Meet ChargerHelp! — The Blue-Collar Startup Behind EV Charging Stations' Growth
Photo by Sophie Jonas on Unsplash

Meet ChargerHelp! — The Blue-Collar Startup Behind EV Charging Stations' Growth

The way Kameale C. Terry sees it, her startup ChargerHelp! has two goals: to help encourage drivers to adopt electric vehicles by providing on-demand technical support for charging stations, and to create more full-time jobs that pay a living wage. By hitting both targets, the company can not only get places outside of California interested in plug-in vehicles, but can help make the technology an economic engine in its own right.

"EV gets a lot of attention in our industry, and that's great," she said. "But it also brings in a lot of people who don't understand the benefits or what we do."

Kameale C. Terry, ChargerHelp! CEO\u200b

ChargerHelp! CEO Kameale C. Terry

Launched by Terry and co-founder Evette Ellis in January 2020, ChargerHelp! markets itself as the first and only app that supports electric vehicle charging repairs. Its technicians troubleshoot issues preventing drivers from being able to charge their cars, as well diagnose and repair the problem at stations run by their partners.

In March, the downtown L.A.-based startup announced a $2.75 million investment round that included partners Trucks VC, Kapor Capital, JFF, Energy Impact Partners and The Fund. The company currently contracts with such clients as ABB, SparkCharge, EnelX, Xeal and EV Connect, with plans to sign with nine additional firms by the end of this quarter, and is operational in California, but Arizona, Florida, Colorado, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

In order to keep pace with the company's rapid growth, ChargerHelp! Has gone on a hiring spree, bringing on 20 new technicians in the last few weeks, swelling its ranks to 32 employees.

On paper, ChargerHelp! looks like a company that's set to grow rapidly with the significant push behind plug-in electric vehicles made at various levels of government as well as by automakers. Just last month, President Biden unveiled plans to create 500,000 charging stations across the country.

Car manufacturers are also building up nationwide charging networks to support the electric vehicles (EVs) they sell or plan to build in the near future as states such as California phase out sales of gasoline-powered new cars in the next decade. Tesla already has its Supercharger stations, while Volkswagen Group of America operates its Electrify America subsidiary. General Motors announced last week its Ultium Charge 360 network that partners with several charging companies, including L.A-based EVgo, for future EV customers of Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC.

But Terry still sees a long road ahead for electric vehicles, and believes more people from across geographies and income brackets need to embrace the tech for her company to really grow. And part of people's hesitation, she believes, is their skepticism of the batteries and public charging stations.

While utility companies sponsor charging stations in shopping centers or parking structures, many of the property owners didn't also opt for a labor warranty to cover regular maintenance. The responsibility of maintaining a charging station thus often gets lost between two entities, trapping EV owners — possibly in their car and stranded at a station that won't recognize a credit card or the vehicle's on-board charger — in a customer support runaround.

Little wonder, then, that a study released last month in the journal " Nature Energy" found 18% of battery EV owners decided not to get another one. "It was really easy to find contractors to install stations, but when the stations started having issues, they weren't there," Terry said. "We can't invest all this money and just expect these stations to work without repair."

Here is where ChargerHelp!'s technicians set the company apart. In many cases, non-functioning charging stations don't have an electrical problem, Terry said, and sending out an electrical contractor more equipped to install the stations doesn't resolve what's actually a software issue.

Chargerhelp's teamChargerhelp!'s team is based in downtown's Arts District.

That's where ChargerHelp! comes in. "Because every station is different, our app is like a decision tree. The rapid report immediately goes back to our customer. We do a lot of swap-outs, fix vandalism and removal of snow for owner-operated properties."

Such work requires a wide-ranging skill set, and Terry decided from the start that, in order to ensure high-quality technical assistance (and to deliver on the company's mission of adding well-paid jobs to the economy), ChargerHelp! would make its technicians employees, rather than contractors. "The technology changes too quickly to rely on contractors," she said.

Once hired on, ChargerHelp! technicians start off at $30 per hour in a full-time, 40 hours per week position and receive benefits and shares in the company. Terry also sees the technicians as informal evangelists for EV—especially in less tech-forward parts of the country.

"A lot of our techs had never been in an electric car before they came to training," she said. "We let them test drive a car, and they went back to their friends to talk them up."