Face-to-face with our Portfolio: ev.energy
ev.energy is on a mission to enable the decarbonisation of transport through fast, zero-carbon, and affordable electric vehicle (EV) charging. In 2019, they became the first British start-up to win the Free Electrons accelerator since we co-founded the programme in 2017 to connect start-ups with the world’s leading utility companies. Later that year, ev.energy secured £1 million in funding from investors, including our colleagues at innogy New Ventures LLC.
We sat down with ev.energy CEO and Co-founder Dr. Nick Woolley and innogy New Ventures LLC Managing Director Stefan Padberg to talk about the start-up’s plans to create smarter charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Can you tell us a bit about what your company does and what you are focusing on at the moment?
Nick: ev.energy is a software company that makes charging electric vehicles cleaner, cheaper and smarter. The challenge with integrating electric vehicles into the electricity grid, is that consumers tend to charge their vehicles at peak times. This means that electricity grids are put under unnecessary stress and energy companies have to procure electricity at peak rates, often getting it from dirty, non-renewable peak generation sources. ev.energy transforms this process by working in partnership with energy companies to provide a better charging experience and service to customers. Our focus right now is on delivering pilots with utility partners in Italy, California, the UK and Australia, and growing our user base.
What key challenges do you foresee for utilities going into a digitised and decentralised energy system? What role do you see electric mobility playing in this future and what impact will it have on the grid business?
Stefan: The challenges for electricity grids will be tremendous when the transport sector electrifies. And I deliberately say “when,” not “if” – I have no doubt electric vehicles will soon become a mass market reality and our grids will then be under immense pressure to supply much more energy in a shorter amount of time than they were ever designed to do.
I recently saw firsthand how electrification technology is a challenge in the current system when installing an innogy wall box in my house in Germany; it took months before the grid operator would allow installation and it was very time-consuming and expensive to get permission. I understand they were hesitant as they wanted to ensure stability of the grid, but rather than work with outdated models on assuming grid loads, ev.energy could offer them controllable loads that do not need predicting and can be actively influenced by the grid operator to meet available capacity. This offers huge benefits to both the grid and the customer.
Why did the Innovation Hub invest in ev.energy? What opportunity did you see in the company and how does it fit with your strategy?
Stefan: All electric vehicles and many chargers come with an app to set charging schedules but we found hardly anyone uses them. They are complicated and isolated solutions that are not customised to a user’s needs, utility rates or grid operator requirements. In short, they do not work the way they should. This is where ev.energy comes in. Their deep understanding of customer demand as well as utility and grid requirements is the perfect match, and their app-based solution makes electric vehicle charging hassle free. It opens a completely new world of possibilities as they bring dynamic structures to a previously static environment. You charge your car when it is good for the environment, the grid and your wallet. This is the smart way to electric vehicle charging and opens up possibilities for dynamic pricing based on time, or even type of use.
Why did you choose innogy Innovation Hub as an investor?
Nick: We met innogy Innovation Hub team during the Free Electrons global accelerator programme. Our business plan required us to prove that we could sell to a network of global utilities, and innogy was immediately able to help us grow, particularly in the US.
Can you tell us about your approach to giving growth support to ev.energy?
Stefan: Through our Free Electrons programme as well as the extensive and trusted network we have built across our innovation ecosystems, we were able to initiate quick pilots for ev.energy. Rather than them trying to find acceptance we could speak on their behalf and act as advocates for their technology. Once we helped open the door, their amazing dedication and excellent solution convinced our partners that they wanted to work with ev.energy. The company wanted a foot in the door in the US market and our global scale and connections meant we could help by making introductions to facilitate their development plans.
What makes innogy Innovation Hub different to other investors (VCs or other corporates)?
Nick: innogy Innovation Hub has an open and collaborative approach, with a genuine interest in helping and supporting our business as we grow. Their approach is refreshing. They have our best interests in mind and are focused on working with us in partnership and towards a common vision. They deeply understand the energy market and can open doors in the utility space across the globe.
How is ev.energy revolutionising the energy and e-mobility business and when do you expect exponential growth for your business?
Nick: ev.energy helps integrate electric vehicles into the power grid, allowing electricity networks and retailers to intelligently manage and optimise the electric loads associated with EV charging, in a way that is transparent and simple for the end user to understand. By shifting EV charging to times of the day or night when demand is lower and supply is higher, we reduce stress on the power grid, which pays us for that flexibility. The shift in time also reduces the wholesale electricity costs that retailers need to pay every half hour, and retailers pay us to deliver that saving, some of which is passed on to their customers. When customers are rewarded for smart charging, they are more likely to sign up to retailers that offer such rewards and we also get paid for this customer origination.
Our business is tied to the growth of electric vehicles. The global EV market has been relatively small for a number of years, supported initially by government subsidies. However, over the last year most leading global automotive brands have committed to the technology. As a result, we can expect dramatic growth over the next 3-5 years.
Can you provide some concrete examples of how the innogy Innovation Hub has provided growth support/cooperation?
Nick: During the Free Electrons programme, the innogy team introduced us to ChargePoint, the leading manufacturer of EV charging equipment. Following innogy’s introduction, ChargePoint collaborated with us on a pilot in the US, and we are now actively exploring additional opportunities to work together.
Where do you both want to be in two years from now on this joint journey?
Nick: In two years, there will be millions of electric vehicles on the road, creating great opportunities for e-mobility and in turn for energy companies like ev.energy and utilities like innogy. I would be disappointed if ev.energy was not working actively with innogy in a number of key markets, like Germany, the UK and US, helping to decarbonise transport and simplify electric vehicle charging for tens of thousands of customers across the globe.
Stefan: As Nick said, ev.energy’s solution will be an integral part of EV home-charging applications across all key markets. Their ability to make unpredictable loads not only predictable but also controllable, and bring environmental and price benefits, is one of a kind.