As-a-Service EV charging – Sparkle is trailblazing a new business model
“SWTCH has been fantastic. I’m saying this because in 3 years, we have had only one single service call from an EV driver. One call, that’s all!” – Frank Merrill, VP of Sparkle Solutions
Sparkle is well known in the industry as a laundry equipment supplier for multi residential and industrial buildings. As the second largest commercial laundry provider in Canada, they have most recently started offering EV charger installation and management to their existing clientele.
“We have been approached by property owners and management companies, asking us if we can provide EV charging solutions. That happened a few times, so we said, well we’d better start looking into it.”
Solving capacity constraints with robust load management
After deploying their first chargers, Sparkle quickly ran into some of the most common challenges, such as limited electric capacity and poor management software. They realized what they needed was a partner with more robust charging technology to help them optimize load management, performance and customer experience.
“The approach was to duplicate our expertise with common-use laundry services and to apply it to EV charging in the common parking areas. A great idea, so we thought, but we ran into some massive problems. SWTCH helped us overcome these hurdles and our learning curve took a sharp turn for the better. SWTCH offers us an impressive charging solution.”
Turn-key solution for building owners
In working with SWTCH’s charging solution, Sparkle saw that one charger can effectively host up to five EVs using a common-use charging model.
They started putting in two EV chargers in each building interested in EV charging, and today, they have deployed more than 150 chargers, with plans to add another 100 by the end of next year.
Vice President, Sparkle Solutions
At Sparkle, we offer a complete turn-key solution to the building owner. Many of them don’t want to maintain or service EV chargers. They also don’t want to have capital tied up to own charging infrastructure. Neither do they want to think about the network system or the customer facing solution for the EV drivers.
Vice President, Sparkle Solutions
Who pays and how does the money flow?
With the help of NRCAN funding, Sparkle pays for the infrastructure upgrade, the installation and the charger hardware (with the infrastructure upgrade being the most cost-intensive part). Incentives like NRCan’s ZEVIP funding has helped cover a portion of the installation cost, but how does Sparkle recover their investment and how do they make money?
The answer is a pay-as-you-go model. Using the SWTCH app, EV drivers charge their cars and pay for doing so. Sparkle remits 40% – 50% of the net charging revenue to the building owner. The remainder is in essence their fee for supplying the chargers.
“With our current model, we want to see 6 – 8 hours of charging a day per level 2 charger in a multi residential building. We have some buildings that are working really well, e.g. one in BC where we’ve got 2 chargers and we installed 2 more because there are ten electric vehicles in the building now and the chargers are being used constantly. Our current contracts are for 10 years and are hoping to recoup our initial investment within 5 – 6 years.”
Which building owner doesn’t want a free amenity?
EV charging is turning from an amenity into a necessity. It attracts a great clientele that is willing to pay more money for the convenience of EV charging. Wouldn’t it be great if building owners could add this amenity without investing any capital? Sparkle’s solution seems like a great way for owners to have it all – EV charging without the risk.
“The question that the building owner has to ask themselves is, do I do this myself, or am I going to let somebody else worry about it? Getting EV ready might cost around $4,000 – 5,000 per charger, plus the actual charger hardware at about $2,000. There is not a huge amount of service but there will be things to take care of. Do I want to be burdened with that or do I want to pass that on?”
Improving customer experience and finding scale
One of the main reasons Sparkle got involved is to further enhance its relationships with large building owners and property management companies. Being able to offer EV charging is a great value-add.
“The question is how deep do we go into it, how much capital do we put into it every year. NRCan funding is currently still available in Canada to get 50% off, which is attractive, but that’s going to go away at some point. We have to make sure the business model works without funding.”
Partnering with SWTCH for peace-of-mind
As Sparkle installs and supports increasingly more chargers, they rely on SWTCH’s 24/7 charger monitoring. “If there is a problem, their online diagnostics kicks in and the majority of issues are resolved remotely. Our service technicians are only dispatched if the issue cannot be resolved remotely. This happens about twice a month. With around 200 pieces of equipment that is extremely low.”
Sparkle has just completed a training session with SWTCH for their designated service technicians. Since Sparkle is servicing the equipment for their customers, SWTCH helps educate their EV charging technicians on how to replace, troubleshoot and run diagnostics in the field.
You’re making sure the chargers are up and running so we can take care of our customers. SWTCH has been fantastic. I’m saying this because in 3 years, we have had only one single service call from an EV driver. One call, that’s all! It’s a huge proof point that the SWTCH technology just works.
Vice President, Sparkle Solutions
Sparkle’s next EV charging play? Schools south of 49
Sparkle sees a big opportunity in the US. Their parent company, CSC Service Works, are already in every state with their laundry solution and in over half of the college and university campuses. Education facilities are unlikely going to own & support EV chargers themselves. They maintain a campus to a certain degree, but for specific areas like laundry, they usually contract out.
“Over the next 10 years, we’ll see more and more students come to school with EVs. They will want a residence where they can hook up their car. And we’re going to be able to say, yes, we have chargers; here is the app, and off they go.”
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