“Our product is the key to the future of decentralized energy”

London-based startup ZipCharge, founded a year ago, is working on an electric vehicle charging solution that it says could boost the adoption of electric vehicles not only in the West but in a country like India, where electric vehicles are an emerging industry. The brainchild of Ritchie Seibal and Jonathan Carrier, ZipCharge is developing what it says will be the world’s first smart portable charger – dubbed the Go.

In an exclusive interaction with Autocar ProfessionalCarrier spoke about the company’s assets. “We have gathered a lot of very useful experiences over the past 12 months straight from the technical challenges that must be addressed to manufacture a product like the Go portable charger to learn how to set it up and operate it in different operating conditions. We design the charger to enable it to operate from -10°C to 60°C. Centigrade safely and reliably. No matter where you are in the world, someone will use it.”

During their initial research, ZipCharge found that about 40-50 percent of customers are not in a position to install a home charger for electric vehicles. Then there is another category of electric vehicle users who have home charging but see advantages in having flexible charging along with fixed charging. In addition, the Go portable charger is designed to use solar energy and to power your home. “In fact, it’s a portable energy storage device with many use cases, not just for electric vehicle charging,” Carrier explains.

startup problems
In Carrier’s view, he says that just like any other player, the geopolitical situation along with Covid-19-related restrictions has affected the company’s plans. “We still have some fundamentally opposite issues that the auto industry is facing that relates to the supply chain. It’s primarily about semiconductors and conductors, which is a huge struggle for an early stage business where you don’t necessarily have a history and business continuity or clear revenue streams to enable an individual to benefit capacity and also the type of supply contracts required.”

He said the challenges, among others, including technical business issues as well as a willingness to go for opportunities and growth. In early March 2022, the startup won the British Engineering Excellence Award for Research and Development Project of the Year awarded to its R&D program and for subjecting the Portable Electric Car Charger to precision vehicle development processes and industry standard experiments. The company hopes to be ready for market in early 2023.

Carrier explains the context of the use case for a Go charger, “When you have an electric vehicle, don’t wait for the battery to go to zero before fully charging it to 100 percent. We know from speaking with EV users and studies in the public domain that EV users often increase a little bit more. The behavioral pattern is to keep increasing each day when you need to and adding to your mileage (range).”

For example, he cites the case of countries such as the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and even China as well, where the average daily kilometers that a person drives, not only on the way to work but in his car, is somewhere in the tens of dozens. to 27-28 km. Even in the United States, the average mileage is about 42 km. So, it’s really about meeting your daily needs and thus it’s a lot like a power bank that people use for their smartphone. One can also take the charger with you on long trips.”

The portable charger will be available in 4 kW and 8 kW, which can provide a range of 32 km to 64 km depending on the vehicle model. Depending on the market response, a 6 kW battery pack is also being explored. In terms of pricing, the startup says owning a portable charger would be equal or cheaper then setting up a wall-mounted charging setup at home.

Carrier explained its many advantages, “ZipCharge also provides flexibility for use on vacation on the one hand and even by corporate fleets that need to use electricity. Many service fleets will be commuting and visiting customers’ homes during the day where they can use our charger as a way to be able to charge the car when they do Something else “.

Speaking of developments in battery technology, Carrier explains that from ZipCharge’s point of view, there are two outcomes. “Either we keep the size the same and add more power, or we make it smaller and lighter. By choosing the latter, our product has a long life. It is not a temporary solution because people still need portable access to power.”

On liquid cooling, Carrier says his company isn’t in the air-cooled battery business like some international companies are. Citing an example, he says that the Nissan Leaf does not have liquid cooling, this is because it recognized the fact that to reduce the weight of the car and improve its efficiency, one needs to get rid of things that include liquid cooling. ZipCharge, says it uses similar technologies and tries to manage refrigeration in the most efficient way that reduces weight, complexity, and therefore costs. In his words, “At the end of the day we are trying to produce something that is accessible in terms of battery packs. This means we have to think smart about how to develop and engineer the Go charger, but that makes the engineering challenge more difficult. So, it needs intensive engineering development because we We should be able to make sure it works well and is safe.”

This conversation is taking place at a time when there have been many battery fires in India, so the issue of safety, not only for electric vehicle users in India, but globally as well is relevant. Carrier provides statistics indicating that electric vehicles have had far fewer accidents than thermal runway accidents versus internal combustion engine vehicles because electric vehicles adhere to very strict standards, including battery packs. Currently, ZipCharge aims to have the right development and testing time to ensure a safe and reliable product.

The feature was published in Autocar Professional Edition on May 1, 2022.

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