From telecom beginnings to making a name for themselves as the contractor of choice for the rapid roll-out of complex, ultra-fast EV charger deployments, ClearBlue Technologies Group is at the forefront of electrifying North America
This article is presented by ClearBlue Technologies Group
As a former amateur hockey player, James Davis — the founder and CEO of Woodbridge, Ont.-based ClearBlue Technologies Group — remembers the lesson drilled into him as a player: “Keep your stick on the ice.” For those not familiar with rink jargon, it simply means be ready for action at a moment’s notice. It’s a mindset Davis carries through his life and now, in ClearBlue’s case, it’s a philosophy that is certainly paying off.
In the world of installing superfast charging stations this Canadian company has emerged as one of the go-to groups in North America. Its client list reads like an all-star lineup in the electric mobility world and the company’s fingerprints are on charging stations across the continent.
“We built our first supercharging station [in Canada], five years ago in Cornwall. That got us a foot in the EV world,” says Davis. “From there it really snowballed for us. We’ve built out 80 per cent of all supercharging stations in Ontario.”
The ClearBlue team has operated under the radar for years, quietly and bullishly building up the company’s portfolio and working through early-startup growing pains. Now it is ready to launch onto a bigger stage.
Nimble, resourceful, meticulous
ClearBlue is a small team that likes to compete in a big pond. With just 15 employees, the company has built out over 100 50KW, 150KW and 350KW DC fast charger stations across North America — Davis says for every one station its competitors take on, ClearBlue is able to produce five.
“We’re known for being very resourceful and nimble. We make things happen really, really quickly with limited hand-holding,” says Davis of his team’s method and diligence. “We’ve got a really good deployment process on how to roll these things out quickly and we’ve got experience managing those builds and self-performing as a small company.”
Davis founded ClearBlue Technologies Group in 2008. After years playing semi-professional hockey in the United States, he hung up his skates and returned to Toronto in search of “a real job.” He soon fell into the telecom world, founded ClearBlue (then ClearBlue Wireless) and started to learn the ropes of site solutions and installation in the fast-moving telecom world.
A few years later, a chance encounter with an old connection gave Davis the lead on becoming a fast charger installer for Canada’s bourgeoning EV infrastructure system. From there, ClearBlue’s dynamic team and unique business model started gaining attention and winning contracts — over and over again.
“We were awarded a contract for a major public charging network in Ontario,” says Davis. “And then the client asked us to take on more. So we built a lot of sites in Quebec and now they are considering us for 32 more sites as a turnkey provider so we would do design and build. And then they pulled us into the United States.”
So, what is it exactly that separates ClearBlue from the competition? Davis says it starts with the basics: cultivating a highly-skilled and carefully curated team that knows how to move as a unit and always being ready to get building at a moment’s notice. For Davis and his team, the lessons they learned from those early telecom days where being first to the finish line was everything are paying off today.
“That’s what the telecom industry is known for: getting sites on air as fast as possible. Me being from the telecom world and leading deployments, I have that background to know what needs to come next in order to roll these things out,” says Davis. “ClearBlue uses the telecom model and I think that’s what a lot of our competitors don’t seize, because they’re not from the telecom business. We like to be vertically integrated on everything because then we can control the timeline.”
Davis says a company’s unwavering commitment to customer service — “we watch the project right through to the end” — and making a concerted effort to not need hand-holding from clients also have gone a long way in furthering ClearBlue’s reputation in the field.
Simply put, says Davis: “We’re a solutions provider, we figure it out — that’s what they hire us to do.”
Demand is growing
As far as corporate concerns go, ClearBlue has a good problem. As the demand for public and commercial charging solutions grows, so too does the demand for their services. The way things are going the small team may not be so lean for that much longer — it’s time to grow.
With calls now coming in from across North America, ClearBlue is keen to prioritize commercial installations and tackle some of the biggest charging challenges. Case in point is its current contract on a major American project: a four-year, 200-site project, for which ClearBlue will be responsible for 120 stations. Additionally, ClearBlue has an eye to the heavy-duty vehicle charging sector. They were recently awarded a contract to build an undisclosed heavy-duty vehicle charging site in California, dubbed an “Electric Island.”
An Electric Island is the zero emission industry’s answer to the problem of securing megawatt charging capabilities for heavy trucks. The first Electric Island — a joint venture between Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Portland General Electric (PGE) and unrelated to ClearBlue — opened in April in Portland, Oregon with eight charging ports for electric cars, buses, box vans and semi-trucks.
For ClearBlue, the elements of each project now are challenging, time-consuming and rewarding. The team is as hungry for the opportunity to prove itself now as it was back in the early days of installing Canada’s flagship super charger. Each site represents new lessons learned, a measurable unit of change for the world’s climate and puts the ClearBlue team one step closer to achieving its mission statement.
“We want to be known as the EV deployment provider of choice on the commercial side,” says Davis about the company’s five-year plan. “We are regarded as the leader in the space when it comes to deploying EV super chargers and we are happy to be known for that.”
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