In 2018, Vic Shao started AMPLY Power, which bills itself as “a comprehensive electric vehicle charging and energy management provider” for fleets that use trucks, buses, vans, and light-duty vehicles. The company, which currently employs 48 people, strives to reduce the risks and challenges for operators who want to choose fleet electrification. In September, he spoke at the International Zero Emission Bus Conference on the topic of scaling fleets with the model of Charging-as-a-Service (CaaS). Shao spends free time outdoors, whether it’s hiking, camping, surfing, or scuba diving.
In this interview with School Bus Fleet, Shao discusses the outlook for fleet-charging infrastructure, the hurdles school districts face on the way to electrification, and AMPLY Power’s initiatives and partnerships.
1. How did you get started in the fleet-charging infrastructure business?
Prior to starting AMPLY Power, I founded Green Charge Networks, an energy storage company that manages electric demand and renewable deployment for customers, which was later acquired by ENGIE.
The genesis of AMPLY Power came from my experiences starting Green Charge Networks where I observed about 80% of the business we worked with had fleets of buses. It became apparent that fleet operators understood diesel fueling but not the operational, maintenance, and logistical nuances of electric fleet charging. I noticed that with a higher learning curve for understanding utility rates, site design considerations for EV charging, and optimal charging equipment for various vehicle and fleet types, electrification adoption was going to be slower, or could even fail due to poor investments or business decisions.
AMPLY Power was founded after taking two big insights from Green Charge Networks and ENGIE. One, taking on electrification is often too high of a learning curve for many entities. The push for electrification without proper expertise and management will hinder electrification adoption, and could also be financially detrimental to operators unaware of how to manage costs. Two, adoption is faster by offering a comprehensive offering. If one company handles all the work, guarantees performance, manages the cost of energy and operations, does the work on their behalf, and offers them a fixed fee for the contract term - the CEO is happy, operators are happy, and they have “one neck to choke” if things go wrong.
2. What are your expectations for growth in demand for your charging-as-a-service (CaaS) model in 2022?
We have already seen a great uptake in fleet electrification initiatives in just the past year due to statewide and national decarbonization goals. We expect that this trend will continue to increase as President Joe Biden makes zero-emission transportation projects a priority.
With that, there will be more of a need for comprehensive solutions designed to ease the transition from diesel operations to electric. The Charging-as-a-Service model takes away the complexities of electrification by managing the entire electrification process for the fleet customer, including design, deployment, operations, and maintenance.
Our service simplifies electrification by bundling the capital expenditures and complexity associated with establishing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including utility interconnection, operations and maintenance, energy cost and more, into a fixed price-per-electric-mile-driven usage fee. AMPLY’s robust service offering is the best on the market and can be applied to transit, school bus, heavy-duty and all fleets in between. Because of this, we expect to see a tremendous increase in growth over the next year.
3. What hurdles do school districts face when considering a shift to electric vehicles, such as school buses, and how does AMPLY help the districts overcome those obstacles?
One major challenge school bus fleets face is the cost. An electric school bus typically costs two to three times as much as a diesel bus. Most school districts don’t have this kind of money laying around to invest in electric buses. Luckily, the federal government recently announced that it would provide billions in funding for electric school buses in hopes to see 20 percent of school buses transition to electric. In addition, AMPLY Power helps school bus fleets with upfront costs related to charging infrastructure. School districts can pay a fixed price per mile rate without having to worry about getting hit with astronomical electricity bills since AMPLY’s OMEGA charge management software connects with their local utility to automatically charge the buses when rates are lowest.
4. Why did AMPLY also delve into solar energy as a resource for its customer’s charging options?
Many fleets are adopting electric vehicles to combat climate change, meet sustainability goals and reduce their carbon footprint. Our mission at AMPLY is to support that by offering cost-effective solutions that allow our customers to scale their EV operations. We’ve built upon this commitment by offering customers the opportunity to charge with 100-percent renewable energy. We began to tap into renewable energy--including solar--in order to drive this mission forward.
By leveraging solar parking canopies for onsite renewable energy generation, pairing it with our charge management software, we’re able to provide holistic and resilient solutions to fleets. Solar PPAs and managed charging can help fleet operators double-down on the cost savings that electric vehicles can deliver. Solar power generation is usually an afterthought, and we developed this unique solution after witnessing transit agencies struggling with the costs associated with developing an overhead charging system. By combining overhead charging, solar PPAs, and fixed charging-as-a-service rates, we are helping fleets bring predictability to their budgets with minimal CapEx.
In addition, all of our customers in California are charging with renewable electricity derived from solar and wind through the purchase of renewable energy credits, which we procure on behalf of our customers.
5. Could you please describe some initiatives kicked off by AMPLY in recent months, such as collaborating with Duke Energy? And is AMPLY planning anything else major in the coming months?
We collaborated with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions earlier this year to roll out and scale our solar canopy and overhead electric vehicle charging solution offering. This collaboration deploys a patent-pending Pantograph In-Depot Equipment (PIDE) Canopy Mount, which allows fleets--particularly transit fleets--to reduce the cost of EV charging while generating renewable electricity.
In the past few months, we have announced projects with several new organizations and fleet operators. Our most recent announcement details our partnership with WattTime, an environmental technology non-profit, where we will integrate our OMEGA software with their API to provide electric vehicle, bus, and truck customers with access to emission reductions data and the ability to automatically charge when GHG emissions from electricity generating plants are low.
In addition, we have launched a few heavy-duty truck customers, including projects with Red Hook Terminals and Manhattan Beer Distributors, along with ongoing collaboration with Volvo Trucks North America.
We are quickly scaling our operations and gearing up for many more exciting projects coming later this year and early next. We are excited to see this industry grow.