Bart: Good morning. Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the 2023 edition of Technology in Renewables. I get the pleasure today to host a meeting together with Bhaskar Dale, CEO and founder of eDRV. Hey, Bhaskar, it’s really nice to have you here and really nice to meet you. 


Bhaskar: Hey Bart, thanks for having me. It’s lovely to be here. 


Bart: Today we will be talking a little bit about operating electric vehicle charging networks with your company, and how to build your own applications from the scratch using eDRV’s apps and all the systems. As this technology is really inspiring to enable also the e-mobility transition, it would be really great to hear at the very beginning how long you guys have been operating on the market and what got you inspired to start eDRV. And what are the long-term goals of your company?


Bhaskar: Sure. Thanks again, Bart, for having me. So, I have been working in the clean energy sector now since 2009. So right after my MBA, I was very fascinated by the clean energy transition as an opportunity and having spent the last decade in this space, about three years ago I founded eDRV with basically a couple of ideals in mind, the main one being: how could I personally contribute as an entrepreneur to the energy transition. The energy transition for the last decade has been all about the power sector. But sometime around 2017/2018 it became evident that much more needed to be done, not just in power, but then also in transportation and food and all other sectors.

So that seemed like the right opportunity to kinda jump in, particularly for eDRV. So we were founded in 2020. In the middle of, or just at the cusp of Covid-19 pandemic. And we were founded with the mission that me and my co-founder Rupul had: to try and imagine a future where anybody could build applications and could innovate around electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging and imagining a platform that could sort of facilitate that innovation to be accelerated.

That’s really the vision for us and what we’ve set out to build. 


Bart: You guys are not just a standalone OCPP white-label platform, are you? You’re a bit more than that. Even just quite different than that. So can you tell me a little bit more about your competitive landscape for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and how you at eDRV fit into this landscape?


Bhaskar: So let me take those questions in reverse order because I think today there are companies that make hardware. Of course, there are companies that then make software that will control that hardware and imply that in some kind of business. There are also companies that do operations and maintenance and installation, and construction activity.

And then there are companies on the far end which are e-mobility service providers that are making applications that make it easy for the drivers and the consumers to find all of this. So if you imagine that as a horizontal stack, you have the nuts and bolts, the hardware, the engineering, and the software.

And there are companies across that hold value chain that draw their boundaries depending on what their business model is. So there are companies like ChargePoint, which do everything, and then there are specialists at each node of that stack. Now, our fundamental position or approach to this is to imagine a software layer that ties together the disparate components, particularly from charging, but then, also in the future, other elements around the electric vehicle itself: the storage elements, the decentralized renewables that are contributing to local generation, and then, an easy API-based platform that unifies that into one single layer.

With simply the end result being that, when a new startup or a new enterprise wants to launch a service around EV charging, they can get via eDRV APIs that are really enabling their business thinking or their business model, and [in turn are] able to connect hardware and then operate it in the manner that makes the most sense for them.

So, specifically, the OCPP is just the communication layer between the electric vehicle charger and a backend charging management system. What eDRV aspires to do is putting a business lens on top of that and then saying: How will I implement pricing in that environment? How will I implement charge station marketing or user, or access control in that environment and then provide those as APIs? So we’d like to enrich OCPP much further beyond its core messaging, and then make that available to our customers to build and skill upon.


Bart: Your ecosystem is all about also partnerships and collaborations, right? That’s kind of a business model? So I understand that you are allowing the creation of a solution for core platforms that still then needs then to be developed and implemented, but it’s basically addressing some fundamentals and core things so that people don’t have to reinvent the wheel, right? 


Bhaskar: Yes. 


Bart: So can you tell me and our audience that is interested in exploring the topic more: Who could be the typical customer of yours that can actually benefit from your platform?


Bhaskar: Absolutely. We want people to build on top of eDRV. Our documentation’s open. There are a lot of companies that talk about APIs, but they’re all behind paywalls, they’re a secret, you have to sign up and maybe even subscribe to a service before you can see the first document.

Our philosophy is to put it all out there so that startups, engineers can play with the APIs to start and imagine what could they do with those building blocks. So obviously, the two very important parts of enabling that sort of vision are, first of all, openness, and the second: partnerships.

So both of those areas we’ve been quite open about. And of course, as an early-stage startup, there’s a lot more that we could do here. Partnerships side, for example, we’ve worked together with a company to bring in APIs that allow access to the EV, but we’ve also had discussions with businesses that are building in load management as well.

We’ve also worked with civil society, for example, on promoting demand response through EV charging wherein we work with a local utility and also a civil society non-profit, to kind of elevate the discussion around what is the potential for demand response through EV charging. Similarly, roaming or interoperability which is a huge part and I think it’s been a major success of the European EV, eco EV, and EV charging ecosystem. This is quite new to many of the other markets, like in the US, where interoperability was actually part of a big announcement by President Biden just yesterday as part of the IRA and the new initiatives for EV charging.

These are initiatives that are quite new within the American ecosystem, but also in all the other new EV charging environments, for example, in India, Southeast Asia, or somewhere else. So we’re very actively promoting, to the extent that we can, the possibility within the EV charging ecosystem.

I also wanna share our own potential partnerships. So Codibly and eDRV have worked together in the past. Our joint customers have seen the value of the API platform, but then the need for an expert organization such as yours [appears in order] to build a tailor-made solution with that end customer in mind.

So in that sense, we’re open and inviting to other developers who want to take the common API layer, if you will, and then be able to innovate on top of that to really help our combined set of customers to be successful. And I think, there’s so much to do. The EV charging and the EV landscape are complex. There are many nodes and many actors, so I think it needs all of us to work together to be able to make it happen.


Bart: Thank you for sharing this. And you mentioned the bits and pieces in terms of the technology of your platform. Can you explain a little bit about how the technology works? Like, if I really want to implement something, how should I engage with you guys? And you mentioned that you’re a platform that allows being built on in terms of the best spoken dedicated solution. So how does it work from the technology standpoint? 


Bhaskar: Sure. The vision with which we’ve constructed eDRV is to think of ourselves as solving the problem of what is the charging commons. [By saying] the charging commons, I mean, what is the core set of functionality that a business wants to implement DV charting in terms of an application, a web application, a payment, or a fleet environment? What is the core set of things that everybody needs? And then wrap them up in APIs and make them available in a robust and scalable fashion. So let’s talk about what those charging commons are. Those charging commons are, first of all, what every EV charging application needs: hardware connectivity. The OCPP layer allows hardware, maintenance, the ability to push firmware updates, and things like that. So those are the core elements that every single application needs to address as first before they can think about anything else. Those are one bundle of APIs. Then you must, in every application, have some notion of a user. In the case of a fleet context, it’s an EV that’s more important, but in the case of a typical public charging, it’s an EV driver. (So an option of a driver or a user.) The third element of charging common is then [the idea]: am I going to offer charging in a paid context or am I just doing it behind some kind of offense where I just want to track a transaction (essentially a pricing engine)? And the fourth component is: none of this matters if you cannot do that in an energy-efficient and a load balance sort of way, so all the energy and the energy management part that comes in. So as you can imagine, it provides building blocks that facilitate each one of those core components so that a fleet customer picks the ones that are relevant for them versus a public charging customer may pick a different set that is relevant for them but very quickly is able to go live, have an application that’s up and running in a short amount of time.

In the future, we want to further supplement these APIs to then also include MSP-related applications or endpoints, so that customers can also enable transactions on other networks, so it’s somewhat like a roaming transaction. So yeah, that’s the way we’ve envisioned the platform and are continuing to build towards that goal.


Bart: So you talk about future platform ideas and future plans. And, I just really want to get back to what you just mentioned about efficiency and loading EVs, everything connected with load balancing and demand response. Can you explain a little bit more in terms of what are your plans to grow this platform within those capabilities as well?

As we all recognize, everything is connected with managing energy and energy efficiency, especially when it comes to renewable energy, and it is becoming more and more critical in terms of maintaining greed and just enabling us to have seamless usage of energy as end customers. I’m talking about charging electric cars, but also just living in homes, or just using day-to-day electricity. When it comes to your platform, how does the future look like? 


Bhaskar: Thanks for that question. That’s a very important one. I often joke that we are living in the 1G equivalent of the charging or the EV charging landscape, right? Like on our phones, we all have the 5G solution. So there is going to be a 3G and a 4G version of charging. Maybe it’s gonna be wireless. Maybe it’ll be very well connected with all the local generation, local storage as well as EV charging. And I think we are seeing the first sort of green shoots of what that looks like now. In our current setup, in eDRV’s current environment, the standard load balancing or dynamic load management, which is happening at the building level, is table stakes. So that is something that we provide to our customers. Now, where this is heading is being able to do that more intelligently, being more aware, and being more integrated with the building energy management system. So that’s something that we have on the card in terms of our roadmap. But it goes much further than that.

When you start to see more VDG kind of applications come up or you see a lot of discussions happening now on our ISO 15.1.18, and also plug-in charge, they are all applications that are enabled fundamentally by a more robust connection between the EV, the charger and the EV charging management solution. These are all the applications that are on the roadmap for us that we look to again make available. Two app developers who want to implement them in an easy manner without reading 800 pages of protocol and understanding all of that like from first principles. Because that’s what we’ve also seen in other industries. I think in our, to answer your question in a sentence, it’s imagining a future where the technologies become incorporated. As, you know, the industry overall becomes more mature and then eDRV becomes a platform of the future, proving what our customers want you to do around all of these key functionalities.


Bart: Bhaskar, one more question regarding your business model, and the idea of the operation. So, if there was gonna be a US company wanting to use your services or a UK company using two of your services, how market dependent are you right now? And what does your business model look like?


Bhaskar: So today our major market is the US which is where most of our revenue comes from. But we’re now seeing very exciting early-stage startups come also from Asia and Europe. Actually, also from Northern Africa and other places. It’s literally a very exciting time to be working in this industry. 

In terms of the business model, it’s a very important topic that’s close to my heart, simply because I think as a nascent industry business model, there is no well-understood or expected approach. I think we see different companies taking different approaches. It’s still very much in a formulating or sort of early stage. We have experimented a little bit as a company to switch towards API usage-based pricing, or maybe even utilization link pricing. For example, can we link our business model or our revenue to how much a charger is used?

However, we’ve actually experienced pushback from the customers. Because at the end of the day, the end customers imagine managing an EV charger as essentially a control of an asset, and then they want to think in terms of what’s a monthly number. So is it gonna be $10 a month or $20 a month per charger? And then I want to, as a customer, see what that number looks like. And then I want to do my financial model calculations on the back of that. So because of that, we’ve kind of aligned ourselves with per-port-based pricing, but we are very keen and are quite open to discussing other ways in which we can price it.

In terms of geography, I have already kind of described it. I think there are also now more and more demands for local hosting coming from particularly some customers in Asia and also the Middle East. So as a cloud-hosted service provider that is a question and a challenge also for us and we cannot say: Okay, we will host this charging management solution in New Zealand or Qatar, because that has some scale requirements. And I think probably that’s also an avenue for future customization and exploration. 


Bart: All right. Bhaskar, thank you for that. Last, but not least, seeing how this industry is growing, I would like to ask about your personal opinion. How do you see the electric vehicle market evolving over the next five years? And you touched base on this a little bit more, but I just really want to compliment this question and basically ask: how do you see eDRV being part of the industry growth to stay ahead of that curve and what’s the role that you guys are gonna be playing? 


Bhaskar: Thank you. That’s, as you know, a million-dollar question. And, you know, it’s funny. Three years ago when we started eDRV and we had some of our first investor conversations, we still got a question occasionally which was like: “oh, are EVs really going to be a thing? Are they actually going to happen? Will the big oil companies and big companies actually buy into this idea?” And I think that question’s gone away. I mean, the last time I was asked that… It’s probably been two years now. So it’s clearly a groundswell or shift towards electrification that’s happening not just in one country, but in many countries now.

Of course, with the US, China, and Europe being very activated towards shifting to EVs, it means that it’s definitely going to happen and the next five years are going to be probably the most exciting time because when you really see that hockey stick curve, really see that inflection, I expect probably two dozen markets who hit 20% plus penetration or sales of volumes double. I don’t remember now, but you’d have probably 50 to hundred million vehicles sold by then. And what that means for us? Of course, we have to keep running to stay in the same place.

The market’s changing very quickly. I think new technologies are coming to market, lots of investments going in, and a lot of new innovation is happening. And what we see as our role in that transition is to keep providing the building blocks and to make it easy for the company that’s gonna enter this market in 2025 to not have to reinvent the wheels and just start from having learned from all the knowledge that we as an industry have put together. And then be able to leverage that. 


Bart: So more integrations, more seamless adaptations, and easier to kick off with the new products based on growing core platform. 


Bhaskar: Yeah, absolutely. Today I was just reading an article about vertical APIs and what that looks like. And at the end of the day, if you look at mature industries like Telecom, it’s really all about what’s the value-added service. There’s a lot of infrastructure being built so that SMS could be sent, but then the end application is OTP so it’s a little bit of a similar analogy that we use.


Bart: Yeah. Well, good. Bhaskar, really great, to have you here. And thank you for your time. Maybe at the very end, you can tell our audience, how can they reach out to you and how they should reach out to eDRV in case they’re interested. 


Bhaskar: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that opportunity again, Bart. If you’re looking to build an application, if you want to cut time to market going live for EV charging as a business or as a startup, please reach out to us. My email should be available here, but is the website and I look forward to speaking with you and working together.


Bart: Thank you very much, Bhaskar. Pleasure meeting you. And again, thank you all for attending and seeing this episode. Keeping my fingers crossed for eDRV and, looking forward to seeing you guys growing in the future. And Bhaskar, thank you very much for your time, and all the best. Thank you very much.


Bhaskar: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. Bye-Bye.