EQUANS - the re-branded name for ENGIE’s services led activities – recently secured its latest workplace electric vehicle (EV) charging deal.
The five-year contract is to see the company supply, commission and operate a network of chargers for NatWest. It will also allow NatWest employees to charge using the GeniePoint network, which ENGIE also owns.
Current± caught up with Dee Humphries, managing director of EV Solutions at EQUANS UK & Ireland, to talk about being "uniquely placed" in the market due to the variety of services offered by EQUANS, as well as the company's plans for improving the GeniePoint network.
How did the deal with NatWest come about?
Our sales people look for companies who have zero carbon ambitions, who have made announcements about fleet transitions or who have large fleets that we believe are missing a trick in terms of not transitioning, and then seek to have relationships from there. Once the NatWest tender came out, we were quite uniquely placed actually, in terms of our expertise, because although we do EV, we're part of the EQUANS services business, which has expertise in decentralised renewables, solar and all that good stuff.
For a customer like NatWest, we can give you a quote just for putting chargers in your car park, and we can make sure they're maintained for you, but what you get with us is the fact that we can then bring in [the solar team] and then we can come and do a survey for you in terms of peak shaving, and carbon offsetting and all that kind of stuff.
Are there any particular challenges to this rollout?
There's a lot of noise around materials, supply and logistics and everything else. We've been very lucky in that the supply partner that we use for these particular charger types plans ahead, and we've got no issues with that, which is great. The piece that always takes time with these installs is we're doing things like substations, making sure we're beefing up grid connections, and if you're going to get a challenge, or you're going to get slippage in the program works, it will come at that stage with reconnections and so on.
We're not doing the install; we're working with the clients' own contractors, so we're doing the back office support. I think the interesting thing for us is it's given us great experience with working in that sort of collaborative way. You've got the clients construction company, and you've got us, and we've all had to come to the table with our relative expertise. What it has helped us with actually is we're now quite happy to go out to new clients and say, if you do you want to use your own contractors, we've got experience with this, we'd recommend that you do this, this, this and this.
How does workplace charging fit into your overall EV strategy?
We do two sides at the moment; we've got our public network and then we've got our workplace charging. Historically, the business focus was really on that GeniePoint, public area. EQUANS is a services business, so EQUANS is less about capex, less about asset ownership and more about providing services to clients and helping other people reach their net zero ambitions. So our strategy changed slightly at the beginning of this year, to be more balanced between GeniePoint and the EV solutions piece.
It places us uniquely in the market, in that we can do these really large scale corporate workplace installs but actually we're starting to create a seamless experience for employees, so that NatWest employees will be able to go and charge at the GeniePoint charger at work with the GeniePoint app, that same card will then work on the public network for them when they're out and about. One of the things we're trying to look at as well is, how do we tie that all into one package? We've not done this with NatWest yet, but if you're an employee and your employer has chosen GeniePoint charges to go in the ground at work, and your employer is giving you a preferential rate there, how can we as a business then extend that preferential rate out onto our public network?
What are your goals with GeniePoint for the next year?
I'll be honest, GeniePoint has got a bit of work to do. We lost a little bit of customer faith; we've had some survey results that have not necessarily been in our favour.
Everything we've got planned for this year is based on having gone through Twitter, gone through the survey results and done a bit of customer connection. What we've built in this year is removing connection peaks, starting to rollout contactless because people want it, looking at changing our app and then having a look at our reliability.
The reliability has been an issue for us on two fronts. First of all, the back office. The software that supported everything kept losing connection, because it just wasn't built for the scale of chargers that we've got on it now. On the 14th of September, we finished our migration across to a cloud-based platform.
Alongside that we've had some hardware concerns. So EVBox, our supplier, have been brilliant. They've worked really hard to identify what the problem is with that and they're doing a retrofit.
I think if we carry on listening to our customers, we get the contactless in by the end of this year, then GeniePoint is in a much stronger place in the market.