What the Future Of Curbside Charging Might Look Like

I recently had a great call with Nathan King, CEO/Co-founder of curbside charging startup itselectric. Nathan graciously did a deep dive for me on the company’s vision and curbside EV charging solution. It was a timely call, though one I wish I had prior to my recent EVAdoption article, “Parking EVs In Driveways and on the Street: Implications for EV Charging.”

As background, itselectric estimates that roughly 40 million US urban households do not have convenient access to home charging due to the lack of a garage, carport, or driveway. While EV owners living in one of these situations can obviously drive to a public charging location, one of the biggest benefits of owning an EV is to be able to charge where you live every night and wake up with a replenished battery. Whether it is households living in apartments and condos or these urban housing locations, as long as there aren’t convenient home charging solutions for all, then EV adoption will be limited.

So enter companies like itselectric. To solve the lack of charging access for urban households without garages, at least four types of solutions are emerging:

  • Utility pole/Street light chargers: Chargers attached to utility pole or street lights where they also tap into the power source of the pole or light. EV chargers integrated with parking meters are another potential future approach.
  • Portable chargers: Companies like UK startup ZipCharge with their Go solution, a portable battery you charge in your house, apartment, or condo and then wheel to the street and charge your EV.
  • Mobile charging-as-a-service: Several startups globally are pursuing this model, with SparkCharge in the US and its Currently mobile charging subscription service being most well known. With this approach a van or car, or vehicle with a trailer comes to wherever your EV is parked and charges it.
  • Curbside chargers: Chargers deployed on sidewalks using either utility or adjacent homeowner/building power sources.

itselectric is taking the last approach using a curbside charging pedestal to make charging convenient and easy for those who regularly park on the street. As you can see in the photo below, their Level 2 chargers will be deployed on sidewalks using the power source of adjacent homes or buildings. itselectric will structure arrangements with homeowners for example, to tap into their utility power and install a separate meter. The sidewalk is then trenched with power being supplied to the charging pedestal. 

Nathan told me that the strategy behind working with homeowners instead of utilities is simply speed and process. Utilities tend to be risk averse and move slowly, and itselectric believe they can be more successful going direct to property owners of adjacent buildings. itselectric will also provide a revenue share of the charging fees with property owners.

Another feature of the itselectric approach is the charging post is designed with a ground-level knock-off pedestal. If the pedestal gets hit by a car or a snow plow, for example, the pedestal is mounted with shear-off bolts in the base and will be knocked off and then can be easily replaced. The brains of the charging unit are located in the adjacent home of property and so the pedestal itself is just a simple charging outlet that would need to be replaced.

The other interesting approach is that the charging pedestal does not have a charging cable. EV drivers and itselectric customers would simply carry the mobile charging cable that comes with most EVs, and plug in to charge. This approach reduces costs and cable management issues for itselectric. However, they may need to include a solution to keep the EV driver’s mobile cord off the ground. Many observers have raised liability concerns about cables stretched across sidewalks, so this aspect will be interesting to watch as these types of solutions are deployed in cities.

Curbside charging is a huge market opportunity globally and in the US and so it is going to be exciting to watch entrepreneurs like Nathan and companies like itselectric use innovative approaches to solve the massive challenges in the EV charging ecosystem. Let me know what you think of itselectric’s approach to curbside charging.