ChargePoint CEO Rick Wilmer on Building Consumer Confidence In the EV Charging Space

Rick Wilmer ChargePoint

Chris Nihan, founder of EVready Energy and Rick Wilmer, CEO of ChargePoint discuss how ChargePoint views the future of EV charging, their driver-centric approach, and why educating electricians, dealerships, and drivers are key components to successful EV adoption. Rick highlights some unique characteristics of the EV community, and how the act of charging an EV creates a relationship with drivers in a way we’ve never seen before.

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Supply and Demand Challenges

When Rick came into his role at ChargePoint, Covid was starting to tail off but dealing with hyper-demand and the supply chain issue were his top two priorities.

His goal was to find a supplier who viewed ChargePoint as a strategic account. He met face-to-face with executives and started building relationships with suppliers and manufacturers.

Once Rick had strong, strategic relationships in place and had supply and demand in balance he focused on creating world-class customer support and customer service functions. He knew that realistically building these teams and processes is a long road. ChargePoint’s customer service interactions range from the drivers using their stations to Fortune 500 executives and everyone in between. He feels there have been improvements but there is still room for growth and continues to push for excellence in serving their customers.

Building Consumer Confidence

Station damage can go undetected so ChargePoint is aggregating information from drivers through their hotline, the mobile app, and social media to create support tickets.

They are also using machine learning to be proactive. They call station owners to tell them they have an issue with their equipment, even when the station is green on the map and there’s no indication from the station owner that there is an issue. ChargePoint is creating proactive support tickets to minimize station downtime.

You might have heard Rick speak publicly about their Network Operations Center and how another big goal of his in 2024 is to keep improving network uptime and network reliability. Also ensuring ChargePoint is building highly durable and reliable hardware is a critical factor. ChargePoint has invested heavily in making sure their charging stations can handle the blistering heat in Phoenix, AZ as well as the frigid temps in Minnesota. And not just for today, but for many years to come.

Electrification: The Need For More Skilled Electricians

Additionally, ChargePoint is set to offer more in-depth training for electricians. Getting electricians trained on how to properly install and fix EV charging equipment is a huge initiative for the company in 2024.

What’s Affecting EV Adoption

Rick believes that market forces are driving the adoption of EVs. He also believes that people who experience the modern electric drive train will want to move to an EV. Overall, the EV driving experience is superior to an ICE vehicle. Not to mention that OEMs have committed to producing EVs. 

Chris mentions his interview with Terry Erwin (link to that podcast) and how they discussed one of the biggest factors for getting drivers to switch to an EV is dealer training. Rick completely agrees as he’s heard stories of people looking at an EV at a car lot and the moment the salesperson is asked about charging they pivot to what they know and turn the customer to an ICE vehicle. Chris thinks once dealerships are properly trained in how to sell an EV, there will be a bigger flip from ICE to electric.

Rick says another factor is interest rates on auto loans are high right now. Some people are going to wait for the rates to drop before they commit to a new loan. However, with Tesla recently dropping its prices and BYD (China) making a lower-cost EV, we will see pressure applied to OEMs to produce more affordable EVs.

Brands Using Charging To Create A Relationship

Chris and Rick both agree that brands will surely use EV charging as a way to create brand loyalty or take advantage of loyalty programs to offer free charging or something in that vein very soon. Rick says as a Ford F150 Lightning driver, he now has a relationship with Ford via their app that he did not have before and sees this as the future of how brands will likely create intimacy with consumers.

Standardizing on the NASC Plug

In Rick’s mind, this choice certainly makes it easier for drivers and doesn’t matter to ChargePoint which plug gets standardized. He goes back to his theory on creating a relationship with consumers through charging. And poses the question, “Is that why Tesla is opening up their Superchargers?” Is Tesla hoping to create a relationship with an EV driver in the hopes they’ll want a Tesla?

What Are ChargePoint’s Differentiators?

ChargePoint is a full-stack solution that offers modularity. What this means is because it’s networked a city or town, for example, can have one platform with one dashboard to manage its entire portfolio of charging stations. Modularity enables faster and lower cost of service. If something goes wrong within the station you do not have to replace the whole unit. Instead, remove the module and replace it, making the system more cost-effective in the long term.

Station owners in the commercial space are typically trying to get people to come to their location and stay there, spend money, or work (for employers). For fleet station owners reliability is everything. In this use case, fleet operators REQUIRE stations that will work and continue to work for years to come to support their business.

What’s the biggest mistake potential EV station owners make?

If you’re looking to install charging stations and you’re only looking at the cost of the station itself, you are not looking at the solution the wrong way. Part of what EVready helps customers understand and address is the ongoing utility costs of their charging stations. There’s a much bigger picture than most people understand and part of our mission is to help shed light on the best solution for your use case.

Ease of Use For EV Drivers

Rick believes there’s room for innovation in making the charging experience for drivers as easy and intuitive as possible. ChargePoint wants to make the payment exchange easy and create less of a barrier for people to move to an EV.

What is the future of ISO 15118?

Rick’s immediate response to this: visit the Mercedes HQ in Sandy Springs, GA. It is the penultimate – what they did was amazing; from the ability to reserve a port and know which port it is, no tapping, and easier than pumping gas. It mimics the Tesla experience where once you plug in the charger it connects with the car and the session is started immediately.

Finally, Chris ends by asking Rick what he’s most excited about in 2024. Rick believes we’re in the early innings of the electrification of autos so being part of the fast-changing market is super exciting and a fun challenge.

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