Electric vehicles

Ready to electrify your vehicle fleet? EV fleet tech providers want to help

The Mobility House provides a case study of the burgeoning EV fleet tech space.
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The Mobility House

· 5 min read

Commercial fleet owners, from retailers and logistics companies to rental car services, are ordering electric vehicles as part of their strategies to decarbonize over the coming years. However, converting to EVs isn’t as simple as swapping gas pumps for chargers.

The transition requires financing hefty upfront costs, optimizing vehicle routes and schedules, installing and maintaining hardware, training operators, and working with energy providers to understand how much electricity is available at a charging location and how rates fluctuate throughout the day. And this transition’s got to happen for millions of vehicles—more than 8 million cars, trucks, and vans in the US were part of a fleet in 2020.

As a result, startups, charging companies, and even oil and gas giants are trying to capitalize on the opportunity to make money by helping fleet owners navigate these challenges.

The Mobility House is one company working to provide smart management tools for EV fleet charging. It was founded in Munich in 2009 and expanded to the US in 2014 with an office in Silicon Valley.

Its ChargePilot system manages energy use and charging for fleets by monitoring utility rates and vehicle schedules. The platform, which works across charging hardware from different manufacturers, also helps fleet owners plan out EV infrastructure and handles vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and stationary storage projects in Europe. The ChargePilot “starter kit” costs €1,963.50 (~$2,230) in Europe, but the company wouldn't share pricing details for US customers.

The Mobility House says its system can reduce operational charging costs by 30% compared with unmanaged charging by avoiding peak-hour utility prices. Using these tools can also help limit up-front expenses by decreasing the amount of charging infrastructure necessary to support an EV fleet.

Powering up

When The Mobility House first entered the US market, the team identified public transit and school buses as a key opportunity for fleet electrification. Six years later, the company began working with St. Louis Metro Transit on charging infrastructure for 22 electric buses the city planned to add to its fleet.

Range has always been the determining factor for the public transit agency when looking to move away from fossil fuels, Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Metro Transit’s parent organization, Bi-State Development, told Emerging Tech Brew.

Installing charging at both the end-point and the midpoint of the route electric buses take helped ensure smooth service even during extreme temperatures that can decrease the vehicles’ range.

“It’s really key that you have good advisors—what are those effects associated with scheduling and with charging, so that you’re sure that you’re covered in a dynamic environment that obviously is changing on a month-to-month basis,” Roach said.

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The conversation about fleet electrification has become much more sophisticated over the last few years, Gregor Hintler, US managing director at The Mobility House, told Emerging Tech Brew. While charging used to be an afterthought, more fleet operators are now considering energy needs and V2G capabilities upfront, he said.

Customers are beginning to ask about how to contribute to the grid with their EV fleets and how to make money by doing it, he said.

The Mobility House is also partnering with Energy-as-a-Service provider AlphaStruxure on an integrated microgrid and electric bus charging project in Brookeville, Maryland. Construction is underway to build infrastructure including solar panels, EV chargers, and battery storage that will allow Montgomery County to use clean energy to charge the buses and avoid any public transit interruptions during power outages. The project is expected to be fully operational by the middle of this year.

The federal infrastructure bill passed in November includes $2.5 billion in funding for electric school buses.

Charge managers

The Mobility House is far from the only company looking to build a business around EV fleet management services.

Shell bought charging software company Greenlots in 2019 and recently announced plans to rebrand it as Shell Recharging Solutions. Last month, BP acquired fleet-charging startup Amply Power.

In June 2021, Ford purchased Electriphi, a startup that offers software to remotely manage charging schedules. Then, in August, EV charging network operator ChargePoint acquired European fleet management company ViriCiti for $88 million.

Utilities companies are entering the space as well. In December 2020, eIQ Mobility, a Schneider Electric spinoff that advises fleet owners on when to convert to EVs, was bought by Florida–based renewables company NextEra Energy.

“The investment community has understood that charge management is crucial to getting to the scale of EV charging that we need to get to, to achieve the goals around decarbonization,” Hintler said. “I think this will continue because there’s still a number of players out there that do not have good solutions internally that will look to the market to buy up something.”

Update, 1/25, 2022: This piece has been updated to clarify that the ChargePilot “starter kit” price of €1,963.50 is for Europe-based customers only.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.