We have come a long way with Electric Vehicles. With more and more people shifting towards EVs, the electrified future doesn’t seem too far.
The most essential factor that defines the adoption trends of EVs is having adequate charging infrastructure in place. And thus, many charging solutions companies are contributing to achieving this milestone. One such company driven to produce the world’s safest and smartest electric car charging stations is EVSE LLC.
The roots of EVSE lies in its parent company, Control Module Inc. (CMI), which began operations back in 1969 with its owner James S. Bianco, an inventor at heart with over 200 patents. Control Module has always been an innovator and a leader in developing bar codes early on and since that time in the time and attendance market producing time clocks for the Fortune 500. The company has extended its expertise in electronics, software, hardware and communications into the fleet marketplace, supporting the major rental car companies to track and manage their fleets at major airports throughout the US and Canada. Now, it has also applied that knowledge to the charging station marketplace, which is heavily dependent on the same technologies.
We at Insights Success caught up with John Fahy, the President of EVSE, to learn more about the company.
Leading the Space
John joined Control Module in 1980 as a machinist. Later, he was promoted to Shop Supervisor in 1985, became Manufacturing Manager in 1991, Vice President of Operations in 1999, and then President in 2012. Currently, in his role, he manages Control Module and its subsidiaries, including EVSE LLC. He is heavily involved in manufacturing operations and the design and development of new prototypes for its businesses.
John states that EVSE LLC has shown technological leadership in the EVSE industry, having the only retractable cable charging station models and applications of those designs to unique installations, including garage ceilings and light/utility poles for curbside parking. “Being environmentally inclined, with a recent solar installation on the roof of our plant, we are a net-zero consumer of electricity,” he says.
A Unique Retraction Approach
EVSE’s product line has addressed cable management since its first model was released. Based in the Northeast with the constant threat of snow, its initial concern was that the J1772 charging cables would be snagged by snowplows, and that drove the company to build retractable cable systems, which are unique in the industry. This system retracts the cable into the housing of the charging station.
John mentions that early charging stations on the market ignored cable management and looked more like air hose equipment with the cables lying all over the ground. With EVSE LLC’s encouragement, this led to the requirement for cable management, which now looks, in most charging stations, like what you see at gas stations, with “Angel Wings” to keep the cables off the ground.
EVSE LLC chargers offer a patented retraction system that uniquely addresses issues of Americans with Disabilities, OSHA regulations and vandalism to the cable. This unique cable retraction approach allows the company to put its chargers where others can’t, such as garage ceilings and lights and utility poles at 10 foot off the ground. Recent utility pilots with EVSE’s equipment have demonstrated a 50-70% savings on installation cost using the elevated utility pole mounting of these chargers over comparable ground-level installation.
John explains, “Our cable management approach using the retractable cable has allowed us to do some unique things that others cannot. For instance, we are currently in discussion with roughly 100 utilities and municipalities discussing the potential for the use of our elevated light and utility pole charging stations for curbside parking, multi-unit dwellings, disadvantaged communities and flood zones. Through experience in Los Angeles with our large base of light-pole-based equipment, we have learned that mounting the equipment at 10 foot on the pole has significant advantages in reducing the potential for vandalism. It gets the equipment away from pedestrian right-of-ways at ground level, and allows the utility to mount the equipment on poles it already owns. The cable is dropped to ground level using a network provider’s smartphone app or ground-level RFID card reader. This ties in nicely with the trend of performing LED conversions to improve efficiency across municipalities.”
“We are currently participating in another pilot in the Northeast outside of Boston, with a major utility, that is mounting the equipment at 10 feet on wood, utility poles that offer the right voltages and ample current to run the equipment at 40A output per cable. Significant results from that pilot indicate a 50-70% savings on installation cost over ground-mounted equipment by mounting these on the utility poles and pulling power from above. This avoids the significant costs associated with trenching, bollards, footings and pulling power to the ground level unit. This same pilot has demonstrated that our high accuracy meter, developed at Control Module, is of sufficient accuracy (+/- 0.2%) that it may allow us in the near future to replace the utility’s revenue-grade meter on the pole with a meter in the charger, allowing billing for electricity through the network provider.”
This same retractable technology is finding a home in garages and pole or wall-mounted installations in parking lots throughout the country.
Leveraging OCPP Communications to Thrive
EVSE’s charging station equipment uses Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) communications, which allows it to communicate with any OCPP network provider. This is like the USB connector on your laptop, which allows you to communicate with any USB peripheral. The company can do the same thing with its charging stations and has developed a portfolio of network providers that it works with. This is called an Open Network as opposed to a Closed Network which many of its competitors use.
John further explains the network providers add horsepower to the charging station’s capabilities, including a smartphone and app, a 24/7/365 call center, interfaces for both the driver and the site host, payment services, reservations, load management, advertising, charitable contribution options, etc. These added functions bring the charging station into the realm of the typical “Green Generation” driver that is inclined to use the equipment.
He asserts, “As I mentioned before, our advanced metering may offer future opportunities to reduce billing complexity for municipalities as they install more and more of this equipment.
We also have found that doing something as simple as allowing branding of our equipment with vinyl wraps to be a helpful way to allow utilities to work closely with their municipal customers to co-brand the installs.”
Constantly Evolving in the Industry
When asked about the essential element for an electronic vehicle service provider to thrive in the industry, John suggests that it requires the dedication to a soundly engineered product that can withstand the rigors of public abuse for lifetimes of up to 10 years in all climates. He notes, “This is a tall order, and we are constantly learning. Our products are in their third generation of development, and they continue to evolve. In addition to meeting industry standards, we need to provide that product at the right price and in a timely fashion with consideration of the life cycle cost of the equipment.”
Talking about other elements, he adds, “Secondly, we have to be educators of the public in a technological area that most consumers are still becoming acquainted with. Being a combination of electronics and software technology, communications networking, and smartphone applications, it is not as simple as just plugging a charging station into an electric vehicle for those buying the equipment. It goes much deeper in making the actual purchase decision.”
“Lastly, we need to listen to the customer to understand their requirements, whether they be a utility requiring a vast network of chargers or the single homeowner wanting a charger for their garage.”
Giving Back to the Community
When it comes to giving back to the community, Control Module and EVSE LLC have made commitments to a Green environment with its building being a net-zero consumer of electricity due to the field of solar panels on its roof.
The company manufactures its equipment in its 44,000 square foot facility here in Enfield and uses local contractors in the MA and CT markets to perform subtasks. Its employees live in the local communities of both states.
Besides, it is involved and participates in the local and national politics making sure its input is provided and heard. It has been a major advocate for cable management and this has produced significant results across the industry.
In addition, the company also contributes to its community financially, where it finds opportunities consistent with its culture. It has also collaborated with its local community colleges and trade schools to provide opportunities for internships.
Words of Enlightenment
In his advice to emerging leaders in the EV industry, John says, “Listen to the customer and evolve with the industry standards and requirements. Stand by your product and react to customer issues in a timely fashion to be responsive and responsible. Have adequate funding before you undertake a project. Surround yourself with qualified and knowledgeable team members that have a pulse on the market.”
An Urge to Reach New Heights
The core of EVSE’s strategy is to build on a solid product which, although more expensive on a product basis due to being assembled in the USA with US labor and with a drive-train unique to EVSE LLC equipment, has among the lowest life cycle costs among its competitors. This is because other issues to consider are installation cost, including bollards, trenching and labor, damage to the charging cable over its lifetime due to vehicles and vandalism, and general liability resulting from strewn cables leading to tripping incidents. Its equipment is also built to last with powder-coated aluminum rather than plastic and modular construction for easy servicing.
John concludes, “We will always be a niche player with our retractable cable systems. But we hope to be a manufacturer recognized for its quality commercial products and surround ourselves with outstanding team partners, installers, resellers, network providers that give our customers the best value for the money. We will then capture a small but significant portion of the huge EVSE market growth to come.”