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Ford Pro and Xcel Energy Announce Unique Partnership

Ford Pro and Xcel Energy Announce Unique Partnership

The News: Ford Pro, the commercial division within Ford Motor Company, and Xcel Energy, a national leader in clean energy, announced a unique collaboration to support the deployment of 30,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging ports in Xcel Energy service territories across the US by 2030 with most upfront costs offset by Xcel for qualifying business fleet customers. Dubbed The 30×30 Initiative, the partnership will leverage Xcel Energy’s broader Electric Vehicle Supply Infrastructure (EVSI) program to scale EV adoption and increase access to charging infrastructure for business fleets across Xcel Energy’s service areas in the US. Ford Pro will offer its suite of end-to-end charging solutions to Xcel Energy business customers as part of the effort. Read the full press release on the Ford website.

Ford Pro and Xcel Energy Announce Unique Partnership

Analyst Take: Ford Pro and Xcel Energy’s 30×30 Initiative feels like the right kind of model to scale the EV charging infrastructure across the US, and particularly in states where EV infrastructure investments have been lagging. And although the project’s 30,000-charging-ports-by-2030 target is ambitious, this exact type of partnership is what makes it achievable. Starting in 2024, 30×30 will be available through Xcel Energy’s EVSI program in Colorado and Wisconsin. The program will seek opportunities for expansion in future states over the next 6 years within Xcel Energy’s service territories, pending regulatory approvals, including Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas. The following sections highlight a few key points:

Targeting

The first is that the project specifically targets business and commercial needs, not consumer needs. In other words, these charging stations are not meant for regular EV drivers. They are meant to be used by commercial EV vehicles. Think construction and surveying companies, mining companies, distribution companies, service providers, and so on.

Upfront Costs

Ford Pro will offer its suite of end-to-end charging solutions to Xcel Energy business customers as part of the effort, but most upfront costs for the installation of the EV charging equipment and the equipment itself will be offset by Xcel Energy. This approach all but eliminates the kind of friction that comes with the cost of having to invest in charging equipment. Aside from the obvious benefits of having an energy company cover most of the costs of having charging ports installed, this setup addresses commercial EVs’ chicken-and-egg problem: With the charging infrastructure taken care of, businesses interested in being part of the program and transitioning a portion of their vehicles to EVs will be free to focus on acquiring EVs without having to also budget for the charging infrastructure that would have otherwise been a financial and logistical hurdle.

Once an EVSI-enrolled business meets program requirements, Xcel Energy will install the charging infrastructure, which includes Ford Pro Charging equipment and post-installation customer service and support, in the customer’s service location. Ford Pro’s charging hardware includes 48- and 80-amp charger options for overnight charging with Level 2 AC charging, and extended DC Fast Charger options in 180 kW and 240 kW, which should provide fleet operators and their drivers more flexibility based on their specific needs.

Demand Generation 101

Given Ford Pro’s expanding lineup of work-ready EVs such as the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup and the E-Transit van, one has to expect that Ford also hopes that developing its own charging infrastructure for commercial customers will act as a demand generation accelerator for those vehicles. The combination of brand alignment, marketing intelligence, and consultative approach to helping businesses transition to EVs seems like the perfect strategy to boost sales of certain vehicle types to specific customer segments in states where adoption has been hindered by an absence of reliable, convenient, and use-case-dedicated charging infrastructure.

Data, Logistics, Intelligence, and Optimization

EV charging infrastructure is not just about charging vehicles. It is also a data, logistics, intelligence, and fleet optimization play. Business fleets will also have access to Ford Pro Intelligence’s smart charging software and connected solutions such as Ford Pro Telematics. The integrated solutions are designed to help increase uptime and lower operational costs by giving businesses visibility to data from their vehicles and their chargers. This data will make it easier for organizations to make sure that their vehicles are charged and ready when they need them while optimizing the charging process. Ford Pro and Xcel Energy also plan to analyze telematics data from vehicles participating in the initiative to promote commercial charging during off-peak times. Doing so not only helps customers save money but also encourages them to naturally play a part in reducing electric grid emissions.

Best Model Partnership

This partnership bears all of the hallmarks of the best model for energy companies and EV makers to collaborate on building the type of charging infrastructure quickly and at scale that is necessary to boost EV adoption across the US, particularly in underserved states and market segments. Energy companies already have much of the infrastructure in place and can also handle the regulatory hurdles that automakers and tech companies might not be as experienced in dealing with. EV OEMs, for their part, can provide all of the endpoint charging technology. The data angle will be a mixed bag of data collected by Ford Pro and Xcel, and although we do not yet know what that will look like, I have some idea and will be circling back to this topic in a few months with more details.

30×30 feels a lot like a massive expansion of a pilot program. Eight states might not feel like a lot, but considering the surface area these states cover, this endeavor is massive. And given the program’s specificity (business customers only), I expect that it will not be the only one of its kind. This approach looks like a repeatable model, and I will not be surprised to see it take off with different partners across the country before long.

One final thing: As of now, I do not know for sure if municipalities, county governments, and state governments can qualify for this specific program, but the concept of automakers and utilities working together to provide low-cost charging infrastructure for EVs seems especially well adapted to the growing electrification needs of public works and government fleets. To be continued.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Image Source: Ford

Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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