Volta’s Software Brings Predictive Power to EV Market

A new analytics solution aims to find suitable locations for EV charging stalls
Volta's EV charging stalls
Photograph courtesy of Volta Inc.

As in any endeavor involving real estate, success for electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations is about location, location, location.

Volta Inc., a public San Francisco-based EV charging and media-display company, has developed a new predictive analytics tool designed to pinpoint the best spots for charging stations based on demographics, local mobility, commercial trends and site-specific data.

Volta has understood the importance of location from its launch in 2010. The media displays on its units generate a secondary revenue stream from advertisements and support the chargers before the market for electric energy is sufficient, but only if the charging stalls are placed where the displays will get enough impressions.

Pending Merger

The company, set to be acquired by Shell USA for $169 million in a matter of weeks with shareholder and regulatory approval, has over 3,000 charging stalls and 5,700 digital screens installed in 31 states, the company said. This number is likely to multiply when it combines with Shell USA, which markets fuel to 14,000 Shell-branded fuel stations and owns 248 Timewise convenience stores.

  • Shell is No. 32 on CSP’s 2022 Top 202 list of U.S. c-store chains by number of company-owned locations. Check out the 2023 Top 40 update, and watch for the 2023 ranking in the June issue of CSP magazine and online.

Volta’s proprietary infrastructure-planning solution, called PredictEV, is designed to crunch data to better predict EV adoption so an appropriate number of charging stalls are placed in an area, the company said. It aims to solve a conundrum many companies face in gauging demand for charging stations and deciding where to put them.

Planning Ahead

The technology has helped utilities and governments plan ahead. Alabama used it to develop an Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan, and the City of Irving, Texas, is using it for an EV-charging needs assessment to determine how many chargers an area needs, including disadvantaged areas, the company said. 

The insights the City of Irving gleans from PredictEV are expected to help the municipality as it applies for the Discretionary Grant Program for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure, a $1.25 billion grant program for community charging made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aims to ensure disadvantaged communities receive 40% of federal energy investments, Volta said.

Volta’s strategic approach to planning for the success of EV charging made it an attractive target for Shell, which aims to get in on the EV movement. By acquiring Volta’s technology and talent, the combination is likely to produce a network of fueling locations and a way to bring Shell USA farther into the electric-energy game.

Marketing Messages

The ad revenue generated from the displays has allowed Volta to build EV charging infrastructure ahead of market demand for the electricity by generating advertising revenue. The company’s “Charging for All” initiative aims to make charging affordable for the public.

Volta charging stalls have carried ads for consumer-packaged-goods brands like Dole and Coca-Cola, and retailers like Kroger use them to send marketing messages to shoppers as they pull into the parking lot. Its success has attracted the attention of competitors also pursuing marketing revenue from EV chargers, but Volta commands the leading position.

To further its position with consumer-packaged-goods brands, in June 2022 Volta formed a strategic partnership with Catalina, a marketing firm providing shopper insights to grocers and other retailers. The partnership allows Volta to use Catalina’s measurement capabilities to determine the sales lift and category share increase of a marketing campaign to demonstrate how Volta’s displays convert prospects into buyers. Volta said a campaign for Dole Fresh Foods, involving eye-catching marketing creative placed on Volta screens near grocery stores, delivered an 8% sales lift.

With a second revenue stream from advertising, Volta’s model solves EV's chicken-or-egg problem of which to focus on first, EV sales or EV chargers, as Volta’s charging stalls strive to pay for themselves.

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