Here are excerpts from Desmond Wheatley’s interview with Bloomberg International’s Dave Gentry about Envision Solar on July 14. Responses are edited for clarity and brevity.
Gentry: First, talk to us about your products.
Wheatley: We design, engineer, patent—actually invent first—and manufacture sets of solar-powered products for three market verticals. The first is the electrification of transportation. So while we’re not in electric vehicle charging as such, we provide an infrastructure solution for electric vehicle charging. The second market vertical that we offer is outdoor media—again, solar-powered and sustainable products for the outdoor media industry. And then the third is energy security, by which we just mean a more reliable source of electricity than that which you get when you connect it to the utility grid, which is of course susceptible to blackouts and brownouts. Our products will continue to operate during those times.
Gentry: Talk to us some more about the infrastructure product—and of the three products that you just mentioned, where do you derive most of your revenue?
Wheatley: I’ll start with the second question first. Without a doubt, it’s the electrification of transportation; it’s that infrastructure solution. So what we have is the world’s only transportable, solar-powered, electric vehicle charging infrastructure solution.
Our customers in general, who are deploying EV chargers to charge their electric vehicles, are faced with a choice. They can either go out and go through the 100-year-old model of connecting to the utility grid–which is a time-consuming, painful and often very expensive process that can take as much as 18 to 24 months to go through the planning and construction, digging trenches, pouring concrete, pulling wires … or they can get in touch with us.
In a matter of a few minutes, we can deploy a transportable, solar-powered technology solution which replaces that 100-year-old model. It’s much faster, much more scalable, lower total cost of ownership, and we continue to operate during blackouts and brownouts—which, of course, is vital when you’re running an electric fleet. That’s where most of our revenues come from. In fact, about 94 percent of our 2018 revenues came from the sale of that product, and a great majority of it from government installations.
Gentry: I’ll note that your revenue was up in 2018 300 percent over the prior year … what were the main drivers of that performance?
Wheatley: 336 percent actually. … I think there’s a couple of factors playing here. First of all, obviously there’s a lot more adoption of electric vehicles going on at the moment. The absolute numbers are still quite low, but the growth is really phenomenal with what we’re looking at year after year.
If you chart the growth of our sales next to the growth of the sales of electric vehicles globally, what you’ll see is two lines which are almost identical. We’re in lockstep with that growth. And that’s helpful in terms of forecasting the future for us as well. As we look at the future, we just look at future sales of electric vehicles and it gives us a good indication of where we are going. …
The second factor would be, we just haven’t been recognized for what we’re doing in the past. We haven’t committed a lot of money to sales and marketing, because we’ve put all of those finite resources into engineering and product development. But now we’re starting to get the message out, and we’re winning great customers: the City of New York, State of California, Google and many others, and success breeds success.
Gentry: How big is the market opportunity?
Wheatley: Well, it depends on who you talk to. Bloomberg’s putting us at $2.7 trillion over the next decade. There are 1.2 billion cars on the road today, moving to 2 billion in 2040. There’ll all be electric. That’s going to mean hundreds of millions of EV chargers required.
Gentry: Talk to us about your business model. How does Envision Solar make money?
Wheatley: One of the things I love about this company is that it’s a very simple company. It’s easy to understand our value proposition, easy to understand the value that the products bring. It’s also easy to understand how we make money. For the most part, today we sell our products … it’s about selling and leasing products.
Gentry: What type of intellectual property does Envision maintain?
Wheatley: Again, very simple, easy to understand. We have multiple patents on our products. But I’m going to tell you, we’re not a company that just goes around chasing patents so we can decorate our walls with them.
All of the patents that we have are out in the street making money for us. And we’re very disciplined about how we spend money on intellectual property protection. It needs to be demonstrated that it’s going to create a clear barrier to entry for competition. And when it is, we’ll invest in that. …
We also have a couple of patents which are patent pending. Same rules apply. We believe there are great opportunities in the market for these products.