InCharge Bidirectional Chargers Empower Fleet Owners to Save Big on EV Transition

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

InCharge Bidirectional Chargers Empower Fleet Owners to Save Big on EV Transition
InCharge

Last week at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, Santa Monica-based InCharge unveiled a new family of bidirectional electric vehicle chargers.

While a new charger might not have been the most jaw dropping tech unveiled at the expo, bidirectional charging–especially right now–offers the kind of cost saving solutions that should be extremely attractive to anybody that owns electric buses, delivery vans, or even tractor trailers in significant numbers. Basically, any fleet owner looking to save some money during their transition from diesel to battery would benefit from these chargers.


Bidirectional charging, also called V2X technology, does what its name suggests. Instead of electricity always flowing from the grid into the vehicle, InCharge’s newest products also allow electrons to flow from the vehicle’s battery back into the grid–or anywhere else. This means that EVs basically become large, roving batteries that can be used to power virtually anything from the electricity in the depot, the grid, or other vehicles.

InCharge’s new product comes in three different sizes, 22kW, 44kW, and 66kW. All of which are considered relatively slow charging speeds compared to many direct current fast chargers that you might see on the side of the highway that are intended to charge your EV back to full capacity as quickly as possible. But speed is not the name of the game in bidirectional charging and isn’t much of a concern at depots, where vehicles usually sit idle overnight and have plenty of time to charge.

Instead, the technology is intended to help fleet owners save money. Especially right now, with the transition to electrification still in its relative infancy, the country’s energy grid in places like California is often saturated with renewable energy during the middle of the day when the sun is brightest and solar production is at maximum. During those hours energy is cheap and clean, but in the evening, when demand spikes and solar production begins to wane, electricity becomes dramatically more expensive and more reliant on fossil fuels.

According to InCharge CEO Terry O’Day the fleets his company is selling to are using the new tech for three different but closely-related applications.

The first is shaving the peak off of the demand curve. By enabling fleets to use electricity stored in their vehicle batteries to charge when energy demand is at its highest and most expensive, fleet owners can simple avoid charging when rates are at their highest. In the same vein, fleet owners can also hold onto their electrons until demand is high, and then sell the energy back to the grid for a profit. This is the same principle underlying the new residential rooftop solar rules outlined in NEM 3.0, which basically requires new solar installs to come with a battery in order to be profitable. But in the case of fleets, the scale is vastly magnified due to the size and number of the batteries in the system.

Finally, the tech can also be used to help fleet owners avoid drawing too much energy from the grid all at once: Right now, in California and many other places, grid operators charge a tariff for companies that use too much energy at any one time. Electricity may cost 30 cents per kilowatt hour, as long as you’re drawing less than 200 kWs at a time, for instance. But as soon as you exceed that level of power, companies may start charging more. Bidirectional charging can add the flexibility needed to stay below certain tariff levels–a concept known as tariff shifting.

All of this equates to cost savings for fleet owners. And while these savings will likely pale in comparison to the cost of buying a new fleet of EVs and installing the charging tech, the savings scale with how large the fleet is and can significantly ease the pain. O’Day can’t publicly divulge yet who the major customers have been for the new chargers, but he says InCharge has a pipeline of order numbering in the thousands, spanning from delivery companies to school districts.

Like much of the electrification industry, one of the biggest bottlenecks for InCharge is waiting for utility companies to install grid upgrades that allow the chargers to actually connect to the larger grid. “It's taking as much as 24 months to get utility upgrades at a lot of sites,” says O’Day. Against that background, planning remains a major challenge for fleet owners, and despite progress in standardizing the tech, interoperability between charger and vehicle can remain an issue. InCharge is O’Day’s fifth EV startup. “Each time I start one of these companies, I think it's you know, we're gonna be making cookies. Turns out, we're making snowflakes pretty much.”

While InCharge offers a turnkey solution and will work with clients to understand the needs and requirements of every custom install, the market remains somewhat disjointed. “Different providers in the value chain are all trying to come together and make their stuff work together. They may choose you for a slice of it, your brother for another slice of it, your sister for a different one, and then all the siblings have to work together,” O’Day says. “That can get complicated.”

The industry has already seen that drama play out in the light duty public charging sector, where every charger brand has its own apps, its own payment procedure, and its own charger standards. All of this has led to an unreliable charging experience for EV owners—a study from April 2022, for instance, found that less than three quarters of the chargers in its survey were actually operational.

For fleets, where vehicle uptime equals revenue, this is simply not an option, and the commercial transportation industry is eager to avoid the same pitfalls.

Up to this point, Tesla is the only non commercial charging company that has managed to deliver a solid product. The EV giant is famous for the quality of its supercharger network, and to O’Day, the success isn’t particularly surprising. “For Tesla is it's an integrated, fully interoperable charger and vehicle where Tesla builds the software, they own the sites and they [control the payment processing.]”

While O’Day doesn’t want to compare InCharge to Tesla, he says that sort of unified turnkey approach will be vital for the commercial transportation industry as it works to eliminate diesel completely by 2036, as per the California Air Resources Board’s recent ruling. Getting there will be a Herculean effort, but bidirectional charging is almost guaranteed to be crucial in making the transition economically viable.

🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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