Buying an EV can be a relatively simple task for those who have bought a vehicle in the past. Too often however, what goes unnoticed is the complexities involved in EV charger installations. Whether it is choosing the right manufacturer, finding a reliable electrician, or understanding compatibility and safety, installation for both businesses and consumers carries challenges.
Charged recently chatted with Caradoc Ehrenhalt, founder and CEO of EV Safe Charge, to learn more about this startup company that’s filling this market gap and providing a complete solution for installation.
“EV Safe Charge started when I bought a Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive,” said Ehrenhalt. “The dealer really didn’t have much knowledge of how to get the charger installed, so I went home and looked online for hours to figure out the right kind of charger and find a qualified electrician, who ended up not showing up for our scheduled appointment. The entire process was full of aggravation and dismay. I thought, ‘Wow, if this is the challenging experience that most other consumers or businesses are going through when buying an EV and EV charger, there must be a better way.’ And so, EV Safe Charge was born.”
The problem with the current market
When you first buy an EV, the focus is typically on the distinct benefits over its ICE alternative. EVs are much cheaper to operate and maintain, have excellent performance features, fewer moving parts, cleaner operation, etc.
EV Safe Charge believes that less focus is placed on consumers’ charging requirements, and a scarcity of information leaves consumers ill-informed about charger manufacturers. The same goes for businesses or schools looking to provide EV charging solutions for tenants, mall shoppers, employees or school bus fleets.
Even less information is available regarding the installation process. Ehrenhalt is committed to educating new EV owners and businesses on the end-to-end process of EV charging solutions and taking out the aggravation and complication.
“I was at an auto dealer that had a display for one of the EV charger companies,” said Ehrenhalt. “I was talking to the salesperson about the charging solution they offer their consumers for EVs. We were literally two feet away from this display in the middle of the dealership floor and the salesperson was telling me that they didn’t have a solution and desperately needed one. I think the problem is that EVs have been such a small percentage of sales. Even some of the auto dealers and OEMs that have solutions in place have an obstacle of the lack of information trickling down to the salespeople and then eventually to the consumer. Now that EV sales are growing exponentially, it’s time for an easier solution.”
Ehrenhalt explains that after sourcing a charger, finding a reliable, EV-knowledgeable electrician can have its difficulties. “You have very frustrated consumers out there. Some electricians sign up to do an installation at a consumer’s house, but then the electrician gets a bigger job and drops the consumer, or underestimates what is needed for an installation and gives the homeowner an unexpectedly large bill. There has been a lot of frustration in the marketplace.”
The process of buying an EV and installing an EV charger is fragmented, and EV Safe Charge believes it has a better all-inclusive coordinated solution than the ones most auto dealers and OEMs half-heartedly offer EV buyers. “Consumers are not sure what kind of chargers they want or need,” said Ehrenhalt. “We answer a lot of questions about Level 1, Level 2, Level 2 for business and DC fast chargers. One of the roles that we have is providing educational support, and a lot of consumers contact us before they buy their cars.”
Ehrenhalt says that even more issues exist in the commercial market, because of the increased complexity of those charging installations. A lot of guidance is required for commercial customers to understand the different types of chargers, the difference between networked and non-networked chargers, and the issue of available power. “Commercial projects, including apartment buildings and condominiums, are more complex and require a great deal of planning and coordination among the stakeholders, local utility, and department of building and safety in advance and during the project,” said Ehrenhalt. “One of the things that really makes our company stand out is that we are product-neutral and product-agnostic. We are fortunate to work with the great EV charger manufacturers, and we present [products] in a very fair and balanced way, based on the consumer’s needs or the business’s needs. Ultimately we provide a safe and straightforward solution and process that are tailored to them.”
EVSE in action
The mission of EV Safe Charge is to make the world a greener place by simplifying EV charging solutions. It takes time to build a rapport with new EV owners or businesses seeking EV solutions and talk through an extensive list of charger options. The company follows several steps to ensure an effective installation. “First, we speak with clients about their unique needs and provide charger options and discuss pricing,” said Ehrenhalt. “We help our clients choose the best one for their needs. Then for residential installations we send our clients the charger and set up the installation appointment. Once a client receives their charger, the installation deployment is immediately triggered. Finally, we do an inspection in collaboration with local building and safety [agencies] to make sure that everything has been installed correctly and is up to code.”
The logistics involved in installing an EV charger are decentralized – finding the right charger and a well-qualified reliable local electrician who will carry out EV charger installation can be time-consuming. EV Safe Charge’s goal is to simplify the whole process into one manageable solution.
“Everything goes through us,” said Ehrenhalt, “so that consumers and businesses can avoid the hassle of an electrician not showing up, or dropping the job. We manage the scheduling and all details for a smooth installation experience. The consumer or business doesn’t have to think about safety or reliability when they’re working with us. We also help find and assist in applying for any available rebates or grants, which our customers greatly appreciate.”
What’s the alternative?
Some EV OEMs have preferred vendors and some sort of charger training options for dealers. EV Safe Charge says its competitive advantage is being able to offer a white-glove service with a variety of charging station brands, as well as installation, to both residential and commercial consumers.
“In one sense, we have competition and probably always will from generalists who only offer one solution,” said Ehrenhalt. “On the other hand, we’re one of a kind. We’ve found that consumers and businesses both want an EV charger expert. They want to know that they are working with a company that has the utmost experience in EV chargers and has seen it all. That’s EV Safe Charge.”
Consumers can find charging stations at a big-box retailer or source them online, but retailers typically don’t offer a comprehensive installation solution. “We work directly with the EVSE manufacturers, so we offer the chargers for the exact same pricing that people find in other places, plus a high level of concierge-style service.”
The sky’s the limit
EV Safe Charge says it is in the early stages of actively building relationships with auto manufacturers, OEMs and car dealerships. The company reports a strong customer base with more than enough demand for its services without yet launching any major marketing efforts. “We are currently raising more funding, and are busy building out the national infrastructure so we can grow and continue executing flawlessly for our partners and customers,” said Ehrenhalt.
The company recently won an award for installing the first EV chargers for the Colton Joint Unified School District bus fleet in California. “Another partner in the automotive space that we’re very excited about is Penske Automotive Group – we’ve done several installations at some of their Southern California locations,” said Ehrenhalt. “We recently installed several chargers for Mercedes-Benz of San Diego which is owned by Penske. There is so much need for this type of service that we’re experiencing a lot of growth organically.”
EV Safe Charge was recently named an LA Auto Show and AutoMobility LA 2017 Top 10 Startup. “We are honored,” said Ehrenhalt. “Disruption in auto mobility involves the need for EV charging. The role of education and making EV charging infrastructure easier is really important, and we’re happy to play that role.”
This article originally appeared in Charged Issue 34 – November/December 2017 – Subscribe now.