Jeff Wolfe, Tritium Americas: “Infra needed before EV takes off”
One of the most common complaints we hear from vehicle fleet managers considering the electrification of their fleet is the lack of recharging infrastructure available for their drivers.
To help resolve matters is power electronics engineering company Tritium, an international manufacturer of DC Fast charging systems for electric vehicles (EV) as well as other sustainable energy applications. Last week, Global Fleet had a chance to speak with Jeff Wolfe, the company's new president - as of February - for the Americas region.
As the new Americas president, could you tell me what you bring to Tritium and what is the main goal you are seeking to achieve this year?
Wolfe: My career has been focused on creating positive transition in energy, and I’ve had nationwide success doing so in the solar field. While working on adjacent new energy initiatives it became apparent that electric vehicle charging is fundamental to the transportation and grid transition required to create a clean energy future.
I was already aware of what Tritium was achieving in the EV space, and my role is to bring my experience – working to foster appropriate legislation and regulations in the Americas and guiding new energy initiatives into the mainstream markets – to this company, which is already leading the way in EV infrastructure and innovation in many respects across the world.
Could you give me an idea of Tritium's coverage area in the Americas as well as its expansion plans?
Wolfe: We have supplied a significant number of chargers to network and fleet operators and private organizations across the United States. And certainly, Canada, Latin America, and South America are markets which are within focus as we ramp up and expand our capabilities in the region.
We are seeing early stage interest in markets across the hemisphere. Electric Vehicles are dropping in price and are becoming accessible to a broader cross-section of people, but the infrastructure needs to be in place before the adoption of electric vehicles truly takes off.
This has been the case across the globe and the same holds true in the Americas. Our aim is to provide that infrastructure to governments, organizations and industries in a way that is economically sound for all parties, including their customers.
How long does it take to recharge an electric vehicle (EV) battery and what is Tritium doing to improve matters?
Wolfe: We’re speeding up charge times significantly, while making the chargers publicly accessible, easy to use and capable of being installed anywhere.
It’s worth looking at all various charge options to get a sense about how much you can charge. We like to speak in terms of how many miles you can add to a car in 10 minutes, since that is the time people are used to stopping for a short errand or at a convenience store.
Our Veefil-RT 50kW DC Fast Charger can add 30 miles of range in 10 minutes, while our Veefil-PK 350kW DC High Power Charger will change the game: it can add 220 miles in 10 minutes. Our chargers are significantly quicker and have EV drivers on the verge of returning to that gas-pump experience of charging quickly and departing.
For comparison, an average power plug (2.4kW) at home would add just over a mile every 10 minutes, while the typical 7kW EV home charger can add about 4.5 miles of range.
Tritium Veefil recharger (source: Tritium)
In what ways are government policies or regulations helping or hindering the advancement of the EV industry?
Wolfe: There are 52 electricity regulatory environments in the United States alone, so a hindrance is definitely a lack of conformity across state lines. And there is still conjecture about charger operators – are they electricity retailers or not? And is that across all states, or just a select few?
States could learn from California which has spurred the market through a mixture of clean air regulations, and which has, by a significant margin, the greatest uptake of electric vehicles in the country.
How are you helping corporate fleets, and what would you say is the main barrier for them right now?
Wolfe: We often deal with short and long-haul fleet managers, transit agencies, and governments with disparate and bespoke fleet needs. We work with each on a case-by-case basis, developing custom hardware programs.
A major barrier is upfront cost, for both private and public fleets. We have several partners who work with us to finance complete installations, and in some cases, the vehicles as well. We are seeing a rapid increase in both interest and action in all types of fleets.
Finally, could you highlight some of your customers?
Wolfe: Some of our biggest and most well-known customers are abroad and include Charge.net.nz, EDF Lumins, Fortum, Grønn Kontakt, IONITY and Stromnetz. Tritium's chargers are currently installed on EV charging networks on all major routes across the US and we have hundreds of operating units white labelled under other brands in the United States.
Last year Gilbarco Veeder-Root placed a minority investment in Tritium, which enables us to accelerate a number of strategic activities, including operational expansion in Europe and in the Americas. Our proactive investments in the US have been recognized by various government offices, which has led to significant working relationships with those departments.