INTERVIEW with Massimo Resta
Partner, Zouk Capital
What role have you played in Zouk’s journey?
I am a Partner in the infrastructure team and my role is to originate, execute and manage investments in the infrastructure space. I joined Zouk from Citigroup back in 2009, when the infrastructure team was set up. I have worked on all Zouk’s infrastructure funds and have been involved in most of the transactions we have made over the years in renewables, waste to energy, geothermal, battery storage and EV charging infrastructure. In EV charging infrastructure I lead on our investments in Liberty Charge, Zest, BE Power, that we recently sold to ENI, and co-led on the investment by CIIF in Instavolt, that we recently sold to EQT.
Where does the EV charging sit in the broader company’s investment mandate?
At Zouk, we have long been dedicated to investing in the sustainable economy, specifically where opportunities emerge at the intersection of infrastructure, technology and sustainability. For us that has been in two main areas – climate tech investment and environmental infrastructure. Within infrastructure we started investing in EV charging back in 2016, when we set up Instavolt and we saw the potential of this space. Subsequently we invested in BE Power and EO, both very successful companies that have come to dominate their market segments. In 2019, on the back of our sector experience, we were selected through a competitive process by the UK Government to raise and run the Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund from which we made our latest investment in Instavolt, and subsequently in Liberty Charge, char.gy and Zest. Given that we now have a fund dedicated to EV charging I guess you could say that EV Charging has become the third pillar of our investment strategy.
What other important sideline businesses make for a success of the electric vehicle charging industry?
EV charging is a very complex business. It can be dissected in many different layers (equipment suppliers, charge point operators, mobility service operators, service providers to the various actors in the chain). I am going to take the perspective of the charging point operators and mobility service operators here. First of all, equipment is absolutely key to providing a good service to your clients, and people can already see that not all chargers were created equal. Good equipment providers these days enjoy stellar performance and are set to do so for some time before the sector is commoditised. Secondly the physical infrastructure is as important as the “cloud infrastructure”, ie the software required to run the charge points, payments, and manage the charging experience of the drivers. Therefore all the software services connected to EV charging represent an important factor in determining the success of a CPO/MSP. Finally, “location, location, location”. EV Charging is both a B2B and B2C business, whereby CPOs needs to interact commercially with the hosts of their infrastructure as well as with the drivers. People will recharge their cars while eating at a restaurant, going to a gym or a shopping centre, etc. Therefore, the attractiveness for drivers of the infrastructure hosts is key to the CPO business.
Which ones are you pursuing to grow your portfolio and become bigger?
That’s a secret of course. I don’t think we are going to invest in a restaurant chain… CPOs that may achieve a dominant position in their market segment are clearly going to be our main focus, but we may selectively look at opportunities in software services and equipment providers.
What are the biggest issues for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the UK now?
Availability of parking slots in cities, grid availability and associated cost and, more recently, equipment. The EV charging equipment supply chain has been disrupted by COVID. These days it is challenging to procure equipment and unsurprisingly pricing is on the rise. Let me mention one final point. It is important that the various government activities to promote EV penetration are consistent and well-coordinated. The provision of subsidies to local authorities to install chargers needs to be thought through carefully, as it may deter investment from private companies. I think subsidies would be more useful to pull the mkt, stimulating demand for EVs.
What else should we be discussing at the EV Charging Infrastructure AC, DC, V1G, V2G Focus Day and Ambassadors’ Day #EVCI2022 in two weeks time?
I suppose we all need to make an effort to bring forward the development of EV charging infrastructure. The transition to EVs has become more important, not only from an environmental perspective (which is the key driver), but also from an energy security of supply perspective. Burning gasoline comes with strings attached as we know. Anything that reinforces this message or elaborates ways to bring forward the transition is welcomed.
Can industry collaboration help unlock these opportunities?
Collaboration is always helpful, and it is already happening. I am a believer in Adam Smith’s invisible hand here. Let’s create an incentive for people to buy EVs (tax breaks, regulations, incentives, etc) and the rest will come thanks to the initiative of the private sector.
How can we help electric vehicle charging infrastructure achieve its potential in the next 5 years?
Here are my thoughts:
- Stimulate demand for EVs (tax breaks, incentives, etc anything that makes EV cars more affordable / convenient with respect to ICE cars)
- Incentivise OEMs to invest in the EV supply chain and locate it closer to the end market that needs to be serviced. This will in turn promote the OEMs to accelerate their investments in this sector and create jobs at home
- Streamline planning permissions required to install chargers and perhaps standardise costs for the connection (connection costs allocation is not always rational)
- Mandate LACs to achieve defined goals in terms of EV charging by a certain date and promote the concession model (ideally standardising the model at central level). In my humble opinion LACs need to offer parking slots on a long term concession basis to private companies and let them compete amongst themselves. Competition will keep prices in check.
What questions should we ask you in Funding and Financing session about charging infrastructure?
- Why do you think it is an attractive sector to invest in?
- What type of investor is best suited for EV charging?
- What are the challenges of investing in EV charging?
Zouk is a London-based private equity firm with a strategy centred on the opportunities emerging in the transition to a sustainable economy. Everyone at Zouk is individually passionate about sustainability and collectively share a deep-seated commitment in contributing to a greener, cleaner and fairer future for all.
We believe that core to the transition will be the electrification of transportation. This sector is currently one of the major contributors to emissions globally and today stands as one of the greatest hurdles to overcome in the journey to net-zero. OEMs are doing their part in the development and production of electric vehicles (EVs), but it will be the investment into, and deployment of, the infrastructure that enables large-scale adoption.
Zouk has a long and successful track-record in the sector, starting in 2013 with Mobility House, 2016 with the founding of InstaVolt (now the UK’s leading independent rapid charging network), 2018 with EO Charging (soon listing on the NYSE) and 2019 investing in BEPower (now Italy’s 2nd largest charging network and recently acquired by ENI).
In mid-2019, Zouk was awarded the Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF) by the UK Government; with a fund-size of £420m (£220m from the private sector) and a mandate to support investment in the UK’s public EV charging infrastructure. From this fund, Zouk has made three exciting new investments: Liberty Charge (infrastructure supporting on-street residential charging), char.gy (lamppost connected chargepoints) and Zest (a national network of destination charging).
We are proud of our history in backing and supporting the right people in realising their ambitions and achieving extraordinarily successful outcomes for all involved. However, there is still much work to do and we at Zouk are looking forward to playing our part in this over the coming years.
Massimo Resta, Partner is Chairing the EVCI2022: The Focus Day on 14 June, and The Ambassadors’ Day on 15 June.
Massimo is also speaking on 14 June, Focus Day:
12.30 – 13.15, Robust public charging networks to service consumers and fleets Partner panel
Massimo Resta, Partner will be hosting roundtable discussions with participants on 15 June, Ambassadors’ Day:
15.05-15.50 and 15.50-16.35 How to build the charging infrastructure of the future through public and private sector collaboration
The team from Zouk Capital will be exhibiting on 14 and 15 June.
If you would like to meet with Massimo Resta and his colleagues please register here using our registration form here quoting ZOUK-EV1 to get 50% off: