Valentin Scheltow is the CEO and Managing Director at Compleo Charging Solutions UK, a leading manufacturer of quality AC and DC charging stations. The company provides charging solutions for commercial, residential and public installation, along with the software to control, manage and monetise any electric vehicle (EV) charging network.
After studying Electrical Engineering and Business, Scheltow went on to work in the shipping industry helping them to use electricity and be more sustainable while moored in port. He then moved on to work with a utility company in the renewables space before joining Compleo in Germany to develop sales outside of the country.
In 2022, Scheltow left his native Germany to head up and develop Compleo in the UK. We caught up with him to find out more about the great things the company has been doing here and pick his brain about the emobility space, the way charging is developing and the importance of a more sustainable future.
EDs: Can you tell us a little about your history and how you ended up in the emobility space?
I studied Electrical Engineering and Business in Kiel, Germany and then started as a project and sales manager in the shipping industry. The company provided among other electrical equipment, a shore connection which enabled the ship to have electricity on board while moored – a type of charging to avoid using heavy oil or diesel in the harbour.
After this, I moved to a company which produced electrical connectors and was working on the standards for these types of connectors. I took this experience and moved to a utility company in Germany where we were connecting renewable energy such as photovoltaic (PV) technology, heat pumps and electric vehicle (EV) chargers.
My team built the first public charge point operator (CPO) in Bochum with payment using Compleo hardware. After this, I was keen to get back into a more international role so joined Compleo as European Head of Business Development which gave me the autonomy to set up and manage all European sales outside of Germany.
This was just before lockdown so the irony was I hardly travelled anywhere. During this time I was supporting the IPO and was a strategic member of the mergers and acquisitions team who led the purchase of wallbe and innogy eMobility.
EDs: What does your current role at Compleo entail?
For me, it’s twofold. It’s a fantastic opportunity to scale up and grow the company while living in the UK when my children are young. My job is to build up the company so it can operate profitability with high growth potential in the UK.
This includes preparing the products, meeting customers’ needs within the market and adapting to government requirements. We believe that the market still needs to grow by over 10 times and we’re ready to grow and expand rapidly.
EDs: What types of charging does Compleo offer?
Compleo operates across Europe as a portfolio provider of EV charging technology and infrastructure. Our AC & DC chargers are designed in Germany, built in the EU and optimised for three-phase power which makes them ideal for public and fleet charging in the UK.
We see ourselves as enablers for emobility and specialise in solutions for businesses, car dealerships and public car parks/on-street charging.
We also offer a software solution to manage, monitor and maintain infrastructure.
We’re brand agnostic so you can use our hardware with other software and vice versa. We’re in the perfect position to work with charge point operators (CPOs), as well providing advice to businesses and fleets on the best solution for their needs.
EDs: Where is Compleo founded and are there plans to expand in the coming years?
Compleo was founded in Luenen/Dortmund, as a spin-off from power distribution manufacturer for utilities EBG Group. Today, Compleo is stock listed in Frankfurt and operates in Germany, the UK and Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Austria and Switzerland. Our software is also being sold in other countries where it fits the local requirements, such as France.
EDs: How did Compleo, a German company, end up in the UK?
In 2019 we won the contract to supply chargers to Audi dealerships across the UK so it was the perfect time to set up a stand-alone company here.
Since then we’ve installed chargers at over 1,100 dealerships covering 22 different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) brands from Audi to Volvo and now supply 8 out of 10 of the major car groups. Additionally, we are now working with a variety of companies in the UK to help with their charging needs.
EDs: How do you see Compleo developing over the next five years?
It’s an exciting time for Compleo as we’re recognised for our wide menu of chargers available to customers. At the beginning of 2023, we had over 300 different hardware variants. We are currently streamlining our range down to five great products, the best one for each market segment.
This means we can now manufacture and deliver quicker as volumes and demand have increased. At a time when DC stock is hard to come by, we plan to have chargers available with much shorter lead times than other players in the market.
We believe customer experience plays a big role. Having chargers from 7k – 200kw along with brand-agnostic hardware and software offers our customers choices and solutions that will integrate into their business.
EDs: What role will charging play in this and how do you see it developing?
Different demands will lead to better solutions required by the market. After the initial educational period that we’re nearing the end of right now, charging will play the same role as traditional fuelling does today. The big difference will be the convenience of charging, with the ability to charge at home, work and the use of destination charging.
Ultimately, it will make life easier and save drivers time. I also believe that UK drivers will start to expect greater transparency in their billing. They will ask for independent verification on the kWh used, just like we have at petrol pumps, and meters will become mandatory in public chargers.
All of our AC and DC chargers are available with meters compliant with German calibration law, so CPOs and businesses who are installing them today, know they are future-proofed within potential new government regulations.
EDs: Will we see this rolled out in a different format from the current petrol station model?
Definitely. We will still need charging hubs, similar to the petrol station model, for ad-hoc or longer journeys but the best time to charge for most is when the car is parked. Parking time will become charging time, whether this is at the railway station or when visiting a garden centre for instance.
We’ve supplied over 500 chargers across four Network Rail car parks and 56 chargers to a single garden centre site. You would never see a petrol station in these types of locations and as such, this is a good example of where charging is far more convenient than fuelling an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
Life will become more convenient allowing you to do other things while the car is charging. With the addition of vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X), charging is evolving. This will all provide greater flexibility and allow people to use their electric car for more than just simple transport.
Not only will they be cheaper to run than ICE models but offer the potential to earn money by selling electricity back to the grid. Put simply, the electric car will be working for people even when it’s parked.
EDs: Is there a need for a balance of convenience charging locations and hubs like Energy Superhub Oxford?
Absolutely. These hubs will work in a similar way to the petrol station model for en-route and destination charging but customers will pay a premium for this because of the high installation costs at these locations.
One area we’re working in is supporting the fleet, parking and hotel sectors with their electric vehicle charging needs. This is because we know we have a solution that works for them. Plus, there is a big demand for this type of charging.
EDs: How important is the future of charging in the commercial vehicle sector?
Ensuring that charging doesn’t get in the way of the job is vital for fleets. Helping commercial vehicles charge while the vehicle is parked up, such as overnight at depots or homes, is key.
Energy costs are cheaper at night and for many businesses, the vehicle will be parked overnight anyway. This allows businesses to utilise load management and take advantage of these cheaper energy prices.
For example, Oxford Direct Service (ODS) on behalf of Oxford City Council added a 50kW charger to their fleet depot. This has enabled them to be the first council in the country to run an electric bin lorry.
We’re also working with a bus company, ensuring that the bus is pre-warmed before the day while the vehicle is plugged in to ensure there’s no loss of battery power.
EDs: How does charging need to evolve in this sector?
The next stage will be adding high-power charging (HPC) at depots so they can charge vehicles quicker. This means more time on the road which is a more economical model. Supporting van drivers who don’t have driveways with local community charging needs to happen too.
Compleo UK offers electric vehicle charging courses for different user cases, including hotels, parking and the logistics industry, to help provide the best solution for their needs.
EDs: How will charge times change for all vehicles in the coming years?
It’s difficult to see into the future at the moment but we’re all seeing a need for high-powered charging. Over time drivers will become used to the charging that works best for them and be mindful of the benefits of speed versus cost.
We will need everything from 7kW AC charging at home to en-route charging speeds of 100-500kW. This could rise to 1MW for electric trucks as they develop.
EDs: Currently, what do you see as the biggest barriers when it comes to the transition to EVs?
The biggest barrier to the UK market is the slow introduction of roaming. Once this is adopted by the main CPOs it will help speed up the mass adoption of electric vehicles. Across Europe roaming is accepted by the vast majority of public chargers.
Ad-hoc payment which is standard in the UK is rare for European drivers (it is mandatory but practically not used) because it is more expensive. You basically take your EV electricity contract with you everywhere you go and don’t need to think about the prices every time you charge.
EDs: What do you think are the biggest factors in the mass uptake of electric vehicles?
Price and user experience. Calculations of the total cost of ownership need to be considered as well. Often drivers only see the initial outlay of the vehicle, which is higher for most EVs, rather than seeing the total cost of ownership which is usually much lower.
Cost and ease of charging are important variables when it comes to EV ownership. Making life easy and saving money are areas that need to be promoted to potential electric vehicle drivers. The media are currently making EVs look expensive and difficult to own, so we’re seeing a negative impact on EV sales at the moment.
EDs: What does the future of transport look like to you?
For me personally, I like to ride a bicycle or walk where possible. For longer trips, then it’s public transport or the electric car. I use my electric car for longer trips, including trips from Oxford to Germany from time to time. All transport inside cities should be limited to zero emissions vehicles because we need clean air for people in these environments.
Transport and logistics will be electrified as soon as possible. Logistics companies are good at seeing the total cost of ownership over the vehicle’s life rather than just the initial outlay.
EDs: What EV do you drive and why?
I don’t drive a vehicle, my wife has one. We are a one-car family and she drives a Tesla Model Y. This was the most convenient choice at the time, for a family of four who are exploring the UK. Now, I might have chosen the Volkswagen ID. Buzz.
EDs: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m really happy at Compleo and I’m excited about the growth opportunities in the business in the coming years.
EDs: What are your passions outside of a passion for emobility?
I love fishing. My daughters and I will quite happily spend a Saturday afternoon fishing together. I also love travelling and look for any opportunity to explore the UK or other countries. In April, I will be lucky enough to combine my two passions with a fishing trip to Norway.
EDs: You’ve come over from Germany with your young family. Do they motivate you in your work in the sustainability world?
Definitely. We are custodians of our planet for our children and their children. They don’t see electric cars as being extraordinary or different in any way. They also encourage me to be better in small ways too, to recycle every bottle and reuse carrier bags wherever I can.
EDs: How are you bringing German excellence to the UK market?
I have a strong work ethic and I was pleased to see this already in evidence in the UK team. I have a strong focus on detail, planning and process, so where I can I support the team to deliver excellence in everything we do.
EDs: What is the key differentiator in your approach to running the UK business?
I have lived in many different countries including China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Germany. This has given me a real breadth of cultural and business experience. I bring a strong spirit and empower the team to take their own decisions without waiting for my approval.
If they are 70 per cent happy then they know they can do it. I try to reduce the bureaucracy and hierarchy that can come when you report into a company of over 600 people.