eMotorWerks — Smart EV chargers for vehicle-grid integration

I don’t often call companies beautiful but I think eMotorWerks is at that level. The 2010 startup is the most promising cleantech company I’ve seen in the EV charging space. Between the team, the technology, the timing, and the TAM they are creating something quite special and valuable. Located in Bay Area California, here is why they are an early stage (pre-series A) cleantech company to bet on:

Source: emotorwerks.com

1. One super charged team

Before getting into any of the technology or market opportunity, it is worth looking at the sheer power (or torque) of the eMotorWerks team. There is currently 14 of them listed on their website and if you look at their profiles you’ll see deep experience levels in energy markets, big data, strategy, and auto — all the ingredients needed for a leading edge smart EV charging company.

Val, the founder and CEO, is a Princeton physics PhD that launched three startup companies, worked at Google and McKinsey, and flies airplanes and helicopters. The other team members have between a decade or two of experience in the aforementioned areas. Three of them are actually entrepreneurs that co-founded one or several businesses. If that’s not a killer team I don’t know what is.

Not much more needs to be said of the pedigree and competency of this team. The brilliant technology and company they have created tells it all.

2. Present & future technology

EV chargers aren’t anything new. They have been around since the dawn of modern day EVs back in the 1990’s. Although EV’s went bust and resurged again only recently, the chargers are still the same one-way non-intelligent chargers they were back then. Companies have made a variety of different designs and standards but their purpose has always been to charge an EV or plug-in hybrid electric upon contact. However times are changing and eMotorWerks has been one of the first to turn the charging logic inside-out and upside-around — literally.

The well branded JuiceBox is eMotorWerks key hardware. One one hand it is what the rest of the industry has: a level 2 AC charger for residential applications that delivers 10 kW of power upon connection. But on the other hand it is what the rest doesn’t have: a portable charger that can optimize for real-time electricity pricing, solar and wind energy availability, circuit loads, and potential revenue for grid services. This is because eMotorWerks has a key piece of software behind the hardware that makes it much more than a “dumb” EV charger: JuiceNet.

With JuiceNet the team can monitor and predict grid events and driver behavior, and then control aggregate power demand from the grid. It allows drivers to choose 1) by when they want their EV charged, 2) with how much “green” electrons, and 3) whether they would like to make money by participating in grid events (demand response for now and frequency regulation in the future). No other EV charging company has tech like this. In fact eMotorWerks has a special JuiceNet-enabled adapter just for the rest of the industry’s old tech to become smart and connected. eMotorWerks has created both the present and the future of EV charging. Their assumption of EV owners being “smart” prosumers rather than “dumb” consumers could not be more timely.

3. Follows the energy megatrends

Never in history have individuals demanded more choice and control over their energy usage until now. My post on Sense depicts this on the home energy monitoring front. The monolithic model of static and one-way electron flow is the past. The future is one with dynamic two-way electron flow to and from individuals and businesses, with temporal and spatial dimensions. Throw in growing numbers of EVs and you see a formidable offshoot of the grid forming. eMotorWerks has been following this narrative since the beginning and have been one of the first to capitalize on its rewards.

Unlike primary competitor ChargePoint who only had a three year earlier start in 2007, eMotorWerks has taken a much more energy-centric perspective of modern EV drivers. They have correctly assumed that these drivers are (for the most part) politically progressive, environmentally-conscious, and technologically savvy consumers who actually care about their energy choices. Thus eMotorWerks has created technology to satisfy this type of persona and give them the EV charging optionality they demand. It is a fundamental shift in perspective at a crucial point in time.

The eMotorWerks team is in the future with their technology. For example they were the only EV charging company selected to participate in the first ever California Demand Response Auction, and they already have plans for capturing the frequency regulation market when it becomes widely available next. What it has allowed them to do is capture revenue streams that others can’t, and which they can then pass on to their customers. As regulations change eMotorWerks is positioned to take full advantage. They are proving to be at the forefront of energy megatrends and the massive market it represents.

4. A secret TAM

eMotorWerks has already sold thousands of JuiceBox units. According to recent numbers it is around 16,000 — the majority being residential chargers in the US and specifically in California. That is a large base of one-time hardware sales. However when you factor in the number of JuiceNet-enabled chargers it has deployed in its extensive partnership network (with AeroVironment, Nayax, Con Energy, Sonoma Clean Power) it is upward of 80,000. That is an even larger base of recurring revenue from the JuiceNet platform. Clearly the early stage cleantech company must have had some funding to get there right?

According to Crunchbase, to date eMotorWerks has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding which maybe totals to $1M or so. It has also raised $57,000 in its 2013 Kickstarter campaign. That is very little for a company building out capital-intensive hardware. You only have to look at their primary competitor ChargePoint to see the contrast: ChargePoint has raised almost $250M to date and have raised a $82M Series G round. They have a fleet of 33,000 commercial chargers to show for it. Commercial chargers probably cost more than residential chargers but to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars more? They aren’t connected with sophisticated software like JuiceNet. However that is precisely the reason why eMotorWerks has its own separate TAM, cost structure, and operating profit. The secret sauce (or juice) is in the software.

Whereas the EV charging station market is projected to grow 30% per year globally to $12.6B by 2022, in just north america the demand response market for residential and commercial applications is expected to grow to $9B by 2022. Plus in a few years time regulations are expected to open the ancillary services market and enable vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services like frequency regulation, which is forecasted to produce $190M in annual revenue by 2022. These are market opportunities that eMotorWerks is already capturing almost exclusively with their hardware and their partners’ hardware using their JuiceNet platform. It is JuiceNet that is making the difference. If they are profitable off hardware sales already then JuiceNet must be killing it. It comes no surprise they are still pre-series A.

As time progresses and more EVs come online the eMotorWerks team, technology, and TAM are only expected to grow. They were one of the first to move into the smart EV charging space and have been one of the first to reap its benefits. It is clear that eMotorWerks is one of the most promising startups in the EV charging space. They are indeed a beautiful cleantech company — one I think worth betting on.