BMW iVentures Announces Investment in EV Charging Startup HeyCharge, its Tech Allows Drivers to Charge Without an Internet Connection
BMW i Ventures, the venture capital arm of automaker BMW that invests in promising startups, announced its leading a $4.7 million seed funding round in HeyCharge, the German startup working to democratize access to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in apartment complexes, office buildings and other infrastructure locations by allowing driver to charge their EVs without an internet connection.
HeyCharge was in Y Combinator's Summer 2021 batch of promising startups. The Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator also helped to launch companies such as Doordash, Airbnb, Cruise and many others.
HeyCharge is addressing a key concern for drivers of electric vehicles, which is that most EV charging sites require an internet connection along with a companion smartphone app to begin a charging session.
For example, major EV charging operators, such as ChargePoint, EVgo and Electrify America, require an app or RFID card and a proper internet connection to start a charging session. But for people that live in cities or apartment complexes with underground parking garages with poor signals, an internet connection for EV charging is not always available.
HeyCharge says that most underground garages currently do not even have an internet access point, or the ability to install the hardware to connect the chargers.
Chris Cardé, Founder and CEO, HeyCharge, recognized this problem after bringing his first EV home to the Munich apartment building where he lived. Cardé decided to address this problem to help boost electric vehicle adoption for people living in urban areas with underground parking or enclosed parking.
"The rapid growth of the electric vehicle market in coming years will necessitate greater infrastructure build-out of charging solutions around the globe," said Kasper Sage, Managing Partner, BMW i Ventures. "HeyCharge is the first company to enable EV-charging without internet connection, which is a key enabler to cover untapped white-spots. With HeyCharge's technology, it becomes attractive to install chargers in locations that before would have not been commercially viable."
Around 46% of European residents live in apartment buildings. In Germany, that figure is around 56%. In the U.S., around 37% of people are renters and live in apartment complexes or multi-unit buildings in urban areas where an internet connection is not always available to charge an EV.
HeyCharge developed a patent-pending technology called "SecureCharge", which eliminates the need for an internet connection. SecureCharge is a replacement for a typical central server-based system requiring an internet connection at each EV charging location.
Instead, the company's EV charging app and charger communicate directly over Bluetooth. The technology is also available as a software development kit (SDK) so EV charging operators can add the functionality to their own customer apps.
The Bluetooth connection minimizes latency between the phone and the charger. When combined with a wireless local area network (WLAN) Access Point and HeyCharge's simple hardware, total costs can be reduced up to 80% in residential and commercial buildings, according to the company.
For the highest level of security, HeyCharge uses cryptographic tokens through its mobile app to each charger, enabling a secure and bidirectional channel for user access and individual billing data.
Underground parking garages often lack suitable internet access for EV chargers. (Photo: Parkade)
To ensure smart functions like billing for each customer and remote charger maintenance, all of the data received from the charger will be synchronized on the backend once the smartphone has network coverage again.
HeyCharge's hardware allows for a fast and easy installation that can be made by any electrician in minutes," says Cardé.
"We are excited to use this investment to scale our product globally and bring low-cost charging options to consumers." HeyCharge's solution makes EV charging not just scalable but also more cost-effective and accessible so that easy EV charging is made possible wherever you live or work, said Cardé. "We are thrilled to be working with BMW i Ventures in this round and look forward to using this investment to scale our product globally and bring low-cost charging options to consumers."
HeyCharge also offers "smart grid management" for when demand within a building grows faster than the grid capacity. In this case, the smart load management function optimizes charging performance for all of the vehicles currently plugged in to reduce energy loads.
HeyCharge was founded in 2020. The team is international, with a founding team that is 50% American and 50% German, the company says. The majority of the company's engineers are based in Kyiv, Ukraine.
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