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Volta CCO explains how Kroger partnership helps EV charging ‘fit seamlessly’ into everyday life

Brandt Hastings, chief commercial officer for Volta, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the company's new partnership with Kroger and why it's important to expand access to EV charging stations. Also, Canoo stock climbs after Walmart orders 4,500 EVs for last mile delivery.

Video Transcript


SEANA SMITH: 18 minutes ago until the closing bell, and the selling accelerating here in the final half hour of trading. Dow now off 267 points. S&P and NASDAQ both off just over 1%. Taking a look at the sector action, all 11 of the S&P sectors are in the red this afternoon. Energy by far the worst performer of the day. The XLE off just over 2%. We're also seeing some selling, consumer discretionary, healthcare, technology, all those sectors off just about 1%. Rachelle.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Meanwhile, a different story for shares of Canoo, which charged up this morning after the EV company announced that Walmart would be ordering at least 4,500 of its delivery vans. The big box retailer also has the option to buy another 10,000 if it chooses to expand that order.

Now, Canoo is the third such deal that Walmart has made for EVs, as it looks to electrify its delivery fleet. Earlier this year, the chain reserved 5,000 electric vans from General Motors subsidiary BrightDrop, as well as 1,100 from Ford's E-Transit cargo series. Now some of these are already in service, but Walmart says it plans to use the new fleet to expand its in-home delivery services from 6 million to 30 million households.

DAVE BRIGGS: All right, next time you go to the grocery store, you might be feeding your family and your electric vehicle. EV charging company Volta partnering with the largest supermarket chain in the country. Volta chief commercial officer, Brandt Hastings, with us now, as is senior autos reporter Pras Subramanian. Nice to see you, Brandt. So why the focus on Kroger, the biggest grocery store in the country, their customers? When and where can we see it roll out?

BRANDT HASTINGS: Absolutely. Well, great to be with you both today, and thanks for having me on your show. Taking a step back and thinking about Volta, Volta is an intelligent electric vehicle charging company, and we're a media company. And we're building our network in locations that millions of Americans already love to visit every day, Kroger being a great example of that. Others are including Walgreens, Albertsons, Macy's, Kohl's, and others.

And we're doing it with the single best solution in public charging. There are many EV charging options out there. And Volta is the only company that is thinking about moving beyond electrons and focused on helping retailers understand, engage, and attract their consumers. And I think the Kroger partnership is a fantastic example of us doing just that.

And when I think about the Kroger relationship, I break it down into three key areas. I think first and foremost, it's all about convenience, right? Kroger is the largest grocer in America with over 2,500 locations. I mean, millions of Americans are shopping at Kroger stores every week. And to provide critical fueling infrastructure at those locations is incredibly important to ensure that Kroger is attracting and retaining and delighting their customers.

I think the second important piece for your audience to keep in mind is scale. Because we are also a media company and a charging company, the addition of these stalls at Kroger locations gives us additional media screens for our team to monetize. And I think the third piece that's super interesting about the Kroger relationship is this idea of retail media.

And Kroger's retail media network, Kroger Precision Marketing, is going to use the Volta media screens, which sit steps outside of the front door of Kroger locations, and reach shoppers seconds before they walk into that store and decide which product to purchase to help their advertising partners achieve their commercial goals. And that also benefits Volta, and it benefits drivers as well.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Hey, Brent. This is Pras here. So talk to me about what the use cases are that actually mean the most for EV chargers. Is it always going to be in places like a grocery store or a gas station or a Starbucks? Or can we see them in other locations, especially for people like us who live in the city in urban environments?

BRANDT HASTINGS: Yeah, absolutely. And at Volta, the way that we're building our network is to build a public accessible charging network at locations that you already go to throughout your daily life. We want EV charging to fit seamlessly into your daily routine. Many EV drivers, like myself, do charge at home, if you can.

And the number of EV drivers that will be able to charge at home, particularly in urban environments, Pras, as you mentioned, is something to keep in mind, which is why we're so focused on building this charging network at places where people are already going and partnering with world class retailers, such as Kroger and Walgreens and Albertsons and others, to make this network fit seamlessly into their daily lives.

When we think about what's happening with the shift from carbon to electric-driven miles, it's going to represent a generational shift in consumer behavior, because you don't have to go to a gas station anymore. You're going to fuel at home, if you can, and wherever you're already going throughout the course of your daily routine. And that's why our team is so focused on partnering with leading retailers to help them understand this generational shift in behavior and to partner with them, to help them drive greater commercial outcomes for their core business.

So, simply put, we want to help them attract new customers, retain customers, develop better preference in brand loyalty to their stores so they can win greater share of wallet from consumers. And we also want to help our real estate partners and retailers advance against their sustainability goals, which, as we know, is playing an even greater role in the boardroom with investors and with consumers.

SEANA SMITH: Brandt, quickly here, a two-part question. When we were just showing a map there of the Volta stations across the country, there was an area there in the West where there's no charging stations. Do you have-- are you planning to prioritize that area when we talk about wide adoption here of EV vehicles? And then a second part, real quickly, is the Biden administration. What haven't you heard from the administration that you want to hear or needs to happen in order to see that mainstream adoption?

BRANDT HASTINGS: It's a fantastic question. And at Volta, we're taking a very data-driven approach to how we're building our global charging network. It's interesting. I recently read a piece of research by McKinsey that talked about how by the end of the decade, in order to keep up with the acceleration to electric mobility, there needs to be 1.2 million electric vehicle public chargers by 2030. That would represent an additional 1 million public chargers in the United States alone.

So that's a tremendous opportunity for a handful of companies that are focused on helping solve this macroeconomic problem. And at Volta, we're using data as the backbone for how we're making all of our decisions about where to go and when. We've developed a product that's proprietary to Volta called PredictEV that uses an array of signals, along with a machine learning and artificial intelligence model, to understand not only what the needs are around electric mobility and EV charging today, down to a specific location level, but also to have a very data informed view as to what they will be 5, 10, 15, and 20 years from now.

And you'll see our network will continue to grow over time geographically in covering more places on the map in terms of building our EV charging network. But it will also grow within locations where we already exist, because we're constantly going back to partners where we've already built critical fueling infrastructure. And we're expanding over time in those locations, as EV adoption increases. And then in terms of--

SEANA SMITH: Brandt Hastings of Volta, thanks so much for taking the time to join us. We appreciate it.

BRANDT HASTINGS: Thanks so much.