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Rove, Gelson’s Link For Charging Centers

Local electric vehicle charging firm Rove is teaming up with Encino-based supermarket chain Gelson’s for a string of new public centers in Southern California, with the first groundbreaking taking place in Santa Ana.

The centers will offer 40 or more public chargers compatible with every EV, with amenities including restrooms, lounges, on-site security and car washes.

The sites, open all day, will also have air stations to fill tires and squeegees, but not repairs.

The Gelson’s markets on-site at the centers, smaller than the chain’s typical stores, will feature fresh meals, beverages and grocery staples. They’ll be branded as ReCharge by Gelson’s.

Nathan McDonnell, chief executive of Costa Mesa-based Rove, told the Business Journal late last month that he expects most people to spend about 15 to 20 minutes at the site.

The groundbreaking for the first location —a 1.2-acre Santa Ana site at 1008 E. 17th St. two blocks from the Santa Ana (5) Freeway—took place on Sept. 28. It will open in the first half of 2024.

The site, which previously held a HomeTown Buffet restaurant, was acquired at the start of 2022 for about $3 million by El Segundo-based real estate firm CalBay Development, which focuses on retail opportunities.

Rove expects to build 20 of the charging centers by 2026, and currently has a headcount of 15 employees.

Other charging centers will include Costa Mesa, Corona, Long Beach, Torrance and Rancho Cucamonga, the company says.

The centers aim to meet a fast-growing need as EVs become more popular and owners demand charging convenience.

Modern Design

Rove charging centers will likely “feel” somewhat like old-fashioned rest stops without looking like them since the design is modern, the company said.

In a key technical development, the charging center will use a combination of solar power structures to generate energy and on-site batteries to reduce grid needs during peak charging hours.

“We want to be sure that we can fill those cars that fast and not be a strain on the grid,” according to the CEO. “It is a large draw of power.”

Rove’s centers will charge customers a market rate for energy used to fill up the batteries, similar to a gas station pricing.

Additionally, Rove expects amenities such as the car washes and Gelson’s stores to contribute to the centers’ success.

Rove is financed by N.Y.-based Newlight Partners, which originally operated within the Strategic Investments Group at Soros Fund Management LLC. Newlight was spun out from Soros in 2018.

“We build and own all of the facilities,” Rove CEO McDonnell said.

Rove expects to either own or lease the land where it has facilities.

Gelson’s Space

Gelson’s said the arrangement with Rove represents a first-of-its-kind retail brand partnership for the supermarket chain.

ReCharge by Gelson’s will offer “curated foods,” beverages and convenience items.

Each market will be about 5,000 square feet, according to Rove.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Rove on their state-of-the-art public charging centers, which are a completely new concept for us,” said Gelson’s CEO and President John Bagan.

“Many of us at Gelson’s are EV drivers ­­­ourselves and have felt the pains of public charging over the years.”

“Gelson’s has committed to at least 10 charging stations, depending upon the size of the unit, proximity to our existing locations, and supply infrastructure,” a company spokesperson said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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