New Michigan Plant Set to Boost Electric Vehicle Charger Output in US, Canadian Firm Plans

    Electric Vehicle Chargers: The Next Revolution in Retail

    Electric vehicle chargers have the potential to transform the retail industry, much like how Wi-Fi revolutionized Starbucks. According to Chris Thorson, the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Flo, a leading electrical charging station provider, the addition of EV chargers in close proximity to stores can generate the same magic that free Wi-Fi brought to Starbucks years ago.

    Thorson believes that if customers have to spend 30 minutes waiting for their cars to charge, they need something to do during that time. This presents an opportunity for retail owners to attract these customers to their stores. Thorson draws a parallel to Starbucks, which was the first to offer free unlimited Wi-Fi before it became a standard feature. This move not only attracted customers who stayed longer to enjoy the free Wi-Fi, but also brought in new patrons. Thorson envisions a similar scenario with EV chargers, where retail owners can entice customers to shop while their vehicles charge.

    As part of its expansion efforts, Flo is looking to establish a presence in the United States. The Canadian company, founded by CEO Louis Tremblay 14 years ago in Quebec City, aims to extend its market dominance from Canada to the United States. To achieve this, Flo received a $3 million grant from the state of Michigan to open a manufacturing plant in Auburn Hills. This move allows Flo to produce charging stations specifically for the American market.

    The company has already installed over 100,000 public and private EV chargers across Canada, predominantly in homes, parking lots, and streets. Flo’s internal surveys reveal that a majority of electric vehicle drivers prefer to have chargers installed near restaurants, retail outlets, and places with restroom facilities. To maximize government incentives and grants, the company collaborates with retail property owners and other potential customers.

    Flo recently leased a 45,000-square-foot facility in Auburn Hills, which was previously occupied by Sears, Kmart, and Inalfa. The company plans to start production at this site in early 2024. Once operational, the plant aims to employ 700 workers and produce 50,000 chargers annually. This new facility complements Flo’s existing Canadian factory in Shawinigan, which was doubled in size in 2021.

    Flo’s strategic decision to establish a manufacturing presence in Michigan makes it eligible for funding from the U.S. government’s $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program. This program offers states up to 80% of eligible project costs for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

    Efforts to install EV charging stations have intensified among various companies, including Tesla, Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint. However, adding a single charger to a public space can be a complex process. Coordination with utility companies, availability of power, and obtaining permits can extend the timeline to nine months or more. Thorson acknowledges the challenge while emphasizing the importance of developing a reputation as the most reliable charger brand. Broken chargers can lead to frustration for electric vehicle users, and Flo aims to maintain a 99% uptime rate by manufacturing and servicing their machines.

    Flo has already secured a deal to supply EV chargers in Alaska and expects to attract customers from other states like Ohio and Michigan, particularly in the U.S. Northeast. Michigan has set a goal to install 100,000 chargers by 2030 and will receive $110 million over the next five years as part of the federal funding program.

    In addition to retail and public locations, Flo also targets other market segments, such as powering fleets for public utilities and private companies. They have even partnered with General Motors to install chargers at GM dealerships, leveraging the automaker’s vast network. With around 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a GM dealership, this collaboration benefits all parties involved.

    As Flo expands its manufacturing capabilities, they are set to launch the Flo Ultra chargers in early 2022. These powerful chargers can charge plug-in vehicles to 80% capacity in just 10 to 15 minutes. Due to their high power output, the charging pistols require a liquid cooling system, which adds weight. To counterbalance this, Flo has developed a cable management system to ensure ease of use.

    The future looks promising for Flo as it aims to dominate the EV charging market in North America. With its focus on reliability, strategic partnerships, and innovative offerings, Flo is well-positioned to fuel the rapidly growing market for electric vehicles. As more consumers embrace electric vehicles, the demand for charging infrastructure will only continue to rise, making this an exciting time for the industry.

    In conclusion, the integration of EV chargers into retail spaces has the potential to revolutionize the industry. Just as Starbucks attracted customers with free Wi-Fi, adding electric vehicle chargers can entice customers to visit retail stores while their vehicles charge. Flo, a leading charger provider, aims to expand its presence in the United States by establishing a manufacturing plant in Michigan. This move not only allows Flo to tap into the American market but also makes the company eligible for government funding. With a focus on reliability and strategic partnerships, Flo is poised to be a dominant player in the growing electric vehicle charging industry.

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