By Martin Klässner, CEO, has·to·be gmbh
The Business of Mobility is a new Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.
For e-mobility to work it needs a network of charging infrastructure that’s convenient for customers and profitable for operators. Martin Klässner, CEO of has·to·be gmbh, explains how his company are supporting the growth of the industry by providing smart solutions for charge point operators (CPOs) and creating innovations that make life simpler for business and for end-users.
Smart software solutions for charging infrastructure
When Tesla launched the Roadster in 2008 it put e-mobility under the spotlight. At the time I was working in the tech industry and charge stations were an aspect of my business. While many players rushed to develop the hardware, I was interested in how software could improve the processes behind charging infrastructure. So in 2013 we launched has·to·be with the aim of providing smart software solutions for charging infrastructure amidst a growing e-mobility industry.
The challenge of simplifying a complex business
When we started the company, we realised that fuelling combustion vehicles is totally different to fuelling electric ones. Whereas gasoline is a monopolised commodity that needs expensive infrastructure to distribute, electricity is something everyone already has; even fast charging units are comparatively easy to install. We foresaw a distributed infrastructure for recharging, unlike the infrastructure for gasoline. This would create opportunities for smaller players, and would also lead to much complexity in terms of calibration, billing, control, servicing etc. Not only complexity, but opportunity as well, given that the e-mobility revolution coincided with a revolution in digital solutions and cloud-based software. We also foresaw legal and compliance complexity as governments sought to keep pace.
Given that electricity is readily available throughout Europe, we figured that the real challenge would not be in developing the hardware but in the software. Our aim was to look after the backend processes for businesses so they could focus on core concerns. Of course, this is not straightforward. In Europe we have multiple territories with different regulations and policies. We have hundreds of types of charging stations and the market is intermediated not only by charge point operators (CPOs) but by e-mobility service providers (EMPs) and roaming platforms.
Solutions for every possible client with every possible need
Early on we took a decision that if we were going to focus on software, we needed to be hardware agnostic. We needed to create solutions for every possible client with every possible need. And since we were business-facing, we wanted to help clients serve their customers and build their brands accordingly. Therefore, we decided on the principle of white labelling, whereby clients could retain their brand look and feel for customer-facing apps.
Our be.ENERGISED cloud-based software platform is the foundation of almost all our offerings. It allows us to operate more than 30 000 charge points in over 30 countries across Europe and has to date recorded four million charge logs. It’s compatible with all 640 types of charging stations and through our roaming network can facilitate transactions at a total 180 000 charge points. What does this mean for the average small or medium-size business that wants to become a charge point operator? How can they maximise customers while reducing the hassle of billing of tax? And how can they charge differentially according to, for example, a loyalty scheme?
Our be.ENERGISED platform covers all this and more. CPOs who are part of our COMMUNITY option can open their service to external customers, leverage our marketing capability through the driver’s station locator, as well as our agreements with EMPs. Thanks to be.ENERGISED (with its various add-on features) we can turn almost any CPO into a convenient service provider for EMP customers. The CPO is credited at month-end, minus our service fees, and we cover any payment defaults.
Seamless infrastructure and convenient service for all e-mobility users
Thankfully, the world is waking up to the madness of single-car-ownership and combustion vehicles as car sharing, ridesharing and the full range of smart solutions, integrated with existing public transport, becomes established in Europe. The idea of mobility as a service (MaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) is helping facilitate the change. The key is simplicity. Consumers will be won over by cost savings and by the ease of using a digital app to get around. E-mobility is of course becoming highly competitive. But our aim is not so much to beat the competition; it’s to help businesses deliver a great service to customers. We will be part of an overall solution whereby in the future all e-mobility users in Europe will have the convenience of an app that guides them to the optimal available charge point where they can conduct the transaction with a few a taps on their device.
To get us there we need collaborate, hence our founder membership of the ChargeUp Europe alliance who are pressing for more investment in charging infrastructure and the elimination of market barriers in Europe. We’ve also formed a strategic partnership with the Volkswagen Group, who have committed to a 100% electric fleet by 2050.
We are active in the industry and in lobbying government in the interests of setting sound policy and standards in calibration, VAT, licensing and the myriad other issues facing the charging industry.