Jonathan Carrier: ZipCharge has a strong role to play in a decentralised energy future

by Nilesh Wadhwa 02 May 2022

Is ZipCharge planning to enter the Indian EV market?
India is now playing catch up and there's been a significant level of investment and commitment by the government towards accelerating electrification by incentivising investment towards manufacturing batteries, and towards buying EVs. India’s challenge is its size, and the varied requirements across big cities and rural areas. Also, the grid infrastructure is not as well developed as compared to some other countries. That constitutes a significant risk in providing access to power and energy.

For a market like India’s, our device is more than just a power bank for electric vehicles. It is an off-grid energy storage device that can be connected to solar even if you have portable panels. One could juice up the charger for free using solar energy and then you can use this device for anything be it for cooking, powering your home, etc. It can also be used to power your e-rickshaw as much as you could use it to charge and power an electric vehicle.

As far as India is concerned, we believe that our device is far more suited as an off-grid energy storage device that provides access to power in a more equitable, lower cost, and more convenient way. It also will allow the government to level up between those living in more rural areas that have less access to power than their city counterparts.

We believe our product is more affordable and much cheaper than having to pay billions in upgrades for the grid network in order to not only get it to a level where everybody can charge, but also sustainably, a problem that major grids everywhere in the world are going to face no matter how mature the markets are.

ZipCharge has a strong role to play in a decentralised energy future. Recent geopolitical events will only hasten the switch to renewables, to decarbonising, and finding a better way to manage energy storage.  Whether or not it's generated locally on a micro grid, or from a very large solar or wind farm, one will need to find ways to manage and store that energy in a smart fashion. When it's generated is not when it's necessarily used.  

Would you look at India as a manufacturing or R&D hub?
We are open to manufacturing but have no firm decisions. The key, however, is where the product demand is based, but also where the critical components are based because ultimately sustainability is at the core of what we do. We aim to minimise both the CO2 that's used in the manufacturing and shipping of parts but also in terms of transportation and delivery of the goods to the end-user. The only way we can do that to really shorten and work actively on our supply chain and logistics to minimise the miles travelled. In the future, therefore, we'll probably move to a very much regional, and if not local and distributed manufacturing type of environment where we make assemblies, and source locally where the cells are made.

Would you consider manufacturing in China or UK itself? 
We will start with a single location. The level of manufacturing to ramp up and location is yet to be determined, but it's probably going to be in the UK or EU initially. However, there are many options to grow the company and deliver on our strategy for global growth and meeting the needs of each local market. We respect India as a single market on its own that has unique needs and also it is building a supply chain. It's only prudent to consider our role in that and support India and its electrification journey with a locally made products but that’s something that we'll consider at some point in the future. 

What if the charger gets stolen?
The device itself is essentially a dumb one. It has a SIM card in it, but it can only be operated through a mobile app. It can't operate unless you have the authentication on the phone to be able to do that. When you plug it into the vehicle, the charger is locked, so you can't actually disconnect it. It's locked between the two, so you know you've got a physical tether. But more importantly, there's several steps via the app. The Go has a motion sensor and an alarm.

It will notify you on the phone, but it will also go off if somebody moves it. In addition, there is geo-fence option on the app that enables one to disable it remotely. Only when it is fully disabled can one re-enable it. It also has a tracker that one can see real-time on the map. If it gets stolen, it can be tracked and recovered. Finally, it also has a secondary mechanical tether that the side grab handles. This allows you to tether it to a physical object such as wheel or a pole, etc. We don't think it's necessary because it's going to be tethered with the cable and it has all of the other features we've talked about. But if people want extra precaution, then they have can use the side handle as the tether Point, which is a structural part of the unit and therefore can't be broken or snapped off.

This interview was first published in Autocar Professional's  May 1, 2022 issue.

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