ZiGGY, a mobile teleoperated charging robot with a digital ad display solves charging problems. Caradoc Ehrenhalt, founder and CEO of EV Safe Charge, talked to Auto Futures about why he invented ZiGGY and how it will transform the EV charging space.
Ehrenhalt used many of his talents culled from over two decades in marketing, creating and launching companies to develop EV Safe Charge and ZiGGY. Ehrenhalt was formerly head of New Revenue Models at Avery Dennison and delivered results for brands such as Sony, Ford and GM. He holds patents and invented the ‘Easy Find Car Locator Key Chain’, a plastic accessory to help locate parked cars.
His journey into the EV charging business started with his own charging problems.
“I got an EV for the environment. I knew the minute I drove the EV, it would be the future. The dealer didn’t know much about how to get a charger or to get it installed. When I went through the process of getting a charger, I knew that people would need help,” says Ehrenhalt.
He founded EV Safe Charge in 2016. It was a 2017 Automobility LA Top Ten Startups at the Los Angeles Auto Show and named a 2018 Top 15 Most Fundable Company by Pepperdine University’s Business School.
EV Safe Charge started off installing home chargers, pivoted into the commercial market and then moved into mobile charging.
“Jaguar needed a solution for the launch of the I-Pace. They were doing their ride-and-drives and showing their vehicle internally to all their stakeholders. There was no charging infrastructure at the locations. We’re the first company to have created a comprehensive level two and DC fast charger mobile rental solution. Today we’re the leaders in that. We send our chargers all over the US and Canada to meetup events and ride-and-drives working with the top OEMs vehicle testing, and more.”
The experience of installing chargers in commercial settings and understanding the challenges and the needs for multi-unit dwellings, commercial buildings, and legacy buildings led to the invention of ZiGGY, he explains.
“More and more customers were asking us for a flexible mobile solution that had the power onboard – that is why I invented ZiGGY.”
What EV Charging Problems Does ZiGGY Solve?
ZiGGY solves problems with installations, power, parking, servicing and revenue. ZiGGY is a portable robotic charging station with stored power that can move through a parking garage. It can be charged on or off-site. It has a digital displays for advertising, maps or local information.
Many older buildings don’t have enough additional power to allow for EV charging. Binging in more power can be cost-prohibitive and take a long time. ZiGGY can be charged off-site and then dropped off, says Ehrenhalt.
“The cost of trenching and going through concrete and putting in the infrastructure gets very expensive to install a charger. ZiGGY can recharge on-site at a home base and then go all over the parking lot,” he says.
ZiGGY is not fixed at a parking space, opening spaces for other cars.
“The great thing about ZiGGY is that you still plug in and unplug like a normal fixed-location charger. But once you’re unplugged, Ziggy goes on its way. You don’t have to re-park.”
For added functionality, there are use cases where valet parkers or attendants can unplug ZiGGY when EV owners leave their car keys. When there are remote unlock systems in place, then it will be easy to allow for the port to unlock the charger handle and someone can pull it out, says Ehrenhalt.
ZiGGY will be operated as a ‘charger-as-service’ platform where EV Safe Charge takes care of everything for a monthly fee. At first, ZiGGy will be remotely operated.
“The service will be rapidly deployed because ZiGGY is teleoperated. It has all sorts of sensors and cameras. Then it’s piloted by us. So that we are seeing everything in the field piloting it interacting with the customer for the charge.”
How Does ZiGGY Work?
ZiGGY works through an app, car infotainment or call centre service where the EV driver reserves a parking spot. Ziggy moves to the parking space to save the spot. ZiGGY moves out of the parking spot when the EV driver arrives. Then ZiGGY moves close to the car so the owner can connect the charger.
“It’s all about making it very easy for the end user,” says Ehrenhalt.
The company recently revealed CGI videos of ZiGGY that garnered media attention.
“The response to the reveal has been absolutely fantastic. We have inquiries from customers worldwide for all sorts of uses. It’s great talking to potential customers, understanding even more of their pain points, their challenges, and how we can help.”
The company has already had ‘talks’ with potential advertisers for digital displays to generate revenue. ZiGGY will be deployed at Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City, CA, Opera Plaza in San Francisco and The William Vale, a luxury hotel in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood.
What is the Future of ZiGGY?
“Today we sell chargers from leading companies. We’re charger agnostic, which our customers love. We find the best solution for their needs. So we sell chargers to car dealerships, car companies, businesses or utilities. That is our 1.0 business. Then our 2.0 is ZiGGY,” says Ehrenhalt.
“The next step is to roll out ZiGGY, making it easier to charge. We are removing one of the barriers to mass EV adoption, which is charging anxiety. Then we will be developing the semi-autonomous ZiGGY and the fully autonomous ZiGGY. We keep growing as a company with the mission of making charging so easy that nobody has to think about that. So, drivers can concentrate on getting EVs for the betterment of our planet,” he adds.
“We are looking at plans for entering production in 2023 with customer deliveries in late 2023 or early 2024. Then, we will have other things on the roadmap that are very exciting.”