Charging station companies have flourished well during the past few years. Although it’s still the wild far out west within that industry, a handful of startups are already prominent key players. EV Safe Charge started as a little word-of-mouth startup and now it seems ready to take the next step up to industry leadership.
How To Go From Startup To Cleantech Industry Leader?
Startups start with a simple idea. Necessity is the mother of inventions and can lead to a startup to eventually become a large global company.
This is the story of how one person bought an EV with no help from the dealership in figuring out how to charge it at home. He researched the right solution for himself and then helped other consumers and businesses through the confusion of finding the right charger, identifying a qualified electrician, and getting it installed safely. This eventually led to the founding of a startup to address this gaping market hole. Heard that story before? An eye for those market gaps and then early leadership to fill them is how startups eventually become leaders and leave bigger corporations to either follow or buy them out.
A couple of years ago, Caradoc Ehrenhalt decided to get a Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive EV. The dealership didn’t know much about electric vehicles (EV), and even less about chargers, let alone installation or finding an electrician. As a consumer, Ehrenhalt did what any consumer should do, research online. After dealing with the frustrations of the lack of information and conflicting recommendations, he decided to help out others in the same situation. This led to the creation of EV Safe Charge.
EV Safe Charge, From Startup To Company Status
Today, EV Safe Charge, with Caradoc Ehrenhalt leading the charge as Founder & CEO, offers EV charging information to private EV owners, commercial entities, fleets, and even companies converting buses to electricity. And it all started with an informative website educating anyone who came across it how to charge their EVs.
I would say that, through simple word of mouth, EV Safe Charge became the website to go to for charging information. Eventually, multi-unit dwellings contacted the website. The group partnered with charger companies in order to find the best possible solution for every case. What EV Safe Charge decided to do was to become completely hardware and software agnostic. One of the biggest problem individuals and companies have is that they can’t get the answers they need, since they can easily find consultants pushing one or two products but not necessarily experts who aren’t tied to a product. It’s difficult to do the research on what is available, incentives, rebates, whether to install a networked or non-networked charging system, how to find the right electrician, and what utility rate to use, among other things.
EV Safe Charge once had a 5-star hotel that wanted Tesla chargers for its clients. The hotel staff didn’t know the chargers only work with Tesla cars. They eventually chose a charging system open to all, Teslas included. In the end, they avoided frustrated clients who drove to the hotel with a regular EV.
Understanding What People and Companies Need From EVs and EVSE
For this story, we asked EV Safe Charge execs if the charging standards war was a problem. They found it does confuse their consumers, and business owner customers more than anything. In many cases, they choose to just wait it out until the charging standard war subsides. What EV Safe Charge found was that by explaining how these standards work, it could install chargers with options for the different types of fast charging systems — CHAdeMO and the challenger, CCS. Sadly, this could have been avoided. This deep pocket charging standard war ultimately slows down the adoption of EVs.
Over time, EV Safe Charge found one of its niches in one of the most underserved market, that of multi-unit dwellings. Multi-unit apartments and condo HOAs need the most help when it comes to understanding what is available and what will meet their specific needs. These types of installations are also often the most complex for various reasons, including the many stakeholders involved. EV Safe Charge developed its niche expertise here when bigger companies such as Schneider Electric and Bosch pulled out of EVSE installations in the US. Although Bosch is still partnering with EV Safe Charge for EVSE supplies (Schneider left the US EV charging market completely), it left the multi-unit dwelling market open. Thankfully, new multi-unit construction codes are helping to grow the overall footprint by requiring homebuilders to install charging stations.
How Do You Differentiate Your Startup From Another?
It’s simple but hard: One of the best ways to differentiate your company from others is to focus on customer service. EV Safe Charge prides itself on going the extra mile. One example the company gave us was a potential apartment building complex client calling for help during the past holiday season when its lights went out, a situation unrelated to EV chargers as the apartment complex hadn’t even had them installed yet. Most big companies will put you through wait lines, endlessly repeating your business is important and will eventually get to you, but smaller companies are quicker to fight for your business. In this case, all it took was flipping a switch back on, which took less than an hour, all included. The satisfied future client is not only an enthusiastic future customer but one already vaunting the merits of that company everywhere.
To date, EV Safe Charge received top startup awards at the Los Angeles Auto Show & AutoMobility Los Angeles 2017 (at the LA Auto Show). Now, it is diversifying by partnering with electric bus and bus conversion companies. Considering there are 480,000 US school buses in the US, this represents a $10B untapped market. EV Safe Charge also received an official recognition from the CA State Assembly for its work on electric school bus charging infrastructure.
Eventually, startups need money to grow, and EV Safe Charge is no different. It is getting ready for a round of Series A financing and crowdinvesting. The transition from organically grown to investor funded is tricky for any company. A quick look at Tesla will show you a startup needs to find visionary investors willing to look far into the future, and the company must deliver to keep them happy. With all the news about countries and car companies now going green and moving fast towards zero-emission vehicles, savvy investors are sure to take note of the EV charging infrastructure opportunity.
The Big News At CES
EV Safe Charge is partnering with EVMatch, a group that matches people to the right charging solutions. More will be revealed at the ongoing CES 2018 in Las Vegas. The other big news is that EV Safe Charge is developing the fueling station of the future with a new partnership it’s excited to reveal soon. Although the company won’t divulge the entire product yet, it does tell us that it will be a destination product that is easily deployable, cost-effective and a one-stop-shop experience.
Stay tuned for more as we follow another startup bridging demand with possibilities and what people need with what technology can deliver.