GreenSportsBlog’s GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2017.

“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” noted Arthur Blank, owner and chairman of the two teams, at the LEED Platinum announcement. “[Our] goal was to achieve the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment.”

 

 

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosts the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 9, and Super Bowl LIII in February 2019, compiled 88 LEED points — blowing by the 80 point threshold needed for Platinum status — in a myriad of ways, including by:

  • Using 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to water-efficient fixtures and conservation infrastructure
  • Storing water in a 1.1 million gallon, underground water vault, providing the area with crucial flood management, as well as an additional 680,000 gallons of water for use in irrigation and the stadium’s cooling tower
  • Installing 4,000 solar panels to power the equivalent of nearly ten Falcons games or 13 Atlanta United matches with clean, renewable energy.
  • Featuring LED lighting that will reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent
  • Encouraging fans to take MARTA light rail to three nearby stations, resulting in 25-30 percent of fans ditching their cars to go to and from Falcons and United games.

Honorable Mention: Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit (home of NBA’s Pistons and NHL’s Red Wings), currently seeking LEED certification

 

BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT OF 2017

Golden State Warriors, NBA Champions

The Golden State Warriors cemented their status as the gold standard of the NBA’s current era when they defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, four games to one, to win their second title in the last three seasons. A sustainability leader off the court, the Warriors also earned the BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD  award for 2017.

On the court, head coach Steve Kerr seamlessly managed the addition of Kevin Durant to their championship core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. This made the Dubs even more fun to watch and much harder to play against. As a result, Golden State methodically avenged its shocking 2016 Finals loss to the Cavs.

 

KD Steph

Kevin Durant (l) and Steph Curry of the 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors — and winner of GSB’s BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT award (Photo credit: USA Today)

 

This fall, the Warriors started the 2017-18 campaign slowly —for them — they’re “only” 23-6 at this writing. Curry and Green are injured for now. And the Houston Rockets look ready to mount a serious challenge in the West. Despite all that, Golden State is still the team to beat.

Off the court, the Warriors reflect the strong environmental ethos of the Bay Area, earning strong sustainability grades for:

  • Powering their practice facility with solar panels
  • Reducing energy use at Oracle Arena through a smart energy management system
  • Introducing a rainwater recapture system that uses the harvested H₂O to feed the plants and vegetation surrounding the arena.
  • Partnering with a local vendor who turns oils from concessions into bio-diesel,
  • Implementing ORBIO Sc-5000 which utilizes water, salt and electricity to create an eco-friendly cleaning solution
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of, and the waste produced by the food service. In partnership with Levy Restaurants, the club uses compostable cutlery and flatware and composts food waste.

It wasn’t only GreenSportsBlog who noticed the Warriors sustainability efforts: Oracle Arena earned LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in September.

“Ensuring that we have a positive impact on the Oakland/Alameda County community and our environment is extremely important to us” said Krystle von Puschendorf, Sustainability Programs Manager for Oracle Arena, “We are proud to have achieved LEED certification and are dedicated to running an environmentally friendly operation here in Oakland.”

If the Warriors stay at the top of their game on the court, the club will likely be in the running for the 2019 award because it will have moved into the new Chase Center in San Francisco — an arena expected to seek LEED Gold certification.

Given the Warriors incredibly high standards, I am surprised — and a bit disappointed — they’re not going for LEED Platinum. But there’s still time for Golden State to up its green game even further.

 

Chase Arena

Artist’s rendering of Chase Center, future home of the Warriors. Scheduled to open in 2019, the arena seeks LEED Gold certification (Credit: Stok)

 

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots, NFL — the Pats might have won the award but they were hurt by the strong support for climate disaster Donald Trump by owner Robert Kraft; Seattle Sounders, MLS

 

GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF 2017

Super Bowl LI in Houston

Super Bowl 50, the Greenest Super Bowl of All Time, was played in the Bay Area, one of the most environmentally engaged areas in the country. Super Bowl LI took place in Houston, not exactly a green hotbed. Many would say it is not realistic to expect a Super Bowl taking place in the Oil Capital of the US to be as green as one contested in Northern California.

I agree.

But while it’s one thing to fall short of the Super Bowl 50 standard, it’s quite another thing for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to do nothing from a sustainability point of view.

Or, to be fair, almost nothing: The Houston Host Committee did work with NFL Environmental, the Houston Texans, Verizon and local partners to help plant trees, but that seems to be it.

 

Trees for Houston

Trees For Houston and Marathon Oil helped plant 50 new trees at Crespo Elementary in advance of Super Bowl LI (Photo credit: Trees For Houston)

Tree planting is well and good but the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee missed a Texas-sized opportunity regarding sustainability.

This is the case especially when one considers that there is a sustainable business infrastructure and a green subculture taking root in the US’ fourth biggest city and in the Lone Star State more broadly:

Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings and MSFA deciding not to upgrade the glass exterior of US Bank Stadium to reduce its bird kill problem.

 


 

We close with some end-of-year thank-you and a remembrance:

To our guests/interviewees: Your time, commitment and insights are much appreciated. You are helping to green the sports world in important ways. I always come away from GreenSportsBlog interviews feeling inspired.

To our readers: Thank you for making 2017 a year of significant growth: Our subscriber base grew by a third. On Twitter, our retweets and mentions nearly doubled. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe (it’s FREE!) and comment on the blog. Follow us on Twitter (@GreenSportsBlog) and friend us on Facebook (http://faceboook.com/greensportsblog).

A remembrance: Earlier this month, Ryan Yanoshak, formerly managing director of marketing communications with the Pocono International Raceway, passed away at 42 following a battle with cancer. Ryan played an important role in telling Pocono’s forward-leaning sustainability story. He will be missed.

Looking ahead, I expect the green-sports world will continue to grow in 2018, especially on the green building/venue side. But will meaningful fan engagement programs ramp up? Will we find new eco-athletes who can become the Colin Kaepernicks of green-sports? Will POW’s lobbying efforts help bring more climate change-fighters to Congress? No matter the results, you can be certain that GreenSportsBlog will remain your source for news, features and commentary on the increasingly busy intersection of Green + Sports.

Here’s to a healthy, happy Holiday Season to you and yours!

 

^ Dr. Hershkowitz later served as President of the Green Sports Alliance and is currently founding director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI)

 


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