Bart: Hey everybody. Welcome to Technology and Renewables episode number four. I’m here with Chris Darby, hey, Chris. Hey, how are you doing?
Chris: I’m doing okay.
Bart: Chris is from ev.energy. Chris, good to have you here on the show.
Chris: Thanks. It’s great to be here.
Bart: I’d like to ask you a couple of things. Firstly, about your company: when did you guys start, what do you guys do? If you can explain to our audience.
Chris: Yeah, sure. So, ev.energy was founded about four years ago. It was started by myself and my co-founder Nick Wooley and there were two of us and 30 Tesla drivers who wanted to do the right thing for the grid. That’s where we started out. And now, four years later, we have about 70,000 EVs across the globe connected to ev.energy. And what we do with those EVs is we make it simpler, greener and cheaper for everyone involved. So for the driver, it’s really, really simple. They come home, they plug their car in and then ev.energy takes over, making sure it’s charged for the next morning. It’s greener because we match it with renewable energy, either the solar panels on their roof or what’s available on the grid. And then we save the money by bidding into grid flexibility or working with the utilities in time of day rates and things like that.
Bart: All right, so it sounds a bit complicated, but I guess it’s a very beneficial thing for drivers. So what does the driver have out of the app? So I guess it saves money and he is kind of feeling good because the way the vehicles are being charged is more green and climate positive.
Chris: Exactly, right.
Bart: But the drivers are not the only ones that actually benefit of your ecosystem, right? So when it comes to your business model and the company, who else you guys work with, and who benefits?
Chris: Sure. So it always starts with the driver because the driver is the most important person. They need their car to get to work, to get to school, whatever, and it is important for them. No one buys… well, maybe you and I buy an EV because we think they’re cool, and we like the tech and we want to charge our car, but most people, they buy an EV because they want to get from A to B. And so that’s where we have to start, and so we do make it really, really simple for the driver to connect their car up to the app, to set the time they need their car ready by, but then aggregating all these vehicles up is a great distributed energy resource that’s available for the grid. And that could be energy retailers, it could be full-stack utilities doing everything from generation. It could be the grid operators. It could be generators, especially renewable energy generators. So our business model relies on those folks paying us to manage the energy of every one of the drivers in their territory. So the driver themselves, the service is free to them. So they just have this great service that says: “your car will be ready tomorrow morning, don’t worry about it”. Maybe they even get rewarded for being part of a flexibility program, and that’s all funded by the grid, by the energy company.
Bart: So, as you mentioned, from 10-20 drivers to 17,000 vehicles within the own network. You guys are based in the UK most, so tell me what do you do here at the DTech? Why Distributech is actually interesting for you?
Chris: Yeah, well, I mean, Distributech. We’re in Dallas, Texas, which is the most innovative, arguably, energy market in North America. It’s also the craziest, some might say. And it’s also quite similar to the European markets. So you have competitive retail here. You’ve got the reps, you can switch energy providers. That’s the environment in which ev.energy was formed, this environment of competitive retail. And so we’ve been able to hone our proposition to make it interesting for retailers because yeah, you’re solving a problem for the energy driver… for the EV driver. Yeah, you’re solving a problem for the EV driver, but also you can do more. You can do things like, well, if you’re an EV driver and you switch to me, I’m going to get more kilowatt-hours that I can sell to you. So maybe I’m willing to pay a bit more for that driver. So maybe I’ll do some sort of incentive and ev.energy is the platform that enables that to happen. So we can identify EV drivers in Texas, we can then create interesting propositions for the energy, the RVPs in Texas, and then we can serve these customers better. And DTech is not just Texas. It’s the whole of the US right? In fact, it’s a whole of North America, and we have customers and utilities down in California. We’ve got Silicon Valley Clean Energy, Marine Clean Energy down there. We’ve got Southern company with Alabama Power. We’re working with Madison Gas and Electric and even up in the Northeast with National Grid as well.
Bart: So that’s all extremely exciting. And congratulations again.
Bart: You guys are doing an amazing job when it comes to growing and populating this concept within more and more end customers, which is the EV drivers. Let’s talk a bit of technology. So, smart charging. How does smart charging work like, in principle, if you can tell a bit more about what stands behind the technology?
Chris: Sure. So, to talk a little bit about an EV driver, and the EV driver to get set up on smart charging. You need to have something that can be controlled. We don’t mind what that is. It can be either end of the cable: it could be the car, the telematics in the vehicle, or it can be the charger or the EVC, the internet-connected charger. And once we have that asset that tells us how much energy might be needed and enables us to control the flow of energy as well, and smart charging is all about taking that window opportunity from when the car’s plugged in to when the car’s unplugged, which typically is somewhere around 10, 12, 14 hours. And optimizing for when the energy is cheapest or greenest, or least congestive grid in that timeframe. And so we take the signals from those devices. We then talk to the grid, talk to the energy providers and we get a profile from them of when is best for energy to be consumed, that might be just the mix of the generation over the next 12 hours. And we then pause the charging and wait until that makes us optimal or wait till there’s no congestion on the grid or wait till the prices are lowest. And we start charging and we get our vehicle charged in Time For The Ready by the time of the customer.
Bart: So should I be worried as a driver that my car won’t be (ready) if I’ll change my mind when it comes to my next day schedule? Should I be worried that my car might not be effectively charged up? Or can I change my decision?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. We enable you to change your regular schedule. So maybe, on weekdays, you’ve got to get really early, you got to go to the office or maybe you’re hybrid working, so you’re just working a few days a week in the office, so you can set your Ready by Time for 6:00, 7:00 AM on those days. And then other days you can set it to 8:00, 9:00, whatever you want. And then if for some reason you’ve got to change your mind, there’s a boost button. So the two things the app does is “When do I need my car ready by?” and “Oh crap, I made a mistake, we need to override that, get charging right away”.
Bart: Which completely makes sense. The other thing that I just really wanted to ask you, is the concept of V2H (Vehicle to Home). I know that you guys have been talking about it, and you and I have been talking about it a bit earlier. So why do you think it is interesting and what are your plans regarding the Vehicle to Home technology?
Chris: People have been talking about Vehicle to Grid for a heck of a long time, and there’s lots of, kind of, experiments or proof of concept: “Yeah, we can sort of do it, it sort of makes some sense”. But it’s, if you think convincing people that managed charging is a hurdle, convincing them to let their battery discharge, especially at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 in the afternoon – that’s tough. However, Vehicle to Home is a bit of a different proposition for me. So the way that I see Vehicle to Home being really powerful is if you have a customer who is on not the most reliable supply, maybe they’re having outages once every year, two years, something like that for few hours, actually, if they’ve got a vehicle parked outside with a battery in it that could power their fridge, maybe Netflix or something, just something to get them through six or seven hours, it’s not going to run your whole home for a week, but it’s going to give you enough that you don’t need to go and invest in that like LPG generator upgrade for your home or whatever. And the more we talk to customers who are getting these new vehicles – I’m thinking about the F-150 lightning, thinking about the Hyundai, IONIQ 5, which supports Vehicle to Home in some capacity, the more they’re seeing the possibility. And it’s not perfect. The way I think about it is if I had an F-150 Lightning and the power went out, I would get a hundred-foot lead out, I’d plug it into my car, I’d run it to the kitchen and the refrigerator be fine. So I’m not saying that everyone needs to get a big panel upgrade to be able to do this, but I think there is a real value proposition there. And it’s tapping into a really motive problem. Like when the power goes out, it really hurts, especially if your family. So I think that’s the opportunity there.
Bart: The value proposition for V2H is constantly evolving, especially as we see the allergies and energy efficiency, especially for residential customers.
Chris: Yeah. And when you think about how much energy your lighting circuits use today, and the smaller appliances that you have on the TV, you’ve got a lot of mileage to, excuse the pun, your vehicle battery.
Bart: Completely agree. It’s also not a surprise that even that ev.energy and Codibly are collaborating together, and you know, I’m so excited that us as a company can be such a big part of the huge innovation that you guys are doing. And if you can tell a little bit more of the experience and what value you see in actually hard cooperation, you know, that will be really cool as well.
Chris: So I think that I came from a consulting background, and so I understand intrinsically or at least theoretically what’s the value of an external party gonna provide. And, look, I’m pretty skeptical of “outsourcing agencies” as a concept. And I think the relationship we have with Codibly is different to that. There’s a few reasons why, so I think if you just go for straight outsourcing or like build a spec type of approach, you’ll get something that hits that spec and nothing more. No one wants to think about it, this project is over, right, we just walk away from this thing. And that’s… Maybe it’s really good to prove the concept. A lot of the things we’re building today are things we’re able to rely on in the future. And we want to make sure we’ve got that future-proof element. So that’s something that we don’t have with Codibly. It’s much more collaborative. It’s much more as a two-way conversation, there’s more openness to challenge, and that’s just a cultural thing. And then I think also the expertise that you folks have in the energy industry, I think that’s really valuable. You understand, when we say OTPP we talk to each other in the same language, when we talk about EVs and EVS, I don’t have to do an educational seminar what these things are. And it sounds silly, but that stuff’s really valuable. Like why do we think about things in half-hour chunks? Well, you folks understand that’s how energy settles in the market. And so there’s so much value of working with a partner who is an expert in this space versus just working with the generic contractor or agency who maybe they’ll have the right culture, but they just don’t have that knowledge as well. So it’s a combination of both, the culture and the knowledge of the industry.
Bart: Which I’m so happy to hear. And again, we are so happy to be partners of yours as well, especially from the technology standpoint. Chris, just wrapping everything up: the next big thing for ev.energy.
Chris: Well, I think we have our goal to reach a million users in the next few years. We’re heading towards a hundred thousand now. So it’s not out of reach, but it is a big stretch. The great thing about EV is the market is growing rapidly. Every expectation is being smashed year after year. So that’s brilliant. And we’re really riding that wave of EV adoption across the globe. So expect more countries, expect more models, expect more load on the management. The only challenge that I see is, that you will be acutely aware of what’s happening in your neighbor’s country. And that is affecting the energy industry across Europe and across the UK.
Bart: Well, it’s going to be a huge accelerator, I mean all the needs, right? Because of the whole Ukrainian war, and Russian aggression in Ukraine is basically proving how dependent we are in terms of energy sources. So, that’s really… well in the whole terrible things that are happening, this is kind of a positive outcome. If we kind of can frame it like that. The energy transition is self-sufficient and greener, and independent.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to be less focused on gas. It also gives us an opportunity to stop thinking about gas as the transition fuel, so I’m excited in a sense that that will happen. It’s not for the right reasons, but at least there is a silver lining to this. So this is pretty stormy cloud, but it does mean that the moment that utilities in Europe are really focused on literally keeping the lights on. And so those things do present a challenge as well. So I’m here in the US, we’ve got a lot of US customers, a lot of US drivers that we’re working with, and I’m excited to keep proving this. This is valuable, no matter the type of grid, no matter the way your industry is structured. And bring on the rest of the world. We’ve got Australia, we’ve got Asia, we’ve got so many other countries we could be in, so, yeah, that’s great.
Bart: Well, I’m excited to hear about the whole expansion plan, and already a current success. So keeping my fingers crossed for you guys. Everybody, thank you very much. Chris, thank you very much. If you want to reach Chris, obviously it’s ev.energy, pretty simple. Yeah, it’s really powerful when it comes to the concept and the platform and you can download the app on Android and iOS, you know, and just use the ecosystem. Guys, thank you very much. Looking forward to the next episode and Chris, thank you for your time again.
Chris: Thanks, bro. Cheers.