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Energy management vital for EV charging infrastructure: Q&A with Electrum Charging Solutions CEO Broderick Gunning

Judy Lin, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Electrum Charging Solutions CEO Brodie Gunning. Credit: Electrum

Electrum Charging Solutions is a Canadian startup that provides end-to-end electrical infrastructure solutions to corporations, governments, utilities, developers, and OEM manufacturers first as an infrastructure installer and now by being a system integrator. It is participating in the 2035 E-Mobility Taiwan exhibition in Taipei. The company's CEO Broderick (Brodie) Gunning talked to DIGITIMES about the company's vision as a total solution provider to the EV ecosystem in North America and Asia.

Q: Please give a brief introduction about Electrum and the background of the core team. What pain points your solutions are trying to solve?

Gunning: Electrum was founded in 2016, and initially installed a single charger for Tesla in people's homes. We quickly started to realize that there is a demand for very large installations of chargers, typically 30, 50, 100, or 200 chargers at a time for shopping malls, apartment buildings, or municipal governments. That's where Electrum started to grow, doing these large-scale installations.

Our background as a company is essentially electrical engineers and electricians. Our businesses have been built on the planning, design, and physical installation of electric vehicle infrastructure. Over the past 18 months, we have started to become more of a technology company. We hired a CTO and brought some software developers that help us to add a second stage of our business, which is the software that operates in the infrastructure that we install. That software does all the billing, power management, carbon credit collection, and monitoring of all the chargers that we install.

Q: It sounds like the foundation of your EV-IV app. How does it work? What benefits can customers get?

Gunning: The app or the software is the operator of the infrastructure that we put in place.

There are some components that the software enables our customers to handle all the billing. Whether it is through a credit card, or through a QR code scan. The other important aspect is energy management. Most people talk about cars, chargers, but not energy management. The challenge of EV space is that a lot of people are not thinking about where the electricity comes from and what happens to the grid or utilities when all these chargers come online. Basically, our software enables direct communications to the grid and the utility to control the power. If power gets too high, our software throttles the power down or spreads out the load of the power. And it also maintains the entire network by telling us when a charger has gone down, and it needs repair, and so on. Another important aspect is carbon credit because people want to be carbon neutral. Our software is built on blockchain. We collect carbon credits through every kilowatt that we generate with our cell, in the EV/IP app.

Energy management is becoming more and more important. Fast chargers or speed chargers for EVs will be the future, but I think there are going to be different applications that may extend. If people are plugging in at home or at the office, they don't necessarily need a fast charger. But if they need something quick, such as at the gas station, these kinds of fast chargers are more applicable. We've done several fast chargers and will continue to do more over the next number of years. But the biggest challenge is the power they consume. The consumption is so significant, and there must be appropriate power to essentially support those types of deployment.

Q: As utility is very often controlled by governments, as in the case of Taiwan, how do you overcome regulatory obstacles?

Gunning: That is a very good question. One of the realities we face as a company is that we need to work with many stakeholders. Every jurisdiction is different, some utilities may be private, some may be public. It depends on the jurisdiction how we can work with the utilities. Part of the answer is that when we deploy electric vehicle infrastructure, we need to work around policies, incentives, certain rebates, in respective to someone who is buying that charger or buying that vehicle. There are many stakeholders that are involved, and utilities and governments are always involved in some ways. But it is important to have other stakeholders working together with us, such as automobile OEMs. We are trying to create an ecosystem; it must be a very cohesive ecosystem.

Q: You have already set up branch offices in Indonesia and Taiwan. That is interesting. What is the reason behind those strategic moves? What is your plan or goal to fulfill?

Gunning: Indonesia is a very important market for us. When we look at the emerging markets all around the world, especially in technology, Indonesia has been moving very fast, and we want to be a part of that market. The other reason is that Indonesia is the only market where you have raw materials dug out of the ground, made into batteries, and put into the car in one process. That is why companies like Tesla, Hyundai, and many other car companies go into Indonesia. We have signed a number of contracts with partners in that market, including utilities and gas station operators. It is a big country with a large population; one of the top markets in Asia for us to be involved with.

With respect to Taiwan, we do a lot of work with Taiwanese manufacturers on the charging hardware side, such as Phihong, Delta, Lite-on, and some other groups. We want to be close to our supply chains in Taiwan, but we also want to find certain technologies and certain people and markets that can be a part of our company. Taiwan is very strategic in its location—very close to Japan, Korea, China, and the Southeast Asian market.

Q: In what way can Taiwanese or Indonesian companies work with Electrum? Can you share with us some cases of collaborations?

Gunning: From our standpoint right now, we want to find more charging hardware manufacturers and companies which are working in energy management. There are a lot of interesting things happening in grid augmentation, grid buffering, battery storage technologies, innovations in solar, distributed energy resources (DERs), etc. We find the MIH alliance an interesting group to align with. And other EV or car companies are developing new EVs. And we see Gogoro is doing with its battery swapping. We are trying to find these potential partners or groups that we can work with to create new technologies for Indonesia and other new markets.

Q: In terms of clients, could you share some of the companies that you are serving besides Tesla?

Gunning: Sure. We have been working with Tesla for almost 6 years. Commercial heavy-duty trucks like Mack, Volvo, Peterbilt, or bus companies such as Grey Tower bus, Freightliner, etc., are on the OEM side. In terms of the governments and developers, we have worked with the city of Vancouver, Surrey, and in Indonesia, we are working with a large energy corporation called Pertamina. In Canada, we work with BP Hydro.

Q: What is your fund-raising status? Any fund-raising plans in the near future? What are the expansion goals for the fund-raising?

Gunning: We raised two rounds this year. In January we raised US$1 million. We've just finished our Series A of $8 million at a $40 million post-money valuation. It's our intention to raise an additional $30-50 million sometime in the next 3 or 4 months with the plan to list on Nasdaq. We will continue expanding our business in Canada and Indonesia, in addition to Taiwan. There are 3 US markets we are growing into – Washington DC, Michigan, and New York. The other international market we are going to enter is India. We have 43 people on our team right now, and by the end of this year, we will be around 50 people. By the end of next year, our team will grow to 100.

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