Meet our Chief Product Officer: Rutger Plantenga

GreenFlux's Chief Product Officer Rutger Plantenga

We are proud to announce that Rutger Plantenga is the new Chief Product Officer at GreenFlux. Rutger has more than a decade’s worth of experience in bringing innovative e-mobility solutions to the market.

Before joining GreenFlux, Rutger worked for fast-growing mobility services companies, such as TomTom and NewMotion, where he was responsible for the e-mobility service provider (EMSP) business, both B2C as well as white label B2B.

Ever since Rutger set up the Product Management team in December 2019, he and his team have implemented a new, more customer-centric roadmap to deliver greater value to our SaaS clients. We spoke to Rutger to find out more about his work and share some insights from our product team on the development of the EV market.

The first trend I see is the increasing specialisation. Before, businesses would develop one-size-fits-all solutions, but now increasingly charge point operators (CPOs) and mobility service providers are honing in on specific segments. We see companies specialising in home charging, for example, while others focus exclusively on public charging.

A second major trend is around smart charging. With increasing levels of EV adoption, the pressure on the electric grid is rising, both inside buildings and on the distribution grid.

Smart charging provides a real alternative to costly infrastructure investments by allowing building owners to spread the load on their network.

Using the most advanced smart charging solution, 10 to 30 times as many charge stations can be placed at a location without reinforcing the grid.

Smart charging can also help utilities and transmission system operators balance supply and demand in their electricity portfolio. Thanks to smart charging, the power consumption of electric vehicles can be adapted depending on the availability of renewable energy in the grid.

This is very attractive because the marginal cost of making power flexible is close to zero with smart charging, compared to other sources of flexibility in the grid. This, combined with the vast amount of flexible power available through EVs, is a real game changer!

The use of smart charging is growing quickly in markets where EV penetration is already high, like the Netherlands. On our Dutch network, we see that the smart charging uptake is growing faster than the rate at which charge points are increasing, meaning we’re steadily moving to a situation where smart charging is applied on all charge stations.

How are these trends influencing product development at GreenFlux?

With increasing specialisation in the market, our customers seek more tailored solutions. This means that we develop a widening range of features, but these features will only ever be used by certain customer groups.

Charge Point Operators in the public charging market, for example, typically need more complex payment and billing features than companies serving the home market.

In the home market, electricity can simply be billed to either the homeowner or employer, whereas public charge points typically need to offer a multitude of payment options and full tariff transparency to the end user.

As for smart charging, we’re a true pioneer in the field. We continuously aim to improve the user experience based on pilot projects and customer feedback. Back in 2016, we supported the Electric Nation Project in testing time-of-use incentives and a priority charging option, which has since become part of the standard GreenFlux offering.

A man seeing his phone next to a charger in a parking lot

In 2021, we are focussing strongly on the strategy to combine vast numbers of charge points into one Virtual Power Plant, with which our customers can create revenue streams in different energy markets.

We expect that smart charging will be applied on nearly all charge points in the years to come.

Therefore, another area of focus is to incorporate smart charging into the existing roaming protocols. This way we can involve and empower EV drivers when it comes to smart charging.

The lack of regulation for these complex cases could hold back the industry in the coming years. Our team needs to anticipate this, and we are now developing flexible solutions that will make it easy for GreenFlux to respond.

Once European regulation is in place, there may also be room for governments to develop national laws, which can lead to slightly different product requirements between markets. As a SaaS platform, we therefore develop flexible, interoperable, and scalable solutions to respond to these varying needs.

A key challenge in the EV industry is regulation. How do you think this impacts charge point operators and EMSPs?

Regulation in the e-mobility sector lags behind the fast pace of technological development. We are at a crossroads of financial, mobility, and energy regulation which adds complexity and, in some cases, slows down the adoption of new technologies.

For example, with vehicle-to-the-grid (V2G) technology you could charge your car at your employer’s office during the day and feed that energy into your house at night. Regulation in this area needs to address questions like: Is V2G an employee benefit that you should pay taxes over? And should employers be able to monitor your EV to see how you use their electricity?

The lack of regulation for these complex cases could hold back the industry in the coming years. Our team needs to anticipate this, and we are now developing flexible solutions that will make it easy for GreenFlux to respond.

Once European regulation is in place, there may also be room for governments to develop national laws, which can lead to slightly different product requirements between markets. As a SaaS platform, we, therefore, develop flexible, interoperable, and scalable solutions to respond to these varying needs.

V2G is quite a hot topic right now. Do you see this being developed and adopted soon?

I think there will be a market for V2G a few years down the line. The technology is already available, but right now, the industry is focussing on early pilot projects as the market is not ready yet.

For example, the lack of bidirectional converters has been a major challenge. Up to this point, EVs mostly used single-direction AC-DC converters, meaning that cars could be charged, but their energy couldn’t be fed back to the grid.

This is slowly beginning to change. For example, Volkswagen recently announced that all their future vehicles would have bidirectional converters. This is a significant milestone, as it means that the hardware required for V2G is becoming standard in the industry.

As mentioned before, many decisions around billing and taxation regulations are yet to be made. Our platform will remain flexible, and we will adapt our solutions to comply with these regulations as V2G becomes more widespread.

Can you share some of the key priorities for you and your team in 2021?

One of our key priorities is to constantly improve the end-user experience. For example, with our white label (smart) charging app, we are really putting ourselves in the driver’s shoes to anticipate what they need. Based on this, we may develop new features and offer new customization options to our CPO and EMSP customers.

We are also currently upgrading our plug & charge service.

With the ISO 15118 communication protocol, this will eliminate the need for EV driver identification. Instead of swiping charge cards, a charge point will automatically identify cars based on a unique ID.

Plug & charge technology is very convenient for the end user, and we expect that many of our CPOs and EMSP customers will want to support it.