EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: WattEV Founder Addresses EV Infrastructure for Trucking

Before founding WattEV in 2020 and pushing for the more electric trucks in the commercial trucking industry, CEO Salim Youssefzadeh wasn’t just sitting on his hands. After graduating from UCLA with dual Bachelor of Science Degrees in electrical engineering and applied mathematics, as well as graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Business Administration degrees, Youssefzadeh designed a device from the ground up to connect to a home automation system with Siri and Alexa capability.

Youssefzadeh and his team at WattEV are on a mission to ramp up the transition of the country’s commercial trucking industry towards zero emissions. By using a combination of business and technology innovation, he is helping to create electric truck charging infrastructure to help fleet operators experience a lowered total cost of ownership. Youssefzadeh will be bringing his depth of knowledge in this field when he joins the Breakout Session, “Clean Transportation as a Service,” at this year’s ACT Expo.

ACT News: What are the biggest challenges facing commercial truck fleets that are considering electrification?

Salim Youssefzadeh: There are many unknowns for fleet operators big and small. On the vehicle side, they are faced with challenges and uncertainties in range, price, and reliability and down time due to maintenance. On the infrastructure side they are faced with charging capabilities, cost, permits, facility development and high capital outlay. Mix these with the lack of knowledge on the credits and incentives available, and often times it becomes very challenging for a new entrant to consider transition to electric trucks and this is particularly true for small to medium fleet operators. These very challenges are what WattEV plans to address with its Trucks as a Service (TaaS) and charging infrastructure.

ACT News: How will the partnerships you have formed with other companies help increase the number of heavy-duty electric trucks on the road?

Salim Youssefzadeh: We see ourselves as an enabler within the eco system to overcome the challenges that transporters face in electrification and especially meeting the expectation of shippers and transporters with brand value and sustainability mandates. The goals of the alliances we have formed with other companies are to remove the barriers and make it easy for transporters to transition to electric trucking. Our partnership with transporters increases the number of electric trucks on the road by gaining operational experience and creating success stories that can be used as a model for others to sign up to our TaaS platform.  

ACT News: Could you explain your Trucks as a Service (TaaS) business model?

Salim Youssefzadeh: Our TaaS is modeled based on usage, meaning the transporters pay us per mile. This removes the risk and uncertainty for the transporter on down time due to maintenance, or availability of charging facilities on service routes, or cost of charging. Of course, we could not approach this with a one-size fits all model and depending on the routes and average miles traveled, we adapt our model to make it palatable for our customers. This also guides us in the development of our charging facilities. Right now, we have three locations under development in Bakersfield, San Bernardino and Gardena and in discussion on a number of other sites in California.

ACT News: What types of commercial truck fleets will be the best fit for electrification?

Salim Youssefzadeh: We think the commercial fleets serving the middle mile and last mile currently present the best fit for electrification. Of course, you have other fleets serving the drayage and long haul transport as well, but in terms of miles driven and ability to put the charging infrastructure in place, we think currently the best fit is in middle mile and last mile. We have seen the rate of adoption in last mile being the highest because of a number of factors including availability of low to medium duty trucks as well as certainty in range and usage pattern. But as we are developing a charging network best suited for higher energy usage our own focus is on use of class-8 trucks with the goal of accelerating their adoption in the middle mile and last mile fleet operation.

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