As the founder of EV Safe Charge, Caradoc Ehrenhalt is a big believer in electric vehicles.
So much so that he started the downtown-based company to provide electric charging stations, first in residential buildings and then in commercial buildings.
And now he’s rolling again and popping into mobile charging stations with Ziggy, a battery on wheels.
After all, one of the barriers to mass adoption of electric vehicles is charging anxiety, or the worry that a vehicle will run out of power before reaching a charging station.
Ziggy will be about 6 meters tall and will run on four independent wheels and have cameras on all four sides. The mobile robot uses all-wheel steering to ensure it can go up and down ramps, maneuver over speed bumps and turn tight corners.
“The weight is concentrated at the bottom with the battery at the bottom, so it’s very stable,” Ehrenhalt explained.
The way it works is very simple: a driver uses an app for Ziggy to come to his car or reserve a space for his vehicle. Ziggy pops up, the driver plugs in and can then go to work, shopping, the gym or elsewhere and will be notified when the charge is complete. When the customer returns to her car, they will drop off the Ziggy, which will then be returned to its home base to be charged or picked up and dropped off site.
A driver would pay each time they use Ziggy at a price determined by the site owner. A site may also offer the service for free.
“Some may want to subsidize the use of Ziggy and cover partial charging costs, for example for employees, and so on,” Ehrenhalt said. “We’ll help guide sites every step of the way as they determine how they want to implement and use Ziggy.”
The functional demonstration robot Ziggy has been built and is entering the next phase as it nears the production stage, Ehrenhalt said.
The idea is to make them in the areas where they will serve, he added. He expects the mergers to be delivered in late 2023 or early 2024.
Several customers have already commissioned Ziggy for their properties, including a Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City; Opera Plaza, a mixed-use development in San Francisco; and The William Vale, a luxury hotel in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
David Lemmond, the general manager of the Brooklyn hotel, said his guests and neighbors would benefit from the technology. “Ziggy is perfect for the growing demand for easier charging solutions,” Lemmond said in a statement.
EV Safe Charge still offers charging stations for residential and commercial customers.
His business model with Ziggy, however, is to rent out the robot to parking lots and garages, event venues, restaurants and hotels, who will then decide who gets access to use the units.
“For example, a company might want to have some Ziggy units just for employees,” Ehrenhalt said. “Sites will also decide how they want to allow access and in most cases this will be through an app.”
As battery technology improves, the company can easily recycle existing batteries and replace them with new versions, he added.
Ziggy takes the entire charging experience from being a capital expense to being an operating expense because the parking garage doesn’t have to spend money on charging infrastructure, Ehrenhalt continued.
“This is very exciting for sites where they now have an ongoing monthly fee and don’t have to have a huge outlay of money upfront,” he said.
EV Safe Charge has raised about $1.5 million in private funding since it was founded by Ehrenhalt in 2016. Its funding has come from angel investors including Mountain View-based Sand Hills Angels.
Drue Freeman, a Sand Hills Angels board member, said the firm invested in EV Safe Charge because it believed accelerating adoption of electric vehicles will result in a growing shortage of fixed charging capacity.
The cost of retrofitting existing parking structures for electric vehicles can be cost-prohibitive for operators and owners, and it would be inefficient to install enough flat-rate capacity to meet demand in every parking lot, Freeman said.
“Ehrenhalt and EV Safe Charge had the vision and foresight to create a simple and elegant solution that we believe will unlock the potential of the EV market,” Freeman added in a statement.
“At EV Safe Charge, we are thrilled to have Sand Hill Angels among our angel investors and board members,” Ehrenhalt said in a release.
Carl Norman, president of Capstone Financial Group, an international investment bank in the automotive and mobility space with West Coast offices in San Jose, said the firm was excited about Ziggy and believes the robot will be well received by the EV market because represents a cost-effective alternative that simplifies EV charging infrastructure.
“We look forward to Ziggy going into production and partnering with parking operators, office and apartment owners, hotels, event venues and more to support the future of flexible charging needs,” Norman said in a statement.
Setting yourself apart
Ehrenhalt said there are several differentiators between Ziggy and fixed charging stations, including the cost-effectiveness of the robot and the flexibility of the system.
“With Ziggy, you have complete flexibility where you have home base or off-site charging and then if a tenant comes in with some EV drivers and the company wants to have more chargers, the site can easily add a few more Ziggy units,” he said.
What about the name Ziggy?
Ehrenhalt said that when thinking about what to call his robot, he wanted a name that would be memorable and work well internationally. He is a big fan of David Bowie and his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, and he likes Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae pioneer Bob Marley, he said.