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Urban EV Charging, Explained

Urban EV Charging, Explained

Q&A with itselectric CEO Nathan King

Urban EV Charging, Explained
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Presented by SinglePoint (SING)
Aired May 31, 2023
Nathan King, CEO of itselectric, joins the Public Podcast to discuss EV charging, its benefit to cities, and the industry's future.

Kinsey Grant: Hello, everybody, and welcome once again to the Public Podcast. I'm your host Kinsey Grant and I am so excited to be here with you today. Now before we jump in, I'd like to thank our sponsor, SinglePoint. SinglePoint ticker S-I-N-G on OTC Markets is a renewable energy and sustainable lifestyle provider. And we're thrilled that they made today's interview possible. Now today we are going to talk about a majorly hot topic that has been driving and yes, pun intended, plenty of conversation in business and investing in recent years, electric vehicles. I'm so happy to welcome our guest today. itselectric CEO, Nathan King. Nathan, welcome to Public. How are you?

Nathan King: Hi, Kinsey, I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. 

KG: Of course, I'm thrilled to have you here we have a lot to cover. And I'm excited to learn a little bit more about what you're doing, what your business is doing, what your vision for the future of electric vehicles and electric vehicle infrastructure is. And I think as we get started with that conversation, it would be good to start with a little bit of context. itselectric is a startup that's building a new model for EV charging stations. But I gather, that's just the beginning. So Nathan, could you start by telling me a little bit more about your business? And about the challenge for which you're solving?

NK: Sure. So itselectric is an EV charging company, and we're exclusively focused on cities. And why is that important? Well, there are at least 40 million drivers in the US that parked their cars on city streets, they don't have access to an off street, parking garage or a driveway. And the beauty of what we do at itselectric, is we allow that very urban density that creates barriers for EV charging in cities actually to become our solution. And what we do is simple. We find spare electrical capacity at the adjacent privately private property and we pull that electrical supply out to the curb side to power an EV charger for any driver in the community parks their car on the city street. Why would a building owner let us do this? Well, what we do is we share revenue from that charger back with the host property. There's no upfront cost to the owner. itselectric pays for all the electricity that we use. And even with a low or modest utilization that host property can earn around $1,000 a year. So it's really it's a win win for for everyone involved. The host property can bring EV charging to the community. EV drivers now have an opportunity to have a place to charge where they're already parking their car. And for cities. This is a privately funded solution. So we don't have to requisition money from city budgets or state budgets to get EV charging. Infrastructure deployed. Right. 

KG: So using what's already they're using what's already there exactly. Got it. And I gather that this is kind of part of the the solution to one of the bigger question marks or one of the bigger problems that a lot of people who have tried to understand EVs or at least how we get to mass adoption of electric vehicles. One of the big things that we talk about is range anxiety, that that feeling of not really knowing how long you can go not knowing if you're going to find the appropriate kind of port to charge or know all of that anxiety that comes along with can I make it where I need to go? Will I be able to pull over and do what I need to do? Tell me a little bit more about how that range anxiety is, is coming to life in these urban areas where you're deploying your tools and your business. Tell me a little bit more about how range anxiety plays out for people in those more densely populated parts of our country.

NK: Sure, and and, you know, we acknowledged that range anxiety is going to be something that drivers think about, they imagine themselves stranded in between two cities and not able to find a charger. But because we're a sort of city focused EV charging, we're actually concerned with something that we call accessing anxiety. So if you don't have anywhere that you can find a charger to plug in and in charge your car, you're going to think twice before you buy an electric vehicle so that that access anxiety actually becomes your primary consideration before you buy an EV. And, you know, most drivers and cities, they don't put that many miles on their cars, and they use their cars for their daily commute. They're not really driving from city to city. And so really what they're doing is they're, they want to be sure that they have a convenient and accessible location to charge their car when when they need to. We we know from the Department of Energy that about 80% of the electricity that powers EVs is done at home. So a typical EV driver, they'll have their own garage or driveway, they'll have an electrician come in and put a decent charger so that they can charge their car overnight. That's, again, that's 80% of how charging is done in this country. And that other 20% are when people are driving long distances, like I said, in between cities, or maybe they happen to go shopping, and they go to a public charger, and they hop off their car if they're having a busy day. But really the easiest way and the most convenient way. And the big advantage around EVs is that you don't have to go somewhere to fuel your vehicle, you plug in, let it charge overnight. And when you come out in the morning, you're you have a full you have a full battery. So that kind of charging behavior is what we want to unlock and enable for city drivers. It shouldn't just be a luxury that drivers and suburbs have. 

KG: Yeah, absolutely certainly certainly makes a lot of sense. And I would love to hear a little bit more about the community focused approach. You mentioned that this feels like a win win for both the drivers of EVs for the cities where we want more EVs to be on the roads, and also for the communities where you're entering into, you know, their their market their neighborhood. Tell me a little bit more about how you're trying to align incentives with these local communities.

NK: Yeah, you know, this is, this is a little bit comes from my background, before starting It's electric. I work as an architect and I worked on big complicated projects, in cities across the US. And one of the things that we learn as architects is that if you are building a big project, in a particular neighborhood, it's disruptive to the people that live there. And so you really need to make sure that you have some buy in from the community before you start that project. And you know, architects do this by making sure that the buildings that they design fit the context of the neighborhood, they make sure that they're in many cases, that there are things that are set aside in the actual building for the community to use, you know that that's like a, like a community center, or a place that people can gather and or cafe to eat. If you don't have that buy in from the community, when you're working on an urban project, your project will get slowed down, or it might not happen at all. And so we really tried to bake that understanding into how we think about its electric and put that into our business model. And so this idea that actually, we're going out and working and making partners with property owners in the communities that we're working with, that's how we are trying to sort of engage the engage the community directly, people who are hosting our chargers are literally our partners in that deployment. The other thing that we've learned is, is that the design of what we're doing is very important. So I mentioned, it needs to fit the context of the city that we're working in. So our chargers are actually designed to be very minimal. We don't have really an EV charging company in this country right now, that has designed something to fit and operate exclusively on a city street. What we have in this country are things can look like gas pumps, communities aren't really going to want to see things like that from their homes and businesses. So in order for us to scale up, EV charging, it really needs to be small, it needs to be compact, it needs to be durable, and it needs to fit in with the existing landscape. So that's our that's really important for us as well. We're designed and community focused approach to evey charging, yeah, certainly makes a lot of sense. 

KG: And one question that I would love to get your perspective on because this is quite frankly, something new that I didn't understand. I live in New York City, I don't have a car I rarely drive but you know, it's it's something that I have only done once been in a car that has had to pull over in charge on the way down from upstate one of those long city to city drives. But I didn't know that there are certain types of cars that can only types of EVs that can only charge at certain kinds of chargers. And this idea of interoperability is still a question mark for EVs. Tell me a little bit more about where you stand on this idea of interoperability knowing that multiple different models of car can maybe use the same kind of charger?

NK: Yeah, and it's one of the things that I think that the EVindustry needs to work on a little better. You know, if you go by an internal combustion engine car, it's very straightforward in terms of how you can fuel it right, you know that you're going to find a gas station, you're going to sit there for, you know, a few minutes to fill the tank, and you understand how far you can go. And every car more or less works that way. With electric vehicles, though, it's much more complicated. Not every charger works with every car, not every charger is the same speed. Sometimes there's very big differences between the speeds of chargers, even when they're sort of publicly available. And so the industry right now is really trying to straighten that out. But the complexity there is ultimately going to become something that EV drivers will appreciate, because it gives you more options in how you can fuel your car. And so we are trying to watch the industry try to make these sort of distinctions and charging a little bit smoother. But right now what we have are, you know, in the same way that in the early days of cell phones, you had different kinds of chargers that you had to use to power the battery. I mean, I think that's still the case. Some days, like sometimes a new iPhone version will have a new charging port that you didn't have before. We're kind of in those early days with EVs. And so really, there's there's two standards in the US right now, there's the one that Tesla uses. And there's the one that everyone else uses. And that makes it even more confusing is that you can get an adapter, right. So if you're a Tesla driver, actually, you can get an adapter and use any charger that you know the chargers that the other cars use. But if you're a Hyundai driver, or if you're a GM owner, you can't use a Tesla charger. So it that kind of thing needs to be sorted out and thought through. There is some hope on the horizon, though, there was really big news in the EVindustry last week, because Ford announced that they're going to start adding Tesla's charger to their vehicles. So in a few years, Tesla, and Ford will be able to park in charge at the same chargers. And so now we're waiting to see Oh, is that going to sort of happen with other vehicle makers as well? Is, is Tesla going to open up their network? And for EV drivers, you know, we would hope that that happens, because actually, Tesla has an amazing network all across the country, they put a big investment in developing their EV charging network. And for other drivers, that network isn't quite there yet. The reliability and the number of charges that are out there aren't quite where Tesla drivers have so you know, between what's happening in those other companies and between what's happening in Tesla, we think we can get there. But the industry is still kind of like I said working out which standard to use, who is allowed to use what chargers? And in terms of that standardization is the does the onus really fall on the automakers themselves, Tesla would have to say we're opening up our network or Ford or GM or Hyundai or insert carmaker here, it's on them to decide we're going to tie in with, you know, insert some other carmaker and use the same infrastructure. Yeah, you can imagine it's it's, it's an engineering decision, right? Like do we have to change the the charger type that we've already invested money into. And you also have to imagine that they're thinking, Well, I'm going to be giving more business in a way to Tesla, because now my drivers can are basically paying Tesla for evey charging. And so there's a little bit of a competitive consideration that they have to consider as well. So strategically, they have to decide you know, what's more important and you know, reassuring our drivers that they have more places to charge, or making are trying to create our own category around charging. For us as for at itselectric, you know, we have a couple of things that we think about with these different standards. One thing is our charging hardware is based on a European model where the cord actually is not attached to the charger. And that's one of the ways that we keep that the design of our charging hardware down to a minimum. So drivers carry their own charging cord around with them. And when they charge, they take the cord out and they plug it in. And when they're done, the cord goes in the trunk, and all you're left with on the sidewalk is a nice clean piece of hardware. It protects the cord from the elements and from vandalism. And also for us if there is any damage to the cord, we can very easily replace the cord and we don't have to roll a truck out and have the charger serviced. So operationally it keeps our charges up longer. And the other advantage that we have with the detachable cord model is that we can give a cord to a Tesla driver or we can give a cord to anyone else that has the same standard and doesn't need an adapter. So that's one of the things that we think about in the in this changing industry landscape making sure that drivers will have these options.

KG: Whether no matter what kind of vehicle they drive, all right, yeah, certainly makes a lot of sense. Now, I want to talk for a second here about a pilot program, I believe you recently announced with Hyundai, tell me a little bit more about this, this partnership, what's what's going on? How's it going to work? What's it going to look like?

NK: Yeah, we, we launched this pilot in April. You know, we're a startup, we've only been around for about a year and a half. And in that time, one of the things that we really worked hard on doing was developing this relationship with Hyundai. And Hyundai, I think saw an opportunity to work with us. Because what we're going to do is, by putting a charger, in a city, where people don't currently have access to charging, you're unlocking a new market to these drivers. And Hyundai makes cars that work really well in cities. In fact, that's the kind of car we drive. So you can imagine that, you know, if we can get these 40 million Americans access to charging, you know, that's a whole new market that that's now opened up to the Evie manufacturers. And what Hyundai did was basically work with us to help us fund the installation of six chargers here in Brooklyn. A couple of them are sorry, a few of them are here in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where we have our headquarters. And a few of them are at a place called the Brooklyn army terminal, which is in Sunset Park Brooklyn. And what we've been doing is sort of a closed pilot, we kind of closed pilot, we invite drivers in, they come in and they use our chargers, they give us feedback on how our hardware is working. And if they have any issues with the detachable cord model. And in that way, we're able to sort of test out this sort of unique kind of model that we're doing. It also allowed us to do the installation, see how much it costs, see if there's any, in any issues that crop up around, you know, once you actually start doing something out in the field, you know, issues come up that you have to address that you couldn't have predicted. So that really, that relationship has been very helpful for us, not only because they helped us subsidize the installation costs, but also because we learned a lot of lessons along the way along the way that will help us as we begin to scale up.

KG: Yeah, certainly makes a lot of sense. And I imagine that those lessons will become more and more valuable, the more scale you acquire. And with that in mind, I want to take an eye to the future here and think about what comes next for itselectric. Tell me a little bit more about what you specifically are expecting from the future for your business, but also more broadly for EVs generally speaking. What do you see as some of the big themes that are cropping up that you're identifying as things to watch?

NK: Yeah, that's, that is a great question. And, you know, as I said before, like, the industry is changing on a weekly or monthly basis. And one of the things that's been true since we started kind of thinking about its electric a couple of years ago, is that the market demand for EVs keeps exceeding expectations. EVs are very popular. People that get them love them and never want to have a gas car again, regular regulations have come. In the last few years regulations have gone into effect in California and New York state that's basically phasing out the sale of new internal combustion engines by 2035. And the the at the federal level, legislation has come across that is really targeted to incentivize the deployment of EV, charging infrastructure, and offset some of the costs that new EV drivers might have, especially in the early days. And so what we what we expect to happen is kind of what we see happening in Norway, where 90% of new vehicles are electric. In the Netherlands, 40% of new vehicles today are electric, and our niche of the market these 40 million drivers that we have identified, they're going to need 4 million chargers to be installed at least to support their driving behavior. Right. So that is the market opportunity that we are pursuing these millions of curbside chargers that we know need to be deployed in order to enable this transition that consumers are interested in participating in because they want EVs and cities and states are interested in pursuing because it's going to help them meet their climate and sustainability goals. And we think we can be a very significant part of that, because we've developed a model that really lets us get out to scale very quickly, you know, again, by this community and design-centered approach. 

KG: Yeah. All right. Well, Nathan, this has been wonderful. I really appreciate your time and your insight and telling me a little bit more about itselectric and what you're working on. And the EV space, broadly speaking, has certainly been a wonderful experience. And it's been great to hear a little bit more about your story. So thank you so much for joining me today. 

NK: Well, thank you, Kinsey. It's been great. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much for the opportunity to help us spread the word. We're really looking to get as much attention to this issue around charging in cities as we can so thank you so much.

KG: Absolutely thank you everybody for listening that was itselectric CEO Nathan King. I am Kinsey Grant, this is the public podcast, and I will see you next time.

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