ChargePoint Recruits Local Electricians for Charger Station Maintenance
Charging station companies have an uphill battle. Unlike gas stations, the small towers that charge electric vehicles house incredibly complex hardware and software that has to interact with dozens of vehicle makes and models. The result has been -- in many instances -- a less-than-ideal experience in terms of reliability with some frustrated EV owners wondering if they made the correct vehicle-purchasing decision.
To help alleviate those frustrations, charging station company ChargePoint, recently announced a plan to work towards an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment aka charging stations) uptime of nearly 100 percent. To pull that off the company will institute predictive analysis, proactive monitoring of stations, and will deploy machine-learning models to determine if a station is about to go offline. But it'll be the feet on the ground fixing the broken stations that will make this idea work and for that, the company is offering training to an army of local electricians.
Rick Wilmer, ChargePoint COO told SAE, that the company is making a significant investment in training local electricians to install, inspect, and repair charging stations. ChargePoint would hire the technicians on a project-by-project basis as contractors.
To get the technicians up to speed, the goal is to build a certificated online video-based curriculum that's engaging and easy to digest according to Wilmer. Once out in the field, the technicians will also be able to access a library of on-demand videos each tailored to the specific architecture of a site to help with the installation and maintenance of stations. But it's more than just teaching electricians how to fix devices in a vacuum.
"Beyond that, what we really want to do is build a community around this whole initiative," Wilmer said. The idea is to create both an online and physical collective of individuals who can reach out to one another, share best practices, and offer or receive help when needed. "That's the ultimate vision," Wilmer told SAE.
Wilmer realizes that to pull this off will be a major investment. It's one ChargePoint seems willing to take on. Wilmer told SAE that in the field, when a charging station is suffering from issues, more often than not, it's because the station was incorrectly installed.
The company's ultimate goal is to have a reliable charging infrastructure that people take for granted. To recreate the act of pulling up to a gas station pump without second guessing its ability to deliver petroleum.
For ChargePoint, it all starts with a licensed electrician. "That's kind of the minimum," Wilmer said. The COO does note that there could be tasks for non-electricians to accomplish. These would involve fixing or replacing parts that have been physically damaged and don't require dealing with the electrical components.
ChargePoint plans to get as many electricians as possible certified to work on charging stations.
To help deploy this charging station army, ChargePoint is also building a network operation center. As data from stations comes in the company will be able to determine if a station is down or is about to go offline based on crunching historical information of other locations that have experienced issues.
This is in addition to station owners that will be calling on ChargePoint to fix stations. "Being able to ingest all that data, analyze it, correlate it, and turning it turn into something actionable, is that that's essentially what the NOC (Network Operation Center) is," Wilmer said.
It's a holistic approach to charging station installation and maintenance. A system that monitors the health of stations and deploys trained electricians to keep those stations up and running so that EV owners don't leave in frustration but instead with a topped-up battery.
For those interested, ChargePoint plans to launch its technician training in early 2024.