The Business of Charging | August 14, 2018
Customer Voices: A Conversation With Maverik CFO, Andre Lortz
Across the country, the adoption of electric mobility is accelerating—and drivers, businesses and governments are taking note. As more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the road, deploying the charging infrastructure that will power the influx of new EV models expected in the coming years is imperative.
Growing demand for EVs isn’t just on the coasts any more. Around the country, states are seeing dramatic increases in demand for EVs. For example, Utah experienced the highest rate of EV driver growth nationwide in 2017. And the interest in EVs got the attention of leaders in the state. Utah has since committed to the creation of an EV charging corridor that will electrify a 402-mile stretch of the I-15 corridor, as well as portions of I-80 from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Park City and SLC to Nevada. In addition, Rocky Mountain Power, a utility serving more than one million customers in the region, has created an innovative new program that incentivizes commercial (non-residential) customers and owners of multifamily dwellings to install charging infrastructure at their locations around the state. And businesses all over Utah are enthusiastically preparing for the coming mass adoption of EVs.
Maverik, the largest independent fuel marketer in the Intermountain West, is one of the businesses paving the way for electric vehicle (EV) adoption in Utah, one charging solution at a time. With incentive programs offered through local municipalities and Rocky Mountain Power, Maverik is installing EV charging infrastructure and helping to lay the groundwork for the fueling network of the future.
In a region of the country that is still in its e-mobility infancy, CFO Andre Lortz shares the company’s adventures on the road to EV charging, including some lessons learned and his advice for other retailers.
Locations: Salt Lake City, Utah (HQ) with stores in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming
Industry: Retail, convenience store and gas station chain
Solution: 16 DC fast charging ports managed with ChargePoint’s networking capabilities: financial reporting, pricing policies, unique drivers and more
Tell me about yourself and your role at Maverik.
I’m really a special projects guy. It’s one of the fun aspects of my job as CFO. I’ve worked on solar projects, a remote facility management system and, now, installing EV charging infrastructure. The technology is the fun part—my wife calls me a “geek.”
What drove Maverik’s decision to invest in EV charging?
We started a solar installation project a couple of years ago with our stores. The same contact that partnered with us to process solar credits for the state of Utah put together the campaign to electrify I-15 from Salt Lake City (SLC) to St. George. The pitch was for drivers to take a “green vacation” to the national parks in Utah. Maverik evaluated this idea and started to apply for grant money.
A short time after, we also started talking to Rocky Mountain Power about incentives, and they encouraged us to take advantage of their program.
What does your EV charging infrastructure footprint currently look like?
There is now a good corridor of DC fast charging between SLC and St. George, with another out West heading towards Nevada. We’re working to identify 4-5 additional stations to install each year over the next five years.
How did you get started and why did you decide on ChargePoint?
Well, we learned what it means to put in an EV charging station.
We had to really educate ourselves and start investigating who the different operators are who provide EV charging.
“We knew that we wanted to be in the right ecosystem, make it easy on customers and we definitely did not want to run point-of-sale on EVs.” – Andre Lortz, CFO, Maverik
We met with 3 different EV operators and it became apparent that ChargePoint was much more organized and on their game than everyone else. They were a lot more sustainable. ChargePoint had a better philosophy around how to build the customer experience for charging.
We also talked to people in the local community with EVs. The Leaders for Clean Air Organization were promoting EVs in Salt Lake Valley. They came and met with us as well. When we asked their feedback and what makes the most sense given all the options for charging and what EV drivers were using, they said most EV owners have 3-4 apps on phone to charge, and almost everyone said they preferred ChargePoint’s app. The feedback was the app was better, easier to use and it easily tells you where to go to find what’s available.
What advice would you give to your peers who are exploring the idea of putting in EV charging infrastructure?
Educate yourself: I’ve encouraged peers to learn as much as you can, take a long-term view, think beyond today. It’s not something you drop at every store. Think about where to put them and why you are putting it there; for us, it only made sense in interstate and travel corridors.
Talk to your local community: Listen to customer feedback. Research different vendors. Look into federal and utility incentives.
Go in with eyes wide open: For us, it’s not a big revenue source that will change your business dynamics, but we understand that. When most people are charging either at work or at home, our stores become secondary or emergency charging centers.
It’s not always going to be easy: We had to work across a lot of jurisdictions and utilities, large and small, that are also doing this for the first time. Luckily, we found good partners: electrical contractors who were ChargePoint certified and had great resources on the construction side to work with.
“Educate yourself: I’ve encouraged peers to learn as much as you can, take a long-term view, think beyond today.” – Andre Lortz, CFO, Maverik
Have you received any feedback from customers about the charging stations?
We heard feedback initially when we set rates that ticked off people. Customers felt they were paying more to get hooked up than the power they get. We reached out to them to engage in a conversation about what’s fair and educated them on the economics of it. In the end, we modified our pricing approach to pay by the kWh rate rather than an hourly fee.
Last week I got email from a customer who realized we have the charging stations. He was so excited that he didn’t have to take his truck anymore and can take his EV. He asked where other chargers will be placed. It was great! It’s always going to be one customer at a time—we always have that focus—but are looking forward to more ways to impact more customers over time.
Any final words of wisdom?
I participate in a lot of panel discussions on this topic and one question I always get asked is:
“Is this going to destroy the convenience store business?” and my response is always, “Not as long as there is a human bladder involved.”
Maverik fuels adventures in more than 300 locations across 11 western states, making it the largest independent fuel marketer in the Intermountain West.
Andre Lortz joined Maverik as their CFO in 2014. He is responsible for the company’s financial reporting, data analytics, internal audit, loss prevention, planning and treasury functions. Prior to joining Maverik, Andre was the CFO for FJ Management, Maverik’s parent company. He has also served as the CFO for Big West Oil.