American consumers are resisting the auto industry’s push into all-electric vehicles, in large part over concerns about the readiness of the nation’s charging infrastructure. Manufacturers are responding by slashing EV-output plans: Ford just this week announced a halving of production of its vaunted F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Meanwhile, worries grow about the ability of the U.S. electricity grid to support all the extra demand that will be generated by the transportation system’s turnover to EVs.
So it seems about the right moment for Aatish Patel and XCharge North America to ramp up their manufacturing at a new plant in San Marcos, Texas, of EV-charging systems that are right-sized for the times. XCharge North America’s key products are chargers that are optimized for the grid and for America’s charging infrastructure as it exists now, not as it might become in the future.
XCharge’s key product is its C6AM line of fast-charging stations that have the ability to utilize the 208-vac input voltage that already is common across retail stores and other commercial outlets across the whole country rather than demand the 480-vac input that has been the preferred current-threshold level for the fast chargers that are being installed at a rapid pace across the land.
“We don’t use electricity that’s not already there,” Patel, who is president and co-founder of XCharge, told Chief Executive. “Four-hundred-eighty is what most chargers need but it’s not generally what you find at most sites; 208 is generally found at 95%-plus of U.S. commercial sites, and our units work on either 208 or 480.
“A McDonald’s or Starbucks has 208 to run air conditioners or fryers, and generally speaking, it’s easier to get more 208 power to a site versus getting a brand new feed” of 480 voltage. “In many instances, you don’t need to get a utility involved to install new [fast-charging] units” of what Patel calls XCharge’s “infrastructure-integratable hardware.”
Patel is investing in expanding output at an existing 3,500-square-foot facility in San Marcos with plans to grow it to about 20,000 square feet in coming years. Among other things, XCharge is working with local authorities to install dozens of its fast chargers to help the community of 68,000 people to have much greater access to EV charging. It will be a great test of the company’s business model and overall approach.
“We’re focusing on providing solutions now that people can utilize now, versus solutions that end up meaning expensive and length processes to get up and running,” he said. “A lot of the [charger] deployments that people have announced or are working on are quite expensive to get in the ground and operational, mainly due to limitations we’re seeing from the grid side to power this hardware. Our solutions are geared and adapted to the grid versus having the grid adapt to the hardware. It speeds up the time to get these in the ground and charging cars.”
Patel said one reason utilities have become a chokepoint in the expansion of the nation’s EV-charging infrastructure is that new federal incentives tend to be “geared toward installation and operation of chargers” and “are not really geared toward utility-infrastructure upgrades” required to provide power to a massive new energy-thirsty transportation infrastructure that is being lain upon the existing one.