In the Bay Area’s environmentally conscious neighborhoods such as Berkeley, electric cars hum almost silently through streets of single family homes. But what about the apartment dwellers who would eagerly buy these cars if they had a place to charge them?
Startup company Evercharge is trying to create that option for people who don’t have houses and garages where they could charge electric cars. The Emeryville, CA-based company developed a vehicle charging system for large residential buildings, which may increase the number of urban dwellers who can save on gas money and contribute less pollution to the atmosphere.
Evercharge is one of the four finalists chosen in San Francisco last Thursday night to vie for the top prize in the Challenge Cup, an international competition run by 1776, a global incubator and seed fund that encourages startups to create innovations for cities and heavily regulated industries.
A total of 64 finalists from 16 regional contests worldwide will compete for $650,000 in prizes at the Challenge Cup Global Finals in Washington, D.C. in May. The San Francisco face-off, hosted by RocketSpace, a co-working community for tech startups, was the last of the regional events.
Evercharge CEO Jason Appelbaum says his company has been gaining traction as a new provider of vehicle charging equipment, but its victory in the regional contest is “pretty big for us.”
“This is the first time we’ve ever gotten recognition for what we’re doing on a public stage,” Appelbaum says. “Winning the Challenge Cup [[as a finalist]] is a lot of validation.”
Part of the payoff of becoming a finalist is the chance to tap into the international network of incubators, startups, government agencies, and corporations being built by 1776, which was founded in 2013 to help attack problems in “broken, entrenched industries and sectors,” according to its website. These categories include education, energy and sustainability, health, transportation, and cities, the organization says.
Along with Evercharge, the other finalists chosen at the San Francisco event were:
Handsfree Learning, a San Francisco startup that is trying to broaden the potential of educational technology beyond online courses in text-based subjects such as computer programming, literature, and history. The company wants to extend edtech to practical training in physical skills such as laboratory testing and woodworking. To accomplish this, the company is exploring the use of visual wearables and augmented reality technologies that would give instructors and students a “feel” for tools and tasks.
Kuveda, a San Jose, CA-based company using big data analysis to help doctors create personalized treatment plans for cancer patients based on information from an array of different tests. The tests could identify specific genes, proteins, and biological pathways that indicate which particular drugs may lead to the best outcomes for each patient, Kuveda says.
Radiator Labs of New York has developed The Cozy, a boxy enclosure for radiators designed to increase the efficiency of old-fashioned residential heating. The product allows householders to control the indoor temperature with a smartphone rather than wrestling with radiator knobs or wasting heat by opening windows, the company says.
Last year, a contender from San Francisco won top honors at Challenge Cup 2014. In the wake of that victory, crowdfunding company HandUp raised $850,000 in seed funding to support its mission. HandUp, a site where donors can arrange to help homeless individuals, also formed partnerships with social service nonprofits.
Evercharge’s Appelbaum says he’s hoping the competition will give him the chance to discuss his company’s work on vehicle charging stations with government agencies and energy utilities.
“It’ll be really interesting to see what the Department of Energy thinks of a solution like this,” Appelbaum says.
Evercharge creates electric vehicle charging bays in the parking spaces assigned to individual tenants or condominium owners in multi-family buildings. A building owner might agree to pay for the wiring and construction project to create valuable amenities for tenants, for example. Or, a group of condominium owners might agree to share the total installation costs. The cost per bay ranges from about $1,800 to $3,200, depending on the number of bays installed at the same time.
Evercharge sends electricity bills to each car owner with a charging station, and then reimburses the building owner or condominium manager for the total power consumed by all the drivers. This system eliminates the need for each of the apartment dwellers to obtain a separate utility account and meter for their cars—a prohibitively expensive option, Appelbaum says.
Beyond that, drivers don’t have to wait to use a communal charging station, such as those installed at some apartment complexes, Appelbaum says. Evercharge’s system also makes it possible for buildings to accommodate more than the three or four electric cars that the average Bay Area apartment house’s electrical conduits could handle, he says.
The company’s power management system coordinates the flow of electricity to each of the residents’ charging bays. If a single car is charging, power flows at full speed. As more cars get plugged in, the system allocates power among them at different charging speeds, according to the car model’s capacity and its place in line. All the cars will finish charging overnight, Appelbaum says, because the typical Everchare customer commutes about 25 to 30 miles per day. With the company’s system, the average building could have as many as 30 individual charging stations, he says.
“It truly enables the adoption of electric cars within cities,” Appelbaum says.