A conversation between itselectric and The Canvas
How did you start itselectric?
Tiya and I were at a point in our careers where we realized we wanted to do something more for our communities and for the world at large. Walking down Brooklyn streets, we started to see solar panels going up on rooftops. We were both interested in getting an electric vehicle, though it occurred to us that it's unfortunate that the power that's being generated from the solar on the rooftops wouldn't be able to power the vehicles that were parked in front of these houses. And that's when the light bulb went off: No one is going to go electric vehicle without seeing where they can immediately charge in their neighborhoods. And cities can’t scale fast enough to meet their goals if they rely solely on power that comes from the main utility lines. So we need a widely distributed network of chargers. And these chargers should be small and well designed - so they are welcomed into neighborhoods. We like to think of ourselves as the CitiBike of EV charging. Our advisor Mia Birk is one of the co-founders of CitiBike. She's helping us plot the growth of itselectric the same way she did for CitiBike: the wider the network of chargers, the greater the possibility for EV ownership in the city.
What is the current team composition of itselectric?
It's two founders, Nathan and I; our industrial design partner, Billings Jackson Design; and an incredible team of advisors including Mia Birk, Michael Replogle, David Spielfogel, Daniella Landau, and Mayor Stephen K Benjamin.
We partnered with Billing Jackson Design very early on, realizing that getting the design right is going to be key to our success. It's been great working with them because they bring all of this knowledge and experience about how objects have to operate in the public space.
It's a no-brainer that itselectric’s product model needs to exist given how rapidly we're hurtling towards complete EV.
Yes! There's this funnel that we're in that everyone's going to get pushed to EV, whether you like it or not. For one, states and manufacturers are phasing out internal combustion. If you look at the average lifespan of a vehicle kept on the road, that’s 10 to 12 years, and we're in 2022, let's say the last internal combustion engine car is manufactured in 2034. That means by approximately 2042 we will be almost entirely electric.
Could you explain how a charging station works with the interconnectivity of your house?
This is what is definitely unique about our business model, this idea that we're actually going to use the adjacent property to power that curbside publicly accessible charger. We want the communities that we're deploying into become literal partners in what we're building. When a customer is ready to put a charger in front of their house or building, (pending approval from relevant city agencies) we will review the existing spare capacity on their panel. That's actually what we're utilizing. It's not fast, like Tesla superchargers; this basically uses the same power that an electric dryer or appliance if that were installed in your building. Then we install that charger post connected to the panel at no cost to the property owner. And when an EV driver comes in, and charges at that post, they will pay itselectric directly for that charging fee. Itselectric will pay off the utility tariff/fees, and the homeowner won't even have to think about it. And then a portion of the remaining revenue will go directly to the homeowner as passive income every month.
What strategy is in place for educating the public that this is a viable option for their homes?
We heavily debated this in the beginning, and we said “Is it a chicken or egg?”: do you buy an EV and then find a place to charge? Or do you not even consider an EV, because you don't see where in your neighborhood you can charge? So we decided that no one's going to even think about an EV if they don't see how they can charge very easily. For us, it became all about the egg. We realized this needs to be a visible resource, so it becomes ubiquitous, the way that fire hydrants are just a part of street fixtures in cities. This will be part of the fabric kids are going to grow up with and just see that there's electric distribution available to charge vehicles on the street. That's our vision for cities of the future.
What's next for itselectric?
We are working towards our first set of pilots. We would love to get one started in New York City. At the same time, we see the need for this kind of curbside charging solution in any city across the U.S. where there are drivers who don’t have a driveway or garage in which to park and charge. For us to facilitate this transition to transportation electrification, this specific solution of curbside charging needs to go in as quickly as possible. So we want to get our first pilots going next year. We are targeting 100,000 posts to go on the ground in five years. It's a huge, huge ambitious goal. However, a scalable solution hasn't yet been made available and we have a way to do it.