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9 hot startups that could make or break the electric car industry by rethinking how drivers plug in

Publication: Insider
December 30, 2021
News

Over the next several years, automakers will release electric versions of the pickups and SUVs their customers love. But that love is unlikely to last if their buyers struggle to keep them charged up while on the road.

Right now, more than 80 percent of EV charging is done at home, according to the US Department of Energy. But if consumers can’t find an open, working, convenient charger out in public — or don’t think they can — they’re not likely to adopt these cars quickly.

To date, players like ChargePoint, Electrify America, Volta, EVgo, and Blink have dominated the charging spotlight. But with EV adoption on the rise, the charging ecosystem is about to explode.

Dozens of companies are racing to innovate what could be a more than $207 billion charging market by 2030, according to Guidehouse Insights.

Here’s a look at the different types of charging the average EV driver will need (from at-home charging to wireless charging on-the-go) and nine little-known but promising startups hoping to shake up the space.

JuiceBar
Enel X is one of the many players offering residential charging equipment. 

Home charging

Navigating at-home charging installations can be complicated for consumers preparing for their first EV purchase. Dealers are becoming better equipped to answer questions related to home charging, and some municipalities and utilities encourage installations with incentives or subsidies. But there are still many companies to consider if you’re debating an update to your garage to accommodate the power needs of an EV.

Enel X is one of the players offering residential equipment, and claims to have more benefits than at-home offerings from the likes of ChargePoint, Blink, and Electrify America (all of which are known more for their public charging presence).

Its JuiceBox Level 2 charging incorporates convenience features such as scheduling charging, receiving notifications about charge status, and the ability to voice-activate charging. It offers different speeds of charging depending on the charger model.

EVgo charging
EVgo is one of the bigger names in EV charging in the US. 

Public charging

The big names in public charging account for more than 32,000 of the nearly 53,000 charging locations in the US, per the Department of Energy’s count. But other companies are hoping to break into the space, especially as electric vehicles grow to a more than $500 billion market across the globe by 2025, by PitchBook’s estimate.

JuiceBar has been growing its footprint at a steady pace since its founding in 2009. The Norwalk, Connecticut company has installed chargers in more than 200 cities. It touts charging speeds of 60 to 250% faster than standard industry chargers.

Meanwhile, Walnut, California-based startup Xeal primarily targets apartment complexes (where charging accessibility has been one of the most challenging to tackle) and workplaces. Its system includes installation, charging management, and a mobile app. The two-year-old startup raised $11 million in a Series A round in October.

For prospective EV buyers in charging deserts — areas often left out of this conversation, like rural towns — Francis Energy is developing a regional network of public fast-charging stations. The six-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma-based startup has started by establishing a comprehensive network in the state, where drivers would always be within about 50 miles of a charging location.

Repair for pesky, unreliable chargers

One of the biggest questions about EV charging following how and where to charge is: What happens when drivers could show up to what might be the only convenient station in their area, just to find the equipment isn’t operating or connecting to the car properly?

ChargerHelp, a Los Angeles-based startup, is developing an on-demand EV charging station repair system to tackle that challenge.

CEO Kameale Terry, formerly at charging management platform EV Connect, founded the company in 2020. ChargerHelp provides operations and maintenance for customers like Enel X, Xeal, Greenlots (Shell’s EV business), and infrastructure provider SemaConnect, who can request a real-time dispatch. ChargerHelp then deploys local technicians who troubleshoot and diagnose a charger’s issues on-site.

Integrated Roadways
Integrated Roadways, founded in 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri, has already installed its system in Denver, Colorado and wants to expand to wireless charging. 
Integrated Roadways

On-the-go

Many drivers worry that the time it could take to plug in an electric vehicle would be much longer than the time it takes to fuel up their gas-powered car. Though fast-charging technologies make the length of time needed to plug in a little closer to what’s needed to fuel up, some startups take another approach to that misconception, using charging on the go.

Founded in 2020 and headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts, WiTricity is a wireless charging company that uses a magnetic resonance technology to allow electric cars equipped with its technology to pull into parking spots and juice up wirelessly.

Integrated Roadways focuses on connectivity and making roads smarter to update drivers on factors like traffic and road conditions. The startup, founded in 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri, has already installed its system (technology embedded in road and highway pavement such as sensors that can detect and give information to drivers or connected vehicles in real-time) in Denver, Colorado and plans to deploy more panels across the country. Eventually, the company wants to provide wireless charging.

Electreon, an eight-year-old Israeli company, uses conductive coils beneath the surface of roads to power EVs — not unlike what consumers are used to with wireless smartphone charging. Cars with the appropriate receivers would pick up charge while driving. Electreon has deployed this tech in Israel and Sweden, and is in the process of installing in Germany and Italy.

Meanwhile, WAVE has long been working with the Antelope Valley Transit Authority and other transit partners to wirelessly charge medium- and heavy-duty transit vehicles using inductive charging. The startup was acquired by Ideanomics in 2021 and is led by CEO Aaron Gillmore, former director of Tesla Energy Operations.

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