The electric car market continues to grow rapidly, experiencing another sales boom in Europe in 2021. And although the number of electric cars on the roads of our country remains relatively small, but it is gradually increasing, and these cars need infrastructure to charge batteries. One of the manufacturers of EV charging stations in Ukraine is UGV Chargers, which is also developing its own network of charging stations. NaftoRynok asked Eduard Trotsenko, the founder and CEO of UGV Chargers, about the product line, formats of cooperation with gas stations, demand for charging service, etc.

NaftoRynok: Tell us a little about the history of the company: how this business started and what are the main stages of its development.

Our company has been in the market of automatic process control systems for over 25 years. The reference is in all industries, including military and space, more than 1,000 projects have been implemented in 40 countries. Since 1996, the company has had the status of Siemens Solution Partner. It now has more than 200 employees. Three years ago, the idea arose to develop the direction of EV charging stations. We started production with simple slow AC charging stations, wrote software in parallel and created a billing system. Then we have developed a series of fast EV charging stations with a capacity of 40 kW, 60 kW, 80 kW, 120 kW and 160 kW, and a year ago began their production. To date, we have produced approximately 100 charging stations, of which almost 20 are – fast charging stations.

NaftoRynok: Where is the production located, and what is its scale? How many charging stations are produced per month?

The main production in Zaporozhye. Production power allows producing up to ten fast charging stations per month. Currently, the plans are to produce 20-25 stations a month.

NaftoRynok: Where do you buy components?

The main parts we buy in Europe, the other - is certified China.

NaftoRynok: Who are your main customers? Do you sell your stations abroad?

At present, our main clients are large EV charging station operators, taxi services, developers and investors developing the charging station business. We are negotiating to establish sales abroad.

NaftoRynok: Do you have partnerships with gas station operators? If so, with which ones?

We cooperate with Coral and Bars gas stations. Our charging stations are installed on their complexes.

NaftoRynok: What formats of cooperation can you offer to gas station owners?

There are several options. The first is the sale of charging stations. The gas station operator buys our charging station and can integrate it into its network of charging stations (if any). We have also developed a system through which our station can be integrated into the existing filling station system and pay for charging through the cash register of the gas station.

The second option. Installation of stations under the affiliate program. We are given a place at the gas station, we install a charging station, and the profit is divided in half.

The third option. We pay for the rent, install EV charging station and take the profit from charging sessions.

NaftoRynok: What is your pricing policy compared to European (as well as other Ukrainian) manufacturers?

 We are cheaper than European counterparts, but a little more expensive than Ukrainian manufacturers, because our stations are assembled from European components. You get a charging with European quality at the Ukrainian price. Our charging stations also have a European quality certificate.

NaftoRynok: When buying a charging station, does the customer have the opportunity to use your billing software?

Yes, but he can connect the charging station to other operators. Our stations support the multi-billing function.

We have a fully vertically integrated system of EV charging stations. And at the same time it is very flexible. Our charging stations can be integrated with equipment and billing systems from other manufacturers. And at the same time we have our own billing, which can be integrated with electric chargers from other manufacturers.

Now we are also working with colleagues on the issue of so-called roaming: so that our customers can use the services of other operators - our partners.

NaftoRynok:  How does the technical support system work?

The company provides technical support and service 24 hours a day, seven days and a week.

NaftoRynok: What are the tariffs for the charging service?

The tariff depends on the current price of electricity and location. They are different in our entire network, and start from 4 UAH / kWh. These include the cost of electricity, the cost of services and depreciation.

NaftoRynok: If a cafe or gas station bought a charging station, can they set the tariff they want?

In principle, yes, but it must be both cost-effective and competitive. After all, the market still dictates the conditions.

NaftoRynok: What is the economics of EV charging stations in Ukraine?

The economy depends on many factors. But the dynamics are positive and the number of charging sessions is growing every month. Charging stations can sell from 500 kWh to 10,000 kWh per month.

NaftoRynok: What is the average payback period?

According to the business plan, charging should pay off in five years. But maybe faster, maybe longer, it depends on the location, the number of charging sessions. Before installing a charging station, we always analyze the prospects, the relevance of the place.

NaftoRynok: Please tell us about the features and functionality of the UGV Chargers mobile application.

Through the mobile application you can search for stations, manage the charging process, make payments, view history and statistics of charging sessions. Customers of our charging network can be charged not only through the mobile application, but also through the website. It is adapted for mobile phone screens and has the same functionality as a mobile application.

It is important that it is possible to charge the electric car in guest mode,  without registration. It's simple: come, scan the QR code at the charging station, enter the required number of kWh, pay (enter your bank card details) - and charge. If you do not charge for the full amount, the rest is returned to the card.

We have invested a lot and built our own comprehensive system, which allows us to respond quickly to any needs, to make changes. Now it has become fashionable to automatically recognize the electric car by internal protocol when it is connected to the station. If the car is already in the database, it is recognized by the VIN code, and the customer does not need to attach a card or do anything else. The system immediately understands which car is approaching.

NaftoRynok: How does the company develop its own network of EV charging stations: does it install stations at its own expense or sell them to third parties?

We install some stations at our own expense, sell some, and connect third-party stations.

NaftoRynok: There is a tendency to install higher power charging stations. Is it difficult to find places where this can be done at no extra cost?

 There are really few such places, but we are trying to find them and integrate our stations into the operating capacity. But if they are not enough, we have a solution with solar panels and energy storage. One of our developments is DC / DC charging, that is connection to tram and trolleybus lines. There is the necessary infrastructure, sometimes it needs modernization, but there is enough capacity.

EV charging station is connected in the same way as a trolleybus, but the moment the trolleybus arrives, it can reduce power or turn off altogether. We have already implemented one of such decisions. It is now working in test mode right next to our office in Zaporozhye.

NaftoRynok: And if the gas station has low capacity, what can be the solution?

You can put the battery and store energy during periods when the load is low. We also have ready-made software for gas stations to synchronize EV charging stations with the gas station cash register.

NaftoRynok: How do you see the development of the Ukrainian charging station market in the next 5-10 years?

As all automakers move to the production of electric vehicles, the market for fast charging stations will grow to ensure the free movement of electric vehicles. The capacity of the charging stations will increase, which will allow you to charge electric cars in 5-10 minutes, while now Tesla at our EV charging stations charges in 25 minutes.

NaftoRynok: What are you working on now?

We are currently designing mobile electric chargers (this is like an ambulance on the roads for emergency charging of an electric car). It is a car with a battery and a diesel generator that can drive anywhere and charge the car. Another area in which we work is charging for buses with a capacity of 300 kW.

Interviewed by Yevhen Skrybka