The Growth of a Tech Start-Up in High-Impact Spaces
Working with a tech start-up this semester was an educational experience that felt refreshing, empowering and impactful. The client, Voltpost, Inc. is launching a demonstration and pilot program to retrofit lampposts with Level 2 EV charging and equipping the technology with cloud-based software for booking, billing and connecting. Not only does lamppost charging allow for minimal physical impact on the street landscape, but provides accessible infrastructure in dense urban spaces and places. Voltpost is an exciting entrepreneurial group that certainly faces barriers to market-entry and competitive recognition, but hosts an abundance of opportunity and niche value in the ever-growing EV industry. As our team dived into sustainability consulting, we integrated our project’s impact into a larger business strategy. We hope that our project will support Voltpost in navigating the challenges and opportunities they will face as they launch their cutting-edge technology.
Voltpost’s entrance into the EV market couldn’t be timelier. The NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability is aggressively advocating for policies to reduce barriers for EV charging, while the Public Service Commission is putting $700 M into the Make Ready Program to fund offset incentives for EV charging infrastructure costs. In order to get an idea of where Voltpost could make a splash as they plan their pilot program, they asked SUMANI to prepare a priority-siting and location analysis of zip codes in NYC and Westchester. These zip codes were found using a methodology the team created through initial research of EV siting strategies, evaluation of datasets and scrubbing, and the weighting of such datasets.
Our research came from an abundance of existing reports on EV siting, with authorship ranging from the National Renewable Energy Lab, NY DOT to urban planning consulting firms. For example, the report “Curb Enthusiasm: Deployment Guide for On-Street Electric Vehicle Charging,” explained that there are different planning scenarios which may direct you to different data criteria, and thus different location analyses results. The high-utilization scenario would recommend areas with car-dependent employees and residents, as well as car-driving visitors, and demonstration of EV demand in residential areas. Alternatively, a high-visibility scenario would focus on areas that have streets with commercial overlays and offer high turnover opportunity for station siting.
We took this research and shared our proposed method of map siting to the client. They shared with us that their business model revolves around a residential-heavy market, and so we took our initial understanding of EV charging siting and refined to match the client’s needs. By the end of the semester, the quantitative-portion of our project was complete with the following 2 analyses:
We concluded our GIS-mapping with the following two analyses to provide our final zip code recommendations off of:
- Zip codes in the whole area with above a 2% EV registration percentage
- Zip codes in the top 25% percentile of car ownership, and the corresponding EV registration percentages
Based on the yellow and red stars, the analyses logically give different results of zip code priority. The first analysis offers a high-demand scenario, in which you are looking at areas that have the highest percentages of EV’s, and thus would have the greatest need for EV charging. The second analysis offers a high-incentivization and high-utilization scenario, in which these communities rely heavily on vehicle ownership, as they have the highest car counts in NYC and Westchester.
We provided Voltpost with multiple other layers that they could use to further weight their zip code priorities. These layers included residential/commercial zoning, existing charging stations, public transportation routes, and demographic data such as income, property value and commuter base. In order to get some ideas on how they might effectively utilize various data tools and dataset criteria, we engaged in a qualitative analysis, as well.
Though data can be a great tool for any company or organization to narrow their focus of participation and presence, there are so many important conversations and processes that must happen to make a successful business model. Paired with our GIS zip code priorities, we provided Voltpost with policies, political representatives, and community organizations that could empower Voltpost to become a leader in EV’s in each zip code. With this knowledge, Voltpost will be equipped to make strategic decisions about which communities of NYC and Westchester they could empower and work with to make climate-friendly changes. Community-based stakeholder engagement not only incorporates the foundational pillars of environmental justice and equity into the deployment approach, but ensures trusted and valued relationships that will spur Voltpost’s market growth and success. We also gave Voltpost the names of local political representatives to kick-start garnering city buy-in for smooth deployment.
Voltpost can use the tools we provided them in this project to increase access to innovative funding opportunities, policy advocacy and community outreach. With so many optimistic partnerships in their path ahead, Voltpost will have a formulated and informed strategy to begin retrofitting lampposts for the future.