EV Leaders: Om Shankar, Vice President & General Manager, Konect

Mobility giant, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, recently launched Konect, the innovative new brand bringing EV charging to traditional forecourts. Konect offers comprehensive software and hardware solutions to streamline the electrification process. In turn, it makes emobility a profitable venture for fuel retailers.

We’re thrilled to have caught up with Om Shankar, the Vice President and General Manager who is steering the Konect ship towards success. Om brings extensive experience in the mobility sector, mixed with a real passion for helping businesses invest in the future. Gilbarco’s focus on sustainable transport is providing a significant push for fuel retailers to embrace emobility. The Konect end-to-end approach is set to spearhead this movement and push to repurpose forecourts, equipping them for a long, profitable future.

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Gilbarco Veeder-Root has been in the mobility segment for a long-time, how will this help your more into emobility?

Gilbarco Veeder-Root has a 159-year legacy as a trusted supplier the fuel retail sector, with a 50% share of the global market. We’ve spent decades serving major oil companies and fleets with powerful fuel infrastructure, at scale, backed by an extensive service and support network. 

Those customers are now coming to us saying electrification is their next big investment, but they need help. The onus is on us to help empower them to do that. We’re mobilising fuel retailers with a new business model suitable for the next 150 years, while supporting fleets’ decarbonisation targets. There’s no one better placed to provide the experience that they’re used to.

The transition to electrification is challenging for all involved, what are you offering that’s different?

Becoming a charging point operator is extremely confusing, unless you’re a major international fuel retailer. Our goal is to take that uncertainty and throw it out of the equation.

Konect combines a portfolio of market-leading hardware, software and services into a unique, turnkey charging ecosystem designed specifically for the needs of fleets and fuel retailers. We’re providing end-to-end support, from selecting the right sites, equipment and funding options, through installation and easy integration with existing forecourt IT infrastructure, to in-life customer service and extensive network of technicians. 

Nobody else is offering this breadth of services from a single source, let alone combined with Gilbarco Veeder-Root’s level of sector-specific experience. It’s a powerful proposition.  

You are targeting fuel retailers and commercial fleets, why have you chosen these segments?

Drivers expect charging to be as easy and convenient as filling with fuel, but that isn’t always happening. Net promoter scores and satisfaction ratings for major charging point operators are in the dumps, and I think it’s fuel retailers’ birthright to help solve that. 

Forecourts and C-stores are uniquely well positioned to craft the perfect EV charging experience, with locations close to major routes and the amenities drivers are looking for while they are plugged in. Those are two important elements that traditional charging networks have yet to solve.

You can see that in the United States, where 68% of NEVI funding applications are being won by fuel retailers – and I’d be willing to bet that that will increase in 2024 and 2025. We’re building on those good foundations by supplying them with a robust ecosystem that creates new revenue streams while delivering a first-class experience for customers. 

Fleets are also a great fit for electrification, as they are often depot-based, plug in overnight and can satisfy those needs with a mix of AC and DC charging points. They’re realising they can make a really strong return on investment and drive down their carbon emissions. Fleets are taking everything we offer for fuel retailers and deploying it at an even more rapid rate. That’s really exciting to see.

Gilbarco’s turnkey solutions are allowing businesses to embrace e-mobility, what would you say to any businesses considering the transition?

Electrification is inevitable. The International Energy Agency is forecasting electric cars will have a 60% of registrations in Europe, and 55% in the United States by the end of the decade, while sustainability targets will put fleets one step ahead of that curve. 

This is a particularly big change for fuel retailers, who risk losing the charging business base to other sectors, such as restaurants, shopping malls or faster-moving rivals, if they don’t move quickly enough. Boston Consulting Group predicts 80% of fuel retailing sites will become unprofitable by 2035 if they do not change their business model. We want to make sure our customers don’t face that eventuality.

However, we also believe it’s an exciting opportunity to re-think fuel retail. Return on investment is broader than just selling electrons, with new revenue streams from carbon credits, supplying energy back to the grid, upselling services and monetising the longer dwell times for charging by attracting customers in-store. That’s trend is already underway – non-food sales accounted for 32.7% of C-store revenue but 61.4% of profit in 2023, according to trade association NACS.

You need to make the jump, or you’ll miss out in this dynamic and fast-shifting marketplace. However, you don’t have to go from zero to 100% – a turnkey solution like ours can help provide a seamless, connected transition while unlocking new revenue streams that maximise your return on investment.

Where do you see the world’s charging infrastructure in five years?

Norway, Sweden and Denmark are a really unique opportunity to look into the future. Their forecourts and convenience stores are becoming destinations – smart mobility hubs with food and refreshments on site. It’s serving consumers in new ways, and that’s what’s going to mobilise elsewhere as time goes on.

Manufacturers are delivering mass-market vehicles at ever-lower costs, and you’ll see massive charging corridors across North America and Europe as a result of government funding, so I don’t believe range anxiety or price will a barrier in five years. I think we’ll look back and feel really good about what we’ve accomplished as an industry.

Thank you to Om Shankar for his fantastic insights, and best of luck for the future of Konect! Check out the company’s electrification offerings here – https://www.gilbarco.com/us/products/konect

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