In this interview, Laura McDermott speaks with founder and CEO Heather Hochrein about the innovative work of her organisation, EVmatch; which is helping to help bring wider access to charging points for electric vehicles across the USA. Subscribe now to read more on the subject.
Heather is deeply committed to creating an inclusive clean energy economy. Prior to founding EVmatch, she spent five years in senior leadership roles at Rising Sun Energy Centre, a leading green training, employment, and energy efficiency retrofit organization based in Berkeley, California. She is well versed in climate policy and brings extensive utility and energy management experience from her time working with Pacific Gas and Electric Company. She holds a master’s degree in environmental science and management from University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Bachelor of Science in molecular environmental biology from University of California, Berkeley.
Heather, firstly I just want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us at The Beam. We are honoured to have the chance to share the ground-breaking work that you have been doing in the USA to make electric vehicles more accessible to the general public.
From what I gather, EVmatch evolved out of a university project during your undergraduate degree at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Can you tell us about this progression and how EVmatch has matured into the globally renowned organisation that it is today?
Yes, that’s right. EVmatch grew out of a deep passion for environmental protection and the desire to drive widespread adoption of cleaner electric vehicles. The concept for EVmatch started as a group Master’s thesis project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My team and I identified electric vehicles as an important solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollutants, but also EV charging as a major barrier to adoption. After extensive customer discovery and market research, the idea for EVmatch was born! Through an app-based sharing application, we found we could leverage the growing number of private charging stations to support those without home charging access. We launched the EVmatch service in the spring of 2017 in California, expanded nationally in 2019, and currently serve over 5,000 EV drivers in 43 US states.
Just for our readers who may not have heard about EVmatch before and the revolutionary work you are doing, can you explain to them what exactly it is that you do as a company?
EVmatch is a peer-to-peer network for electric vehicle (EV) charging, that harnesses the power of sharing to immediately create more reliable charging options. Our mission is to accelerate EV adoption by making charging easy, reliable, and accessible to all. Through our flexible software, individuals and business owners rent out their private charging stations, earning money and supporting more EVs on the road. EV drivers leverage our network of shared charging stations to easily find, reserve, and pay for charging with a few quick clicks on the EVmatch app. The app includes reservation, payment processing, access control, and group management features to help property owners easily manage and monetize their charging stations however they see fit. Coupled with compatible Wi-Fi-enabled Level 2 EV charging hardware, our software provides the lowest cost charging management solution for businesses and multi-unit dwellings.
"Our flexible software, innovative approach, and commitment to improved access will result in new customer use cases and strategic partnerships as the energy and transportation sectors transform in the coming decade."
EVmatch was recently awarded The Keeling Curve Prize – an annual award bestowed on organisations with a proven track record of taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Congratulations! As someone who is clearly very committed to creating a more sustainable future for all, what has this accolade meant to you on a personal level? And, what has it meant to EVmatch as an organisation?
On a personal level, I am extremely proud of this award as I am deeply concerned about the threat of global climate change and have dedicated my career to creating meaningful and scalable climate solutions. The Keeling Curve Prize selection committee consists of climate scientists, activists, and business leaders, and it is truly an honour to be selected as a winner by this renowned group of climate experts. As an organization, EVmatch is thrilled to see our innovative work not only recognized, but directly supported with funding to expand our services into new communities.
You have confirmed that the $25,000 – which is given to all winners of The Keeling Curve Prize – will be put towards helping disadvantaged communities in Chicago. Tell us more about your plans for this.
Yes, that’s right. This award will support expansion of our peer-to-peer electric vehicle (EV) charging network into underserved communities in Chicago, IL, that have virtually no access to public EV charging stations. This prize money will go to local businesses and non-profit organizations in Chicago to pay for charging hardware and installation services and then they’ll be able to make those chargers available to the public through our EVmatch software.
Chicago is a particularly underserved city in terms of publicly available charging infrastructure. Outside of the downtown area, there’s very limited public EV charging infrastructure and most residents don’t have home charging options. Chicago has a high percentage of renters and apartment dwellers and we saw an opportunity to leverage local community businesses and churches located in neighbourhoods that will benefit from having a Level 2 charging station that’s available to the public.
Our demonstration project will be leveraged as a case study, showing how peer-to-peer charging can cost effectively address the critical shortage of EV charging infrastructure in dense, urban communities.
Cities are having to work harder now than ever before to reach their Greenhouse Gas Reduction targets. You have mentioned in prior interviews that the steps you are taking at EVmatch could aid cities in reaching such goals. On this note, do you have any plans to expand globally as you reach out to cities in need of help? Or perhaps these cities will be approaching you?
We certainly have plans to expand globally as the EV market expands and our internal capacity as a company grows. We do not have any immediate plans to expand outside of the US, but with the right partner and funding opportunity, we may expedite those plans. We do often get approached by EV drivers in global markets and utilities who see value in our innovative approach to EV charging. Recently, we’ve been receiving many requests for expansion of our services throughout Europe and Latin America.
Are there any particular challenges that you have come across at EVmatch? Or do you perceive that as you continue to grow as a company you will encounter any in particular?
We face one of the same challenges that the entire EV charging industry faces, the chicken-or-egg problem as it relates to investments in charging infrastructure and EV sales. Without adequate charging demand, property owners are hesitant to invest in charging infrastructure and without enough charging, drivers are hesitant to switch to EVs. This problem is particularly pronounced within the multi-family housing segment. Right now, most EV drivers are not renters or multi-family residents. And some might argue that that’s because of the high cost of the EV, but limited access to reliable public EV charging stations and limited home charging access really seems to be a huge barrier to adoption. At EVmatch, we’re working to make it easier for multi-family property owners to install and manage charging stations by offering affordable hardware and flexible, low-cost sharing software. By getting reservable, shared charging stations into more multi-family properties, we know renters and apartment dwellers will then make the switch to electric.
Finally, where do you see the future of providing clean energy for electric vehicles being in 10 year’s time? And, what do you think the future holds for EVmatch?
In California, we have a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and we’re on track to meet that goal. Twenty nine of the 50 US states have a renewable portfolio standard and these policies are certainly driving up the overall percentage of electricity that’s generated from renewable energy sources. I’d like to see all US states adopt similar clean energy and EV adoption goals as California, which also calls for 5 million zero emissions vehicles on the road by 2030. These aggressive clean energy and transportation goals will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will help mitigate the most devastating impacts of climate change.
I see a bright future for EVmatch in this ever expanding EV market. Our flexible software, innovative approach, and commitment to improved access will result in new customer use cases and strategic partnerships as the energy and transportation sectors transform in the coming decade. We’re excited for what’s ahead!