A New Charging Experience - Our Interview with Gerold Wolfarth from bk Group
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Please explain to us the services bk World offers to clients within 100 words.

At a bk World Lounge your waiting time at the charging station becomes quality time.

During your 20-30 minute stay, you get an experience thanks to great snacks and drinks, good coffee of course, modern and clean toilets and comfortable seating areas. If you fancy something hot to eat, there is also a pizza machine with hot pizzas. But bk world is not only an upgrade for the charging guest, it is also an upgrade for the charging park operator, because we offer the complete greenfield solution that everyone is looking for in the “new world”.

What specific sustainable practices and technologies does bk World implement in its charging station lounges to ensure environmental friendliness and energy efficiency?

We have considered the sustainability of the product at every stage of its development, so both the bk World lounges themselves and the construction phase are definitely climate-friendly.

The lounges are built using solid wood construction from certified spruce, so the very basis of our 'Qubes' is sustainable. In addition, an ecological insulation material with very high thermal performance is used. The efficient building envelope minimizes heat loss and the ventilation system includes a highly efficient heat recovery system and energy-saving fans. Heat is generated by a heat pump. Wherever possible, bk World sites are also equipped with a roof-mounted solar system, which supplies a large proportion of the electricity consumed.

In addition, the hyperflexible concept itself is sustainable because it can be adapted to the needs of the location and does not require the construction of a massive building that seals off a lot of space and has to be painstakingly demolished at the end of its life cycle. Instead, a bk World Lounge can be quickly relocated and reused when, for example, the lease at a location expires. That's why 2023 bk World won the European Green Award.

How does bk World ensure a high-quality experience for customers using its charging station lounges, and what measures are in place to maintain this standard?

We designed bk World from the ground up to be customer focused. As electric car drivers ourselves, we know what you need during a charging break - and what is sadly missing from far too many charging stations. With this in mind, we have gone through the entire customer journey again and again, bringing our guests' needs and our capabilities closer together. Until we achieved the optimum result. Various technologies help us to ensure a smooth process. The bk World lounges are unmanned. This means that everything is digital, from payment to product management in our vending machines. Everything is photo-enforced, so we have a secure environment 24/7. Of course, I wouldn't want to forget our property managers. They are on site regularly to check on things and keep the lounge in the best possible condition. It is definitely a team effort to maintain the standard.

"When we opened the first bk World in Endsee (Germany) in 2022, the combination of a greenfield solution and a lounge for charging parks was unique."
Gerold Wolfarth, CEO bk Group

Are there any plans for expanding bk World’s network of charging stations and lounges, both domestically and internationally, and what strategies will you employ to achieve this growth?

There are plans. In Germany and abroad. As our first lounges are all at TESLA Superchargers, there will soon be lounges at other CPO's charging stations. And in June we are opening the first bk World in France, which is a major step for us. But Europe will not be the end, we are also planning to enter the US market.

Can you elaborate on any strategic partnerships bk World has formed to enhance its services and sustainability efforts, and how these collaborations contribute to your overall mission?

Obviously, you can't manage such a project alone. However, we are very fortunate that bk World, as a subsidiary of the bk Group, has a large and very broad network of resources and partners. The bk Group, has been active in shopfitting and retail maintenance for 25 years. This means that we have a fully functioning construction department, which also covers the design and construction of bk World. We have also been providing technical building management services to clients throughout Europe for over 20 years. This means that our two core businesses now come together in bk World. The administrative organization is also that of the bk Group. However, since the launch of bk World, incredible new partnerships have emerged, and we have been able to open up a whole new area of business. Last but not least, of course, I would like to mention our collaboration with Tesla, which has given us great momentum.

How do you see your services grow internationally and what are the key markets for you?

Well, apart from Germany and France, which I have already mentioned, we see other very interesting European countries. Of course, Scandinavia is a very important future market for us. Especially in Europe, where we already have a lot of experience. But we are also getting a lot of enquiries and interest from North America, so that will be our next big step.

How does bk World stay at the forefront of innovation in the electric vehicle (EV) charging industry, and what new technologies or approaches are you currently exploring?

We started with bk World before anyone else. When we opened the first bk World in Endsee in 2022, the combination of a greenfield solution and a lounge for charging parks was unique. We can therefore say that we have a clear lead in the market. In particular, because our concept is scalable, we see a clear advantage over other lounges, which are more one-off solutions.

How does bk World gather and incorporate customer feedback to continuously improve its services, and can you provide examples of changes made based on customer input?

The input we receive from our guests is very important to us. And there are several ways to provide feedback. There is of course the public way, such as through social media or Google, and guests can also send an email using the QR codes that can be found on the screens in our lounges. Another way in which we proactively seek feedback is through surveys that we regularly conduct in our locations. Personal contact is the best way to get the most informed opinions. In fact, we have made many changes as a result of customer feedback. For example, we have added more seating in our lounges, adapted our snack offer to our guests' preferences and made many other small adjustments that make our day-to-day business easier.

What are the biggest challenges bk World faces in the EV charging station industry, and how is the company addressing these obstacles to ensure continued success?

To be honest, there are quite a few challenges. But I think anyone who enters a new market can tell you a thing or two about it. But to give you an example: the authorities. The authorities have a problem with granting planning permission because a lounge at an electric car charging point is still unknown to them. There is simply no 'appropriate category', such as office building or hotel. For us, this means that we have to justify each application several times, hold personal discussions and so on. And we have to do this for each new location. It's quite exhausting and time-consuming, but you have to keep pushing.

This ambiguity applies not only to our lounges, but also to loading bays in general. I think many stakeholders would have liked the pace of expansion to be much faster. But unfortunately, the process as a whole is rather slow. In my opinion, you have to keep pushing an issue like this forward, see and seize every opportunity to be a pioneer and pave the way for others. I am sure that this is the future. It's just that not everyone has understood it yet.

How does bk World approach corporate social responsibility, and what initiatives are currently in place to support this, ensuring that your operations benefit both society and the environment?

As a subsidiary of the bk Group, bk World is subject to the same standards. Of course, our focus is on our employees, and we have a comprehensive benefits program that covers health, social and educational issues. Sustainability and the consideration of social, economic and environmental aspects also play an important role for us. We are happy to be measured by our activities, and just last year we had an imug rating prepared for bk World. It should not be forgotten that we believe that electromobility makes an important contribution to sustainable development and that each bk World makes the world a better place.

Many thanks for your answers and we wish you all the best for your future growth.

Photos courtesy of bk World.