HEVO to Launch US Manufacturing for Wireless Electric Vehicle Charger

Wireless electric vehicle charging carries a whiff of the
future, like flying cars. ButHEVO, a Brooklyn-based startup, aims
to make it part of the present by emerging from obscurity with a
commercially ready wireless charger this year.

The company has designed a ground-mounted pad that beams
electricity up to a car-mounted receiver to wirelessly charge it.
Now, the product is about to enter low-volume production at a
contract manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, which will serve
the 200 unit orders HEVO received in the first quarter.

HEVO closed a $5.5 million Series A-1 in late April and has
another round in the works. With that funding and just 10
employees, the company is going up against much larger and better
funded rivals for mastery of an untapped market that could
revolutionize the way people charge electric cars.

“It’s really about persistence and resilience,” founder and
CEO Jeremy McCool said in a recent interview. “We’re going to
continue to pursue our mission and our vision, even with the fact
that there are other people and other companies that have more
money than us.”

HEVO got to this point after eight and a half years of
hustling. 

McCool, a former Army Captain, first grappled with distributed
energy on deployment to Iraq, where he helped set up
local power generation
in a Baghdad neighborhood suffering from
energy insecurity. Back home, he launched the startup with a
$50,000 grant from Veterans Affairs, amplified by small friends and
family investments and other government grants. The team graduated
out of NYU’s clean energy incubator, ACRE, to an office in Brooklyn
that McCool literally lived out of for several years of product
development.

HEVO has done pilots on three continents with major automakers,
utilities and EV charging companies. Now the product is ready to
ship â€” just waiting on final UL certification that McCool said
was hours away from completion when the safety testing facility
shut down for coronavirus isolation in March. UL declined to
comment on pending customer work.

That certification is now expected to wrap up by the end of June
if not sooner, McCool said.

But HEVO won’t be the first to claim that credential, because
this week UL granted the first certification under a new wireless
vehicle charger standard
 to Lumen Group for its Lumen Freedom
product. The competition for this new market is heating up.

It’s good that there’s another company out there
trying to commercialize wireless charging,” McCool said. 

Who needs wireless charging?

The electric vehicle industry is scrambling to build out enough
chargers for the expected wave of EV adoption. Wireless
charging holds many potential advantages over the currently
available wired systems. 

Wired charging uses a smattering of different plugs, but
automakers have already agreed to a universal wireless charging
standard, eliminating interoperability challenges. Nobody can yank
out the charging cable when a car is left to fill up at a wireless
public station. Drivers don’t even need to get out of the car to
charge, which is handy in a rainstorm. 

The spread of COVID-19 only amplifies the benefit of touchless
charging: “Right now, who the heck wants to touch anything?â€
McCool asked.

From an urban planning standpoint, wireless charging would allow
a more seamless installation of charging equipment into existing
paved surfaces, rather than sticking charging cables around town.
And the technology could theoretically go into roadways, to top up
drivers on the go instead of making them park and wait.

Besides the hands-free convenience, the ruggedness of wireless
chargers has material implications for the durability of charging
infrastructure investments, said Andrew Johnston, a market advocate
at consulting firm Guidehouse’s mobility solutions team. 

“This may sound silly, but you’d be surprised at how many
people in public run into chargers,† Johnston said. “When it’s
a pad, you can drive over it a million times — it’s designed to
be driven on.â€

Magic in his mom’s garage

McCool is riding out the quarantine at his mom’s house in New
Mexico. But he was able to demonstrate HEVO’s product for Greentech
Media over Zoom, having installed the charging pad on the floor of
the garage.

He approached in a Nissan Leaf outfitted with a charging pad on
its underbelly, and HEVO’s app directed him where to park so that
the devices perfectly lined up. Once he switched the car off and
started charging, the floor system sent electricity to the
vehicle’s receiver via electromagnetic resonance — similar to the
induction that fuels wireless phone charging, but capable of
crossing greater distances. HEVO’s app tracked how much power was
beaming up and what it cost.

HEVO’s
floor pad is built and tested to withstand the elements. (Photo
credit: Jeremy McCool)

HEVO’s product includes a tower that draws power from the
home and incorporates a utility-grade meter and optional Level 2
charger. The system transmits between the pads on a frequency
chosen by an international standard as the universal band for this
particular use.

The technology withstood a barrage of quality tests for flame,
chemical and environmental safety, McCool said. Technicians doused
it with a firehose at close range for 10 minutes to vet its
impermeability. And for anyone worried about a pet running across
it during a charging session, it comes with “foreign object
detection” that shuts it off if anything gets too close (though
McCool noted that third-party safety tests concluded it’s perfectly
safe to be near the charger during a session).

HEVO is hoping wireless receivers come standard in new cars in
the next three to five years. Until then, drivers will need to buy
it as an after-market add-on; HEVO’s should cost around $500 for
parts and labor. The product is designed to be installed with just
eight bolts, affixed to openings that already exist in the
undercarriage of a given car model.

“The CTO and I are gearheads,†McCool explained. “We
understand that you don’t want to start drilling and poking
around.â€

Having the receiver only gets you so far; the floor mount and
tower cost an additional $2,500. McCool envisions a world where
energy companies or utilities cover that cost for the driver, much
like a wifi company equips its customers with routers and modems
for a small monthly fee.

The HEVO units operate with efficiency of around 91 percent,
equivalent to conventional charging, McCool said. The introductory
product delivers 8 kilowatts maximum charge, 20 to 24 miles of
charge per hour. That makes it comparable to Level 2 charging, but
forthcoming iterations will accelerate that speed, he added.

Better funded competition

HEVO is not alone in chasing the wireless charging dream.
Although it remains a niche relative to the mainstream
charging industry, a number of other companies see big
promise. 

Semiconductor giant Qualcomm bought into wireless charging with
the
acquisition of HaloIPT
in 2011. Qualcomm licensed its Halo
technology to auto equipment suppliers like
Lear
and
Lumen
in 2016.

But Qualcomm didn’t stick with it: in 2019, the company
sold its wireless charging IP
to Massachusetts startup
WiTricity, which had pivoted to vehicles after years working on
wireless phone charging. WiTricity had raised
$68 million in funding
, according to a 2018 Fast Company
article. WiTricity licenses its technology to existing
manufacturers; in that sense, it’s not a direct competitor with
HEVO, which wants to keep its IP in-house and supply finished goods
to car-makers. 

Philadelphia-based Momentum Dynamics says it designs and
manufactures its wireless chargers in the U.S. But that startup,
which recently received an unspecificed
investment
from Volvo’s venture capital arm, focuses on higher
powered vehicles like buses. A grant-funded pilot with Washington
state’s Link Transit led to a
follow-on five year contract
 in January.

Though widespread adoption of wireless charging is still several
years away, that’s not a long time for infrastructure planning.
Right now, billions of dollars of charging investments are on the
table around the world, Guidehouse’s Johnston noted. “I wonder at
what point do cities, utilities and large corporate fleets look
closer at the benefits of wireless charging — [like] capital and
O&M cost savings, and consistent performance compared to DC
charging?”

Further down the road, either before or after the arrival of
flying cars, wireless charging will prove crucial to autonomous
vehicles, for a simple but little-discussed reason, McCool said.
“Is a car really autonomous if somebody has to plug it in?â€

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
HEVO to Launch US Manufacturing for Wireless Electric
Vehicle Charger