Sam DiNello and Future Energy are back in the news, underscoring what differentiates Future Energy from other DTE trade allies. The latest edition of DTE’s EnergySmarts for Michigan Business magazine highlights how Future Energy helped a city-sized hospital system upgrade its lighting to high-tech, intelligent LED fixtures. The new intelligent lighting includes sensors, power monitoring, … Read more
Electric vehicles (EVs) are here, and more are coming: A recent report from Lucintel on the EV market forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 29% from 2021 to 2026. A number of factors account for this rise, including President Biden’s proposed $174 billion investment in the U.S. EV market, the increasing availability of public and private funding for EV adoption, and a broad cultural shift toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Also driving this increase is consumer demand. A 2020 survey from Consumer Reports found that 71% of U.S. drivers would consider buying an EV in the future—yet only 30% reported knowing much about EVs. This gap between interest and understanding presents a huge opportunity to dealerships—but first, dealerships must close that gap themselves.
Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Many dealerships operating today remember how high-speed internet and mobile phones made it easy for customers to compare prices in an instant, disrupting the traditional sales process. Electric vehicles are poised to cause another significant disruption, and dealerships can prepare or else risk losing market share in the modern automotive industry. Future Energy can help, with its integrated EV charging solution.
Future Energy’s solution can illuminate the world of EV for auto dealers and customers alike. We don’t just offer the means to charge EVs using industry-leading ChargePoint chargers and a user-friendly interface. Our comprehensive solution also provides a data-driven EV charging environment built to support remote monitoring of vehicle charge levels, enhanced security, and cutting-edge power management, among other capabilities.
Moreover, our solution delivers a concierge-style service that simplifies access to EV grants and tax credits, coordinates with contractors, and engages with dealership sales staff to provide the training they need to start selling EVs on lots and in showrooms. Below we examine how the Future Energy solution can address common challenges that dealerships face when adopting EV technology and the benefits that the solution offers.
Bringing EV Infrastructure to Dealership Retail Lots
One reason that so few people know about electric vehicles is that they have limited exposure to EVs and their chargers. Many dealerships sell EVs, but they lack the infrastructure, education and means to ensure a smooth sales process and long-term customer satisfaction. By bringing a complete EV charging environment to their lots, dealerships can overcome many of the barriers keeping customers from buying EVs.
Educate First-Time EV Buyers
Many consumers want to buy electric vehicles but have underlying concerns. An enterprising dealership can use the presence of a Future Energy EV charging environment on their retail lot to accomplish the following:
- Alleviate range anxiety: According to a 2021 survey from J. D. Power, range remains the most important factor in a consumer’s decision to buy an EV. Many consumers have what’s called “range anxiety,” or fear that the range of an electric vehicle isn’t enough for their needs. However, EV ranges are increasing every year, and a simple glimpse of the local EV charger map on the ChargePoint app will show the customer that they are never far from a ChargePoint charger. In fact, ChargePoint has the largest network of EV chargers in the world, including 120,000 stations (and counting) in North America. By installing commercial EV chargers at your dealerships you are showing consumers you are invested in providing electric vehicles, and being a part of the solution to their biggest fear, range anxiety.
- Demystify charging: First-time EV buyers have lots of questions about how charging works—everything from how to locate charging stations to how long charging takes. Having an EV charging solution on the lot is a great way to demonstrate the charging process and answer questions related to all manner of scenarios. Increasing the likelihood a potential consumer will purchase an EV from your dealership.
- Address maintenance concerns: The general public’s lack of information about EVs extends to maintenance. Many customers imagine EVs have unique maintenance needs that are either expensive or require a high degree of specialization. In reality, EV maintenance is much less complicated than that of gas-powered vehicles. For example, the Chevrolet Bolt requires almost no maintenance for the first 150,000 miles. And while this might mean lost service revenue for dealerships, selling EVs presents many more after-sales opportunities, discussed below.
In short, bringing a Future Energy EV charging solution to the retail lot presents a great opportunity not only to tell customers what’s involved in EV charging and ownership—but also to show them.
Develop an EV Sales Strategy
EVs are still so new that many dealerships haven’t yet developed sales strategies around them. Building out the EV infrastructure on a retail lot can provide a physical anchor around which dealership staff can develop a sound sales pitch. A highly visible advanced EV charging environment on the lot is sure to pique the interest of customers browsing outside, opening the door to new sales opportunities—even among those who aren’t initially interested in EVs.
Once the salesperson has the customer’s attention, the salesperson can launch into a routine that highlights every feature of the solution while answering frequently asked questions. This routine may include how to find charging stations, how to browse station reviews, how to reserve a station, and more. Giving customers the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real time is a critical part of the sales process that internet research can’t duplicate.
Offering Public EV Chargers
Having an advanced EV charging solution on a dealership lot can bring in people who might not otherwise visit. By providing a safe, easily discoverable place for current EV owners to charge their EVs on their lots, dealerships can increase their brand awareness and create new sales and service opportunities.
Increase Brand Awareness
After installing a Future Energy EV charging station, a dealership will show up on the ChargePoint app as a viable place for EV owners to charge their vehicles. What’s more, dealerships can boost awareness by giving chargers their own Twitter feeds and offering meal or servicing discounts and other incentives to anyone who stops by to charge their vehicle.
Future Energy also offers auto dealers the opportunity to apply their own branding to both the hardware and software associated with the EV charging environment. Drivers looking to charge their electric vehicles will see the dealership’s brand as they interact with the charging station and digital interface. The branded charging experience also includes security cameras and lighting that can help drivers feel safe as they charge on dealership property.
In general, customized branding on EV hardware and software can make it more likely that drivers will associate the dealership’s brand with a culture of responsibility and long-term commitment to sustainability. Branding can identify a dealership as the kind of place a current EV owner would want to purchase a new EV from or rely on for EV servicing.
Create Sales and Service Opportunities
As electric vehicles become more popular, consumers will be on the lookout for places to purchase their first EVs. Having sophisticated charging stations visible from the street can spark interest from first-time EV buyers. Also, the more EV chargers there are, the more likely it is that people will buy EVs: dealerships interested in selling EVs can and should do their part to expand their regional EV infrastructure.
According to J. D. Power, 82% of early EV adopters say they “definitely will” consider purchasing another electric vehicle in the future. Offering public EV charging is an excellent way for a dealership to convince current EV owners to purchase their next vehicle there. And though EVs require much less service and maintenance than combustion-engine vehicles, that dealership could still gain service opportunities by attracting EV owners.
Installing Electric Vehicle Chargers in the Dealership Showroom
The showroom serves as a hub for sales and the ideal place to showcase featured products and services. It’s where the dealers have an opportunity to meet with customers face to face and put their salesmanship to work.
With EVs becoming more popular every day, dealerships would do well to place EV charging stations inside the showroom. Customers can touch the charger stations, ask questions of sales associates, see how the mobile app works, and learn how the whole system integrates. The customer can see how the dealerships significant EV investment will work for them and how it can neatly fit into their daily lives.
Introduce Customers to EV Charging Stations
People purchase combustion-engine vehicles for many uses—from commuting to work to taking road trips to building out commercial fleets. Any dealer looking to sell EVs must prove how EVs can do everything combustion vehicles can and more. Having residential, commercial, and fleet EV charging stations in the showroom is the perfect way to demonstrate to customers not only how the charging stations work but also how EVs can serve their unique needs.
Dealerships that invest in EV technology can and should factor the installation of EV charging stations into their long-term sales plans. Commercial customers, in particular, would benefit from EV chargers and EV fleet vehicles for sale, and testing an EV charging station in a dealership showroom is a crucial part of that separate but very much related sales process.
Demonstrate How to Use Software in a Low-Stakes Environment
The Future Energy solution is more than just a piece of hardware that plugs into a vehicle. It’s a full experience that involves a digital interface and a mobile application that customers can download on their devices. The ChargePoint app shows EV owners where nearby charging stations are, helps them plan routes based on charging stations, and much more.
The showroom is the perfect low-stakes environment wherein private and commercial customers can see how to integrate EVs into their lives and livelihoods. When selling to a delivery service, for example, a salesperson can use the charging station and application to show that adopting EVs for the whole fleet is not only possible—it’s also simple and even advantageous.
Finding a New Approach to Service and Vehicle Storage
A responsible auto dealer should make sure they think through every conceivable aspect of adopting a more robust EV presence. Fortunately, Future Energy has done the hard work for auto dealers by anticipating the challenges of EV adoption, including a loss of traditional service revenue. Though EVs require much less maintenance than combustion-engine vehicles, EVs present a number of lucrative additional service opportunities. The Future Energy solution can also help address challenges that come with EV storage.
Discover New Service Opportunities
The relationship with the customer doesn’t end the minute they drive off the lot. A good dealership offers continued services to support their customers. As a dealership starts selling more EVs, they could shift resources from their existing service department to a new EV-focused service department that installs branded residential chargers at their customers’ homes. Offering EV chargers for sale can open up a number of opportunities:
- Retain or increase service revenue: Depending on the volume of EV sales, a dealership could find that installing branded EV chargers for customers could more than offset the loss of traditional service revenue.
- Increase brand awareness: Having more branded EV charging stations around town is a great way to increase brand awareness and establish a dealership as a local EV authority.
- Expand local EV infrastructure: The more charging stations people have in their homes in a given region, the more familiar and comfortable people in that region will be with purchasing EVs, thus creating a rise in EV ownership.
Ensure a Full Charge Every Time
A customer wouldn’t want to pick up a vehicle after purchase or service with low gas. In the same way, they wouldn’t want to pick up a vehicle with a low charge. Charging poses an interesting new challenge to dealerships when it comes to service.
Fortunately, the Maestro™ tool—a key part of the Future Energy EV solution—can help dealerships remotely monitor charge levels of each individual vehicle in service and in storage. Having a smart, comprehensive, integrated charging station ecosystem on your lot is a good way to make sure customers have a full charge whenever they pick up their vehicles. The ability to monitor EV charging for vehicles being serviced can also help dealerships manage costs associated with charging and determine how much of the cost to pass along to customers.
Modernizing Inventory Management
Managing inventory is always a challenge for auto dealers. Without a digital management tool, dealerships may struggle to determine which vehicles are on the lot itself and which are parked in an out-lot, creating bottlenecks in management and ultimately the sales process. The Future Energy EV charging environment offers advanced tools to streamline inventory management and address challenges unique to EV management.
Remotely Monitor EV Charge Levels
Combustion-engine vehicles don’t have a means to remotely monitor fuel levels, which can be particularly challenging when managing out-lot inventory. For example, a typical dealership might rely on porters for many out-lot management duties, such as performing routine vehicle checks and bringing vehicles to the retail lot as needed.
These porters often use a basketful of keys to locate specific vehicles, clicking the key fob buttons until they find the vehicle they’re looking for. Then, porters manually start each vehicle to see whether they have enough fuel to drive to the retail lot, and if not, add fuel using a gas can. This inefficient manual process takes time and resources that dealerships could put to better use generating revenue.
With the Maestro tool, dealerships can monitor the charge of all vehicles on and off the lot simply by tracking them on the app’s intuitive dashboard. Dealerships will know exactly where every vehicle is at all times and what level of charge it has, enabling a leaner management environment that frees up staff time for more productive tasks. And Maestro is scalable, enabling dealerships to capture data from each vehicle instantly, regardless of lot size.
Use Analytics Tools to Develop an EV Management Strategy
By offering dealerships an array of intuitive analytics tools, Maestro can turn lengthy manual processes into digital data-driven ones. For example, knowing the charge levels of all vehicles at all times can help dealerships build strategies to ensure that vehicles have enough charge to get to the right place at the right time.
What’s more, Maestro monitors and controls important other functions of the Future Energy EV charging environment, including lighting, video surveillance, and power usage. Maestro can also integrate with existing intelligent devices and systems on the dealership property to create insights on a single dashboard that’s easily accessible for all departments, breaking down silos. Having so many critical data points and functions accessible in one easy-to-use application can open up a world of possibilities in terms of inventory management and security.
Ensuring Vehicles Are Ready for Customers
Once a customer makes a decision about a car they want to test drive, much less buy, it’s critical for that vehicle to be in a drivable condition. Dealerships can use the analytics capability of the Future Energy EV solution to build a data-driven strategy around test drives. In essence, auto dealers can identify when they see a spike in test drives and make sure they have a bank of cars charged and ready.
Create a Consistent Experience
Developing a smart strategy to ensure optimum charge levels for test drives is a key part of the EV sales experience. The last thing a customer wants is to wait 30 minutes or longer while an EV charges. A wait time as short as 14 minutes could mean the difference between a $50,000 sale and a lost customer. The Future Energy EV charging environment can help dealerships avoid such scenarios by providing all the analytics tools needed to make sure vehicles are ready to go at all times.
As in any retail space, auto dealers rely in part on positive word-of-mouth and online reviews to sell cars. More than 90% of car buyers research online reviews before visiting car dealerships. It’s not enough to provide a positive sales experience for one customer: a dealership must do so again and again to ensure that the sales process meets or exceeds customer expectations every time. A smooth sales process buoyed by advanced analytics will encourage customers to spread the word in person and online.
Enhancing Power Management
As with any change, adopting a more robust EV infrastructure will present challenges for dealerships. For example, the need to charge EVs on site will lead to an increased electric bill—though it will also mean a reduction in fuel costs as EVs replace combustion-engine vehicles. Still, a dealership will need to be mindful of energy costs as they reconfigure their budgets; fortunately, the Future Energy solution can provide all the necessary support by virtue of its analytics capabilities and vast ChargePoint EV charger network.
Reimagine the Relationship with Utilities
Like any business, dealerships should always look for creative ways to reconfigure their operations and optimize costs. For example, a dealership might engage with their electricity utility to offset the cost of installing EV charging stations and/or the increased electricity usage.
Many utility companies offer deals and incentives for businesses that install EV chargers—but it’s important to note that networked chargers are required for certain utility incentives. “Networked” chargers are those that integrate with utility companies and have the capability to monitor power and other data. As a provider of networked ChargePoint chargers, Future Energy is in a prime position to help dealerships take advantage of deals and incentives from utility companies.
Strategize Power Use to Get the Best Deal
Dealerships can further optimize electricity costs associated with EV charging by carefully measuring electricity usage and monitoring electricity costs. Certain regions experience electricity usage spikes that increase electricity costs. It’s important to reconcile EV charging needs with fluctuating costs by developing strategies to charge EVs at times when electricity is cheapest.
With both reactive and proactive functionalities, Maestro, as a power asset management tool, makes it easy to develop said strategies by monitoring EV charging station electricity use and electricity cost. For example, Maestro can alert a dealership when electricity prices approach peak load demand, giving the dealership the opportunity to reconfigure their power usage (e.g., temporarily switch to a standby generator during hours of peak usage or adjust their charging schedules to non peak times).
Sourcing Financial Incentives
The cost of installing a Future Energy EV charging environment doesn’t have to come purely out of a dealership’s budget. Countless private and public institutions offer financial support for businesses looking to adopt EV infrastructure. However, many dealerships don’t have the time to research and apply for grants or otherwise take advantage of incentives. This is another area where Future Energy can help.
Identify Financial Assistance Programs
A core part of the Future Energy EV charging solution is identifying which financial assistance programs are relevant to specific businesses—including dealerships. This concierge-style service leverages Future Energy’s knowledge of and relationships with public and private entities to help dealerships and other businesses cost-efficiently adopt EV technology. Dealerships can cover up to 100% of their construction costs through all sorts of initiatives, including the following:
- Federal incentives: For businesses that install EV infrastructure, the federal government offers a tax credit of 30% of the cost of EV charging stations—up to $30,000 per address.
- State incentives: More and more states are offering tax breaks for businesses that install EV charging stations: in New York, for example, the Charge Ready NY program provides a rebate of $4,000 for each installed port.
- Local incentives: Local municipalities and private interests offer EV grants for a variety of reasons. Future Energy can help dealerships connect with entities like the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District, which offers an electric vehicle charging station program that can cover up to 80% of EV infrastructure costs.
Drastically Reduce Construction Costs
Identifying incentives is one thing—applying for and being awarded grant funding is another. The process of securing funding can be overwhelming to a dealership otherwise focused on normal business operations. For example, a dealership may need to produce and submit documentation like one-line electrical diagrams for funding consideration—a cumbersome process for many dealerships.
In addition to identifying lucrative grant and incentive opportunities, Future Energy can set up dealerships for success by following through with documentation necessary for funding applications, thereby going the extra mile to offset construction costs by as much as possible. What’s more, Future Energy can identify and go after incentives that strictly cover infrastructure upgrades that are necessary for EV chargers to be installed. One example is the Make-Ready Program in New York, which can cover up to 90% of the costs of preparing a site for EV charging.
Powering the Future
Electric vehicles are coming. Dealerships must prepare for the change or continue ceding sales to EV startups with direct-to-consumer models. Future Energy has listened to the concerns of dealerships across the United States and developed a comprehensive EV charging environment that addresses many of the common challenges that dealerships face when contemplating the adoption of EV technology. Making the shift to EV sales has never been easier.
Contact Future Energy today to learn more about our EV charging solution and how to prepare your dealership for an EV future.