Published on June 29th, 2012 | by Amy Brown0
Charging up a storm
But unlike the Better Place model of battery swapping, Charge-storm’s approach is to build intelligent charging stations, communicating in real time via a cloud-based service, that can be used by any type of EV anywhere in the world.
Plug-in EVs are set to enter the market on a large scale and demand will increase, especially with the newly revised Swedish government subsidies for EVs, according to Lindergren. It is estimated that each EV requires two or more charging stations. In Sweden, a roadside network of 600,000 engine-heating charging posts already exists. As Lindergren sees it, these are perfect candidates for EV charging.
However, the power grid supporting the pre-heater outlets is not equipped to handle heavy simultaneous charging. Power consumption could frequently exceed grid capacity, leading to blown fuses and power brownouts.
WWF climate innovation
Chargestorm tackled this challenge with a patented technology for intelligent charging stations for load regulation in the local power grid called NanoGrid. The brains of the NanoGrid is the Charge Grid Controller (CGC). The CGC protects local grid from overload by organizing, managing and helping prioritize electrical usage among grid users.
Chargestorm earned a spot on climatesolver.org, a climate innovations portal developed by WWF to showcase entrepreneurs with transformative technologies that offer practical solutions to climate change.
Since the cost of electrical charging is so low, any investment in the infrastructure must be cost-effective for customers, Lindergren says, and Chargestorm kept this in mind when designing a low-cost solution that uses existing infrastructure.
Existing pre-heater outlets can be converted to EV charge stations, the solution can be installed on existing grid wiring, and the web browser shows the status of charging.
The solution has been trialed in northern Sweden in temperatures as low as -28 degrees Celsius as well as in the city of Malmö.
“With our technology, you can charge eight times as many cars than any competitor’s solutions,” he says. “And the owners of the starting can set up premium charging for those who want a faster charge. This will give them a faster return on their investment.”
The problem, he says, with the battery-swapping model being used in Denmark by Better Place, is that it only works with one EV manufacturer; the battery manufacture is not standardized in order to allow it to be a more widely used solution. “In my view, it is a very complicated and expensive solution.”
Going to market
He expects the Chargestorm approach to take off in Sweden.”The plug-in culture won’t be a difficult leap for Swedes; they are used to plugging into charge posts to heat their cars. And gasoline is very expensive in Sweden, a cost that rises with every oil crisis,” he says.
Thus far, Chargestorm has concentrated its efforts in the Swedish market, with an emphasis on R&D. The company’s next step is to launch its product system on the international market while continuing to upgrade existing products with new and improved vehicle communications.
Norway is likely to be a big market for Chargestorm as it offers generous subsidies for EVs – the vehicles are both tax and VAT-free, which makes them cheaper to buy than a regular car. In the past few months, EVs have been snapped up by Norwegians faster than the market could deliver, says Lindergren. “The Nissan Leaf sold all 900 cars to the Norwegian market in three days.”
Chargestorm will start to build up international distribution channels, and within the next five years plans to have a global presence. Scaling up to meet market demand will be the biggest challenge in coming years.