In 2021, sales of electric cars doubled to more than 6.6 million, according to Global Electric Vehicle Outlook. Over the next decade as electric cars move toward replacing gas-powered vehicles, we’ll need to see significant global improvements in charging infrastructure.
One company at the forefront of such innovation is EV charger manufacturer XCharge Energy, a member of the Harvard Climate Entrepreneur’s Circle. The Harvard Innovation Labs recently spoke with Aatish Patel (HES ’22), president of XCharge Energy about the inspiration behind founding the venture and what he sees in its future.
How would you summarize what you do?
We manufacture and provide smart, fast charging products to build out an open EV charging network to support the transportation of tomorrow.
What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
The biggest problem associated with EVs: range limits negatively affected by lack of charger availability. We do not have enough chargers to support the EV demand today; we need to build out this infrastructure to support the needs of tomorrow’s world.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the U.S. is operating on a different voltage system from the rest of the world. Current fast charging technology is based around global 480Vac 3-phase electricity, instead of the 208Vac 3-phase electricity we see commonly available in the U.S. Because of this, chargers require new support equipment, service upgrades, and extensive labor requirements, which force a higher cost of installation, and makes it longer for operators to generate a return on their investment.
What is the solution?
Our products aim to create a charging network that is not only easier to deploy at businesses, but is also compatible with a wide range of electric vehicles.
What inspired you to start your venture?
I started XCharge after trying to get electric vehicle chargers installed at properties I am involved with. The experience was less than stellar, mainly due to how difficult the hardware was to install with current infrastructure at the sites I had in mind. I did some digging around and leveraged my product development and supply chain background to identify a partner to create a better solution for the U.S. market.
What impact are you hoping to achieve?
We want to empower the next generation of small business owners, by giving them a way to get into the next big thing in transportation. We are confident that our hardware solutions will not only allow more businesses to adopt EV Charging into their revenue streams, but will also allow more people to feel comfortable buying EVs since chargers will be available everywhere they go.
What’s the hardest part about building your venture?
Finding balance with limited resources. Hardware development is not cheap, and it requires a lot of oversight to execute properly. Every decision involves a lot of strategic thinking: every move requires a large commitment of time and money.
Have you always been involved in climate work?
Our team has always been an advocate for EVs, and has been more involved in smart EV infrastructure development since the inception of XCharge.
What’s the craziest (or most unexpected) moment so far?
One of our early units fell off the truck during transport. It was a bummer at first, but we learned a lot about our chargers’ durability. We were able to get together and push forward on getting a replacement much quicker than expected.
What’s been one of the coolest moments in your journey?
Seeing comments on our charger on EV drivers’ app Plugshare and knowing that we are helping to power EV drivers every day. Each time we see a transaction come through for one of our chargers, we are just as excited as the first sale.
What lesson have you learned that you wish you could save future folks from having to learn themselves?
Stick with the main plan and don’t shift until you’re at a dead end.