EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: AMPLY Power is Simplifying Fleet Electrification

March 27, 2019

An ACT News Executive Interview with Vic Shao, Founder & CEO, AMPLY Power, on their mission to simplify fleet electrification.

Vic Shao of AMPLY Power is aiming to simplify electric vehicle charging for fleet operators by offering a “charging-as-a-service” approach that includes fixed pricing and guarantees vehicle uptime.

Vic Shao previously founded Green Charge Networks—a distributed energy storage provider—and has more than a decade of expertise negotiating power purchase agreements. After his former company was acquired by international electricity provider, ENGIE, he has now turned his focus on electrifying the commercial transportation sector.

Vic will be joining a panel of industry experts discussing how to properly plan for fleet electrification in an upcoming EV Charging Infrastructure Workshop at ACT Expo, where AMPLY will also be exhibiting on the tradeshow floor.

ACT News caught up with Vic to learn more about the opportunities and challenges fleet operators are facing as they begin to electrify and how AMPLY’s vehicle charging service model and technology platform may be a helpful solution.

ACT News: Electricity as a fuel is a relatively new concept, even for experienced fleet managers. How much price variability should fleet operators expect when fueling with electricity?

Vic Shao: To put it in gasoline-equivalent terms, imagine a fleet operator could pay as little as $1.20 per gallon of gasoline, or could pay as much as $18 for that same gallon. That’s exactly what it’s like when dealing with electricity as a fuel. And, oftentimes this variability is in a single day.

For example, in California, the peak energy charges could be $0.30 a kilowatt hour, while the off-peak could be $0.08 per kilowatt hour. That’s almost a 4x difference. And this is just for kilowatt hours.

Demand charges are determined by the highest 15 minutes of peak energy flow rate during a billing cycle. In California, peak demand charges can be as much as $40 a kilowatt hour in a summer, peak-time-of-use scenario.

So, there really is an incredible amount of volatility and unpredictability with electricity pricing. This can be avoided or optimized by putting a proper charging strategy in place to “fuel up” your electric vehicles.

There really is an incredible amount of volatility and unpredictability with electricity pricing. This can be avoided or optimized by putting a proper charging strategy in place to “fuel up” your electric vehicles.

ACT News: Why was this the right time to launch AMPLY’s charging-as-a-service model? And for fleet managers, why is this the right time to get on board with AMPLY?

Vic Shao: There’s certainly political support now, especially in California and New York, and there’s also a rising awareness of climate change and the effect of carbon emissions.

However, the time is right for fleet operators to transition to electric because the economics are finally aligning. Earlier this year, AMPLY did a study comparing electric fueling costs to diesel or gasoline fueling costs across the US. We really did our homework, looked at state and local tariffs, and found that in 19 out of the top 25 metros in the US, it is more economical to operate electric for transit, school bus, sanitation, delivery and light-duty fleets.

ACT News: What are the biggest challenges and hurdles still out there for scaling commercial BEV adoption?

Vic Shao: One of the biggest challenges is that it’s still very difficult to understand the total cost of ownership, performance and reliability implications of operating a commercial electric fleet. For instance, if you manage and operate a fleet of electric refuse trucks, it’s simply not acceptable for a truck to not be able to run its route for the day because it wasn’t plugged in overnight. Fleet operators cannot take that risk. Ensuring that every electric asset is fueled up and ready to go for the next day is not as straightforward as you would think.

Many of the logistical concerns fleet managers must take into consideration are completely unique to managing and operating an electric fleet. For instance, cords that create tripping hazards or can’t reach a plug while a vehicle is charging, high powered chargers that are extremely sensitive to ambient temperatures, different charge rates when a battery is at 5% versus 50%–these are new issues that a fleet manager would never have had to consider with a diesel fleet.

When combined, these factors become a real roadblock to scaling BEV adoption.

Instead of unknowns and variables, AMPLY offers simplicity while guaranteeing that every vehicle will have a 90% state of charge every 24 hours. AMPLY eliminates all of the complexity so that the fleet no longer has to deal with them. And, from a standpoint of scaling these deployments, decision makers will become more and more comfortable seeing continued reliability, performance, as well as a cost savings. That’s when these vehicles will really start to scale.

We found that in 19 out of the top 25 metros in the US, it is more economical to operate electric for transit, school bus, sanitation, delivery and light-duty fleets.

ACT News: You mentioned that AMPLY guarantees that every electric vehicle will have a 90% state of charge every 24 hours. How is AMPLY able to offer this guarantee and what does this mean for fleet managers?

Vic Shao: We’re able to achieve the AMPLY guarantee by first putting a few critical building blocks in place.

First, we offer reliable hardware and equipment. This is still a relatively new class of hardware and at AMPLY, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in equipment procurement. We take pride in making the time to dive into the weeds with our vendors and ensuring we are procuring the most reliable and quality hardware for our customers. And since AMPLY bills our customers by the mile, if our equipment is down or not performing correctly, AMPLY isn’t getting paid, so it is in our best interest to do this right the first time

Secondly, by working with utilities on deployment and connection. This is a critical stage, and from my experience, one that causes many projects to get stalled. Again, AMPLY takes immense pride in having the right people on our staff who know the tricks of the trade in dealing with local utilities which can oftentimes be a huge headache for fleet operators.

Lastly, by the actual operations and maintenance. We have real time visibility, real time communications, and proactive monitoring and maintenance. If anything goes wrong on site, we work with local service technicians. Again, our mission is to keep it as simple and easy for fleet operators as possible.

Our mission is to keep it as simple and easy for fleet operators as possible.

ACT News: What are some of the other specific fleet sectors that AMPLY feels are prime for electrification, and for working with AMPLY? At what size and stage can AMPLY step in and start benefitting fleet operators?

Vic Shao: In the public Sector: airport shuttles, transit agencies, school buses, and sanitation departments. In the private sector: last mile delivery, truck and vehicle leasing operations, and autonomous fleets. We are seeing high growth especially in the private sector, with certain companies wanting to electrify everything right away.

We can engage and support any size fleet and at any point. Whether a fleet manager is just starting to consider electric vehicles or are already operating them in their fleet today, AMPLY can help. Regardless, we’ll work with them to establish a custom plan to ensure their mission critical vehicles are charged and ready to use when needed.

ACT News: Any final thoughts?

Vic Shao: AMPLY is a service. We are not about selling hardware or another software management tool for a fleet to figure out on their own. There are plenty of companies in the marketplace and we happily work with them all.

Being a service provider, and being able to offer exceptional service to our customers, it comes down to our people. We’ve built an exceptional team. And we all have the same goal: to be an advocate and long-term partner working alongside our customers. Because, we don’t succeed unless our customer succeeds.