“They can just open their phone, press a button and have a range delivered to the spot,” said Aviv, the company’s founder and chief executive.
Customers subscribe to the service by paying a monthly fee ranging from $4.99 to $24.99. They also pay per kilowatt for each recharge. With the cheapest monthly subscription, a recharge costs 69 cents per kilowatt, but it’s only 51 cents with the premium subscription. For example, a 30-minute top-up would cost around $7 for a basic member, but around $5 for a premium member. This makes the premium plan a better deal for frequent users.
The SparkCharge service is already available in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Dallas. It will soon arrive in other US cities, including Boston, where it is expected to roll out in the coming weeks. Additionally, Aviv said the company is set to unveil a faster charging system capable of powering a battery three times faster. than the current model. That would mean an extra 30 miles of range in just 10 minutes.
SparkCharge isn’t just for consumers. The company is also targeting a range of businesses that can benefit by offering customers or employees an easier way to recharge. For example, owners of apartment buildings could purchase Roadie modules instead of installing expensive stationary chargers on their properties. The company has sold several systems to automotive service provider AAA to provide roadside assistance to electric vehicles. And car dealerships can use Roadie systems to charge electric cars on their lots.
Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for market research firm Guidehouse Insights, said SparkCharge, or something like it, will be vital if the United States is to move quickly to battery-powered cars. “Mobile charging like this is actually going to be an important part of the overall charging ecosystem,” Abuelsamid said, noting that major automakers have also embraced the idea.
For example, Volkswagen has experimented with a charging robot for use in parking lots. A fleet of wheeled robots could stop at parked cars and automatically charge them while car owners work or shop. And in January, General Motors outlined plans to build a mobile charger that will carry a hydrogen fuel cell rather than a battery bank. The fuel cell produces electricity by mixing hydrogen with air. GM said a single truck carrying a fuel cell and a large hydrogen tank could charge up to 100 vehicles.
All of these forms of mobile charging can minimize a little-known problem with fast-charging systems. Utilities charge a monthly “demand charge” to cover the cost of the infrastructure needed to support users who use large amounts of electricity intermittently. With electric cars, “you’re essentially pulling more power in a very small instant,” said Amaiya Khardenavis, cq, electric vehicle analyst for research firm Wood MacKenzie.
Charging station operators must therefore pay these additional demand charges, which can add thousands of dollars to the monthly electricity bill. A 2019 study by the Great Plains Institute found that many businesses will not install car charging stations because additional utility costs will reduce profits.
Using batteries to recharge batteries helps solve this problem, Khardenavis said. A Roadie customer can use the standard 240 volt current to charge mobile batteries at night and then use the Roadie’s rapid charger to power the cars. The utility never sees a sudden spike in electricity demand, so there are no demand charges.
Aviv, in Washington, DC. a native who grew up in Texas, came up with the idea in 2014, while studying environmental economics at Syracuse University. infrastructure problem for electric vehicles.
He started the project in his Syracuse dorm, then secured a spot in the school’s Blackstone LaunchPad Innovation Center, an incubator for business ideas generated by Syracuse faculty and students. In 2018, he came to Massachusetts when SparkCharge was accepted into the Techstars Boston business accelerator.
In 2020, SparkCharge was featured in the TV series “Shark Tank”, where successful businessmen judge new business concepts and offer to invest in the most attractive companies. SparkCharge walked away with a $1 million investment from two of the “sharks,” internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban and inventor Lori Greiner.
Last month, the company raised $23 million in venture capital, in a round led by Tale Venture Partners and Pendulum. The money will be used to spur the rapid national expansion of a service that aims to make electricity delivery as common as pizza delivery.
Hiawatha Bray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.
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