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EV Chargers


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EV Chargers

  2. 2. Story by Susan Bloom Photographs by Mike DeFilippo f you ask Crescent Electric bringing the first LEED-certified build- I Supply Vice President of Mar- keting Bob Settle to describe the company he works for, his re- sponse will be a mixture of ex- treme pride tempered by an inherent degree of modesty. “It really boils down to Midwest val- ing online in Davenport, Iowa; and recently delving into new renewable opportunities including solar and wind. But for Crescent’s management team, being good just isn’t good enough. “Today’s fragile economy is aggres- sively driving cost management and, at ues,” he said of the 92-year-old distrib- the same time, technology is providing utorship’s approach to doing business. new solutions to manage energy costs,” “If you polled our customers, they’d say said Dan Hill, company officer and vice that we’re easy to do business with, president of Crescent’s east region, a have high ethical standards, and are role in which he’s responsible for the very trustworthy.” Settle would proba- strategic activity of more than 350 em- bly also characterize Crescent as a bit of ployees spanning 32 locations from a quiet giant. “We’re very well known Chicago to New York. “In this perfect at the local, grassroots level, but proba- storm of opportunity, we find our cus- bly few people realize how large a com- tomers ready and able to invest in the pany we are,” he said. “We’re under- latest energy-saving products and elec- stated, but we get the job done.” trical infrastructure improvements like Headquartered in East Dubuque, Ill., never before. Crescent is indeed a force to be reck- “Crescent is committed to company- oned with. A privately held entity wide, organic, year-over-year growth in founded in 1919 in Dubuque, Iowa, by each of our districts, and economic con- the Schmid family, Crescent currently ditions of the past two years have forced has 1,500 employees and 120 locations us to become even more creative in our in 26 states, mostly in the upper two- approach,” Hill added. “In an effort to thirds of the country. Focused largely create and facilitate an entrepreneurial on the commercial construction, indus- culture focused on growth and identify trial, automation, and datacom markets, new sales opportunities by way of cus- the company usually finds itself listed tomer solutions, we’re constantly poll- among the top 10 distributors in the ing the field and investing in our local United States with respect to revenues. teams’ business plans. Our EV strategy was born out of this framework.” Dan Hill (right), vice president, east AN ENERGY The EV strategy Hill is referring to region; and Joe McDermott, Chicago SOLUTIONS FOCUS involves Crescent’s recent and aggres- district manager, with an electric Crescent has traditionally been an ag- sive entrée into the EV charging market, vehicle charger and a Chevy Volt gressive player in the lucrative energy- an arena to which, Settle noted, Cres- efficiency and energy solutions segment cent began paying serious attention in —providing free energy audits to cus- 2010, when it became clear that a great tomers to show them the magnitude deal of interest and public awareness of their upgrade opportunities; driving was mounting around electric cars fol- their share of the energy retrofit mar- lowing the technology’s boost from ket with products such as lighting, con- early government funding. trols, power factor correction, and high- “Crescent is a conservative, Mid- efficiency motors, drives, and pumps; western company that’s been in Jan. 12 • the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR 59
  3. 3. BEST PRACTICES A dark wire aisle in the Crescent Electric warehouse is a sign that the occupancy sensors are doing their business for a long time but the demand for EV chargers and related ers can provide a full recharge in threehasn’t branded itself loudly. We have a infrastructure will increase dramatically to four hours or one-hour refresherlot of talent and resources in place and as the number of vehicles increases. Ac- charges,” explained Energy Specialistsaw our EV strategy as a sound invest- cording to Hill and Settle, experts ex- Bill Ebie. “These installations offer thement in an emerging market, which pect that 1.5 chargers will ultimately be municipal organizations or stores thatcould help position us for new growth needed for every electric car sold, based provide them the loyalty of and trafficand create more corporate awareness,” on total residential and commercial/ from EV drivers, in addition to a greenSettle said. public installations. The two most popu- company identity.” lar charger types available today are But Crescent sees sales opportunitiesTAKING A LEADERSHIP Level 1 (120V) systems, which are pri- beyond just chargers. “Charging stationPOSITION marily used for home installations, and installations often include infrastructureAccording to the DOE, EVs are those Level 2 (240V) systems, which provide a improvements to support them, andthat are propelled by an electric motor faster charge and can be used for com- these improvements fall into two cate-(or motors) powered by rechargeable mercial as well as residential applica- gories: power distribution and computerbattery packs. Electric motors offer a tions. There is also a Level 3 DC charger networking,” Ebie said. “Power distrib-number of advantages over internal that will fully charge an EV in approxi- ution requirements include a dedicatedcombustion engines, including a high mately 30 minutes; commercial avail- electrical service for each station. In ad-degree of energy efficiency and envi- ability of Level 3 chargers is limited at dition, computer network [LAN] hook-ronmental friendliness and an ability this time but is expected to increase as ups should be provided to broadcast sta-to provide smooth, quiet operation. more manufacturers bring products to tion availability over the Internet to Though Hill and Settle acknowledge market. boost traffic, as well as for monitoringthat initial estimates of 1 million EVs on “Level 1 chargers provide overnight software, which provides support forU.S. highways by 2015 was optimistic, charging at home, while Level 2 charg- marketing programs and reporting.60 the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR • Jan. 12
  4. 4. BEST PRACTICES cities listed as members of the DOE’s Clean Cities Coalition, we then over- laid Crescent’s map of branch locations and identified 10 target markets where we felt we could match up demand for EVs and charging systems with our abil- ity to supply,” Settle said. These sites included Bloomington/Normal, Ill.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego (with other locations to follow as the demand for EV chargers spreads, Settle noted). In each of those cities, Crescent deter- mined which of its four suppliers to partner with and began planning events at strategic branch locations where it could showcase and demo the systems for customers and influential industry members as well as help train contrac- tors and installers. In that capacity, Crescent has outfit- ted several of its branches around the nation with charging stations for the purposes of providing hands-on training and demonstrating system operation to business owners and municipalities. According to Chicago Territory Dis- trict Manager Joe McDermott, whose branch in Rockdale, Ill., hosted Cres- cent’s first special event around EVs and other specialty electrical equipment in September 2011, “We had a Chevy Volt on a live charge on display and any customer could drive it to see how it worked. We also had the contractor who installed it, a representative from Leviton, and one of our application engineers on hand to answer questions.Top: The counter area features many energy management devices. Here, Counter Sales We had great attendance by a range ofRepresentative Archie Gavin (left) demonstrates the features of a Square D Power Logic high-quality, interested people—fromsystem to a customer. Bottom: Crescent Electric’s warehouse serves as a training center owners of construction and contractingfor ways customers can save energy through various lighting and technical applications. firms to public works people from local villages, etc. It was extremely encourag-Crescent can supply all aspects of this tized its geographic approach to serving ing because everyone who attended hadsystem.” this market nationwide according to a genuine interest in learning. We’ve areas of high environmental awareness, given out several quotes so far.”CREATIVE MARKETING such as California, as well as locations In Missouri, Crescent District Man-Crescent began its initial foray into the where EV manufacturers like Ford, GM, ager Marc Horner’s two branches re-EV charging market by establishing rela- and Nissan were located and/or launch- cently became involved with EV supplytionships with four primary suppliers of ing new products, such as Nashville, equipment and engaged in their ownthese systems—General Electric, Eaton, Tenn., the site of a Nissan factory. strategic activities. “We partnered locallySchneider/Square D, and Leviton. Ac- “Taking these locations into account with Schneider Electric and installedcording to Settle, the company priori- —along with the approximately 100 one of its stations at our facility in Jan. 12 • the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR 61
  5. 5. BEST PRACTICES Partners in arms sas City at the end of September,” Hor- Crescent’s suppliers are equally excited to be part of its EV initiative and educa- ner said. “We also exhibited at the 2011 tional team. Leviton Manufacturing (, one of the company’s four suppli- Clean Transportation Exposition in ers nationwide, launched its EVR-Green line of commercial charging stations in Overland Park, Kan., in October.” Ac- November 2010 and provides a full suite of EV charging solutions. cording to Horner, “Our customers and “Leviton has a strong commitment to training and education and, since the EV community members have expressed market is very new, we’ve been providing training for electrical distributors and happiness to see us in this market be- commercial property owners across the cause now they will know where to country,” said Melissa Martin, director of come for information when they need business development for the commercial to be educated.” and industrial segment. “We’ve found that “It’s about sensitizing the market to everyone has been very eager to learn this product and letting people know about the EV market, and we’re regularly that Crescent is their partner,” said Bill requested to speak at industry and sustain- Albert, Crescent’s district manager cov- ability events. We look forward to seeing ering the Denver district of Colorado more EV options introduced by automakers, and Wyoming. to supplying all aspects of EV charging “We installed an EV charger in our equipment to the market, and to continuing Denver branch in fall 2011 and, while to partner with progressive suppliers like we haven’t seen tremendous demand Crescent.” for this even though Colorado is a rela- According to Mike Calise, director of EV tively green state, we’ve quoted on a charging solutions, Power Business North couple of jobs and we’re hearing more America for Schneider Electric (schneider- discussions surrounding this product, “This is a sizable market for and seeing greater marketplace accep- Schneider Electric to serve now and into tance of it as an option,” Albert said. the future. Today, the issue is not about “There’s definitely a role for this prod- generation or access to vehicles, but rather about infrastructure,” he said. “Until uct to play and it seems customers are EV buyers see convenient charging station options within their community, they’ll starting to warm up to the concept more be reluctant to buy EVs. The market is heating up very quickly and demand for and more. It’s really up to us to plant charger infrastructure is on the rise. As a result, we see the partnership between the seed and help get the word out Crescent and Schneider Electric as critical to helping contractors obtain the ade- there. By doing that, we’ll be able to dif- quate supply in order to meet the market needs for EVs and infrastructure. Overall, ferentiate ourselves in the market.” we’re getting excellent feedback from both residential and commercial customers “Electric cars won’t be everywhere on our EVlink charging stations and they’ve expressed satisfaction and happiness in overnight,” McDermott agreed, “but their ability to do business with the combined strengths of two established leaders they’ll definitely be present for the next in the industry.” generation. Regarding Crescent’s role Michael Mahan, general manager, EV Infrastructure, General Electric (, in this ramp-up, EVs really speak to is equally bullish on the potential for the EV opportunity. “We think this is going to the broader concept of sustainability, be a multibillion-dollar market in the coming years,” he said. “We view the EV mar- not simply retrofits. All of it is really ket as a great unifying force that cuts across many of GE’s areas of expertise— our business and so we have to be the power generation, energy transmission and distribution, circuit protection, fleet educators.” leasing, infrastructure financing, and consumer products—and we’re excited to be leading this industry now, while it’s still in its formative years.” THE LONG VIEW Eaton ( currently collaborates with Crescent in Bloomington, Ill.; Both Settle and Hill are well aware of Dallas; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and Tucson, Ariz., where it “combines the best the obvious challenges associated with of Crescent’s local presence and customer relationships with Eaton’s EV charging the EV category, including the fact that products, services, and solid reputation in electrical power distribution,” said demand for chargers will be limited by Eaton’s John Wirtz, electric transportation infrastructure business unit manager. the growth, development, and introduc- “Through this collaboration, which will include continued joint marketing and tion of viable EVs. Challenges facing EV training initiatives throughout 2012, Eaton is helping to create the infrastructure manufacturers include range anxiety leading to the adoption and expanded use of EVs. We’re eager to provide our com- and vehicle cost (largely attributed to prehensive solutions and service to Crescent’s EV program and to support the currently bulky battery packs). Range communities where we do business,” Wirtz concluded. —S.B. anxiety will be relieved, to some extent, as the infrastructure of EV charging sys-62 the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR • Jan. 12
  6. 6. tems expands and advances in battery we’ve seen a strong bump in quotations we have available so that we can helptechnology promise to lower the cost for Level 1 home chargers. And charg- match up current and emerging EVand extend the range of EVs in the ers are just one portion of the equation technology with the municipalities, uni-future. “This market is emerging in fits —the ancillary products required to versities, businesses, and other cus-and spurts and it’s really a game of bring the electrical infrastructure to code tomers that can benefit from it.”patience right now,” Hill said. represent an additional opportunity,” he According to Hill, “Emerging tech- However, the company can speak said. nologies such as EV infrastructure willto some impressive gains, most notably Settle, too, has clarity regarding the definitely play an increasingly signifi-the request for 40-plus chargers from short-term reality but long-term poten- cant role in our industry going forward.Eaton, which Crescent’s Peoria district tial of the EV initiative to Crescent. Early adoption is taking place now andrecently sold directly to the city of Nor- “We recognize that this is not an im- we believe that government incentivesmal, Ill., for its electric car initiative, a mediate sell and that it can take years that improve the financial practicality ofcampaign that has been featured in a to see momentum in EV sales,” he ex- EVs will continue to accelerate this mar-light-hearted but highly publicized na- plained. “However, we want to lead that ket’s growth.tional television commercial and ad process and be a resource center for our “There’s no question that EVs willseries run by auto manufacturer Mitsu- customers as well as a conduit back to become commonplace; the real questionbishi. An additional order was recently manufacturers. is, ‘How soon?’ As we see it, Crescent’sreceived from the city of Normal for 10 “It’s been an outreach program for us ability to provide holistic energy solu-more EV chargers, including one Level 3 and we’ve been hitting the conference tions that include charging stations po-fast charger. trail and speaking at seminars and to sitions us as the best partner in these “In our Eastern zone, we’ve sold EV municipalities about the benefits of the uncharted waters,” Hill concluded. ■chargers from Normal to Nashville and EV market and a partnership with Cres-points in between,” Hill confirmed. cent Electric,” Settle continued. “What Bloom is a 20-year veteran of the lighting“Level 2 chargers have been the highest we’ve been doing so far is evangelism and electrical products industry. Reach hersellers of all models, although recently —creating awareness of the resources at A Chevy Volt charges on a Leviton charging station at the Crescent Electric facility in Rockdale, Jan. 12 • the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR 63