The switch to alternative drives in the field of mobility is in full swing. E-mobility is one way to implement the energy transition on the road. But the expansion of charging infrastructure is long and complicated. It is therefore only a question of time before a shortage in the availability of charging points appears. ChargeX, our Startup of the Week, has developed a product for that. It makes the assembly and development of new charging points easier and more efficient. An exciting idea, which we talk about in an interview with co-founder and CBDO Michael Masnitza.
Hello, Michael! We are happy to learn more about your startup today and therefore we will start right away. What is your idea at ChargeX?
At ChargeX we develop modular charging solutions for electric cars.
It would be great, if you would give us some background information about your solutions. How does your idea work in detail?
With our modular charging solution for electric cars called “Aqueduct” many parking spaces can be electrified at low cost and with little installation effort. The modular concept enables operators of fleet parking lots and underground garages to expand their charging infrastructure cost-effectively and in line with demand.
The modular charging system of ChargeX starts with the start module. This is regularly installed by an electrician. It forms the first charging point and contains all core components such as the energy meter and the internet connection. Now further charging points, the expansion modules, can be added as required, simply as “plug & play”. Based on our intelligent charging algorithm, the electric car to be charged is determined during operation. From the customer’s point of view, we offer a modular multiple socket for charging stations. From a grid viewpoint, we create a small microgrid of charging stations to make optimal use of the existing grid connection.
Since electromobility is currently on everyone’s lips, most of the problems are already known and are being addressed by many young companies. What makes your solution special and how do you open up the way to practical application?
Aqueduct makes optimum use of the existing network infrastructure thanks to our sequential load management and the plug&play system reduces installation costs to a minimum. Our product concept focuses on advantages that can only be used if several parking spaces are electrified. In addition, we save many components, which also makes the hardware significantly cheaper. This makes it very easy for our customers to set up a large-scale charging infrastructure. Aqueduct is a complete system. Even the internet connection to a backend is pre-configured. So the customer only has to unpack it, install the system and he has immediately set up several charging points. If he needs more charging points in the future, he can easily add more modules.
What is the pricing-model for Aqueduct?
Our system is primarily aimed at companies that need charging points for their fleet or employees. Of course, it is also ideally suited for urban living areas, i.e. large underground car parks. Each charging module costs 750€. We offer a Starter-KIT consisting of 4 modules and all installation materials for 3499 €. If the customer needs an additional backend system, we deliver a partner backend directly with the system.
You have just briefly mentioned your target group that ChargeX addresses. In which other segments and industries are your customers establishing themselves?
Our charging solution is designed for private and semi-public charging of electric cars, i.e. at home or at work. The applications are the electrification of company parking lots, underground garages or garages of residential buildings with more than one electric car. The customers are communities of owners or operators of these fleet parking lots and underground garages. In addition to private individuals, a Renault car dealership was acquired as a test partner and we have validated our concept in several customer meetings and received LOIs.
We compete with manufacturers of low-cost charging stations and with hardware-oriented providers of load management systems. However, these cause high costs per charging point, are expensive to install or not suitable for the electrification of several parking spaces. By deliberately avoiding the market segments of quick charging stations and public charging, which are in the focus of the media, we can offer a more suitable and cost-efficient solution for the customer. We are targeting the growth market of charging infrastructure in the private and semi-public charging segment. Our product can be used throughout Europe.
Which brings me to my last question: You founded the company in 2017 and have certainly reached some milestones since then. What are these milestones? Where do you currently stand in the development of Aqueduct?
With our first prototype, we have achieved proof of concept thanks to the support of the Climate-KIC Accelerator. In mid-2018 we were able to convince the first business angels of our idea. The product (MVP) is certified since March 2019 and the first pilot customers like Volkswagen are already equipped with charging systems. Aqueduct can be ordered regularly. However, as a startup we cannot cover all areas of the value chain. We are primarily looking for local resellers for our charging solution. Currently we are looking for seed financing of 1.5M€ for the preparation of scaling.