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EV charging companies push faster at-home charges, V2G and connectivity at CES

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EV charging companies have been showing their wares at CES for years now. But this year, the stakes — and opportunities — are a bit higher.

With dozens of electric passenger cars and commercial fleets expected to hit the market in just a few years, EVs are pushing into the mainstream. That larger market comes with a price: Mainstream consumers expect charge times that are akin to gas refueling times, are accustomed to good user experience design and probably haven’t ever had to think about peak and off-peak energy grid hours.

Charging companies and smaller startups that showed up at CES this year seemed cognizant of that shift and pitched products that were faster, more connected, easier to use, easy to install and built to work with the electrical grid. The takeaway: EV charging companies, keen to reach this bigger customer base, revealed products designed to hit just about every use case, from commercial fleet charging to at-home charging, from vehicle-to-grid tech to monetizing advertising space on chargers.

With the global EV charger market expected to grow from $3.23 billion in 2020 to nearly $11 billion in 2025, the industry still has space for new entrants before it consolidates around a few giants, many of whom did not grace CES with demos or news. The smaller companies that showed off tech at CES are standing out with unique solutions, lots of connectivity and upgraded charge speeds.

Blink Charging

Blink came to play, with four new charging products this year, including one DC-fast wall-mounted charger and three Level 2 chargers — one designed for fleet and multiunit applications, another for home applications and the last for integrating advertising displays. All of the chargers come with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as smart capabilities that allow for things like fleet management integration, load sharing technology and energy use management. 

Blink MQ 200 for fleet EV charging stations

Specifically designed for fleets, workplace and multifamily locations, this 50 amp charger comes with Plug & Charge functionality, which can automatically identify vehicles through the unique and encryption flow of information from the vehicle to the charging station. As its name suggests, this means drivers will simply have to plug in to begin a charging session.

The MQ 200, which will be available by the end of Q1 this year, comes with Smart Grid functionality for direct utility communications and local load management across two or more chargers, which allows for the installation of two to 20 chargers on a single circuit, ideal for overnight fleet charging. It also communicates with the Blink Network, software that connects Blink chargers to the cloud, as well as the Blink Fleet Management Portal, which was also launched at CES. The portal gives fleet managers a dashboard to track charging and load management, chargers, vehicles and drivers.

Blink HQ 200, next-gen home charging

The HQ 200 is Blink’s updated residential charger, a Level 2 charger with 50 amps, up from last generation’s 30 amps. The extra power at home, as we’ll see with other EV charging companies, is a trend this year as companies race to find ways to decrease charge time.

While customers can choose to go for a basic charger with no bells and whistles, the smart, Wi-Fi-enabled version is really the one that intrigues us. The HQ 200 is one of Blink’s first chargers to come with vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G), which allows EVs to charge during off-peak hours and give back to the grid from energy stored in the EV battery during peak hours when there’s high demand.

The HQ 200 also connects to the Blink Mobile App to instantly start a charge, schedule charging times and set reminders. It will be available by the end of Q1 this year.

DC Fast wall-mounted for two cars at once

The DC Fast Wall 50 kW can be wall-mounted or set up on a pedestal, and it can charge two cars at once, which makes it ideal for fleet, retail and streetside charging and high-traffic locations. It has up to 150 amps of output and V2G tech, a 10-inch touchscreen display and the ability to bill for charges based on time, kWh or per session. It also allows for remote management and energy usage reports via the Blink Network, and an RFID reader allows for users with a member card, RFID credit card or mobile app to start a charge.

“The price point will also make it attractive for locations that otherwise may not feel they can afford DC fast,” a Blink spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The DC Wall 50 kW costs less than $20,000, while existing equipment today typically starts at $35,000.”

Vision IQ 200 for advertising

This Level 2 charger comes with one or two 30-inch LCD screens for dynamic digital media displays, allowing for full-service advertising capabilities — ideal for retail, hospitality, municipal and high-traffic locations. Property hosts will be offered revenue share opportunities for both charging and advertising income, the latter of which will be managed through a third-party vendor. 

The Vision IQ 200 is equipped with one or two 80-amp IQ 200 chargers, and it features easy payment via RFID, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and all major credit cards, as well as other smart functionalities like remote management and real-time energy usage reports. 

The DC Fast Wall will be available later this year, said Blink.

E-Lift

E-Lift came to CES to introduce its new customizable GS Pop-Up charging station, which the Dutch company hopes to launch in North America soon. The little station comes with up to four plugs for simultaneous charging, and it can be equipped with sensors that link to E-Lift’s Sustainable and Smart Energy Management System (SENSE).

The SENSE platform is a management system for users’ mobility and energy needs. Customers can log in remotely to monitor and manage their mobility and energy-consumption data, “resulting in a cost-effective energy transformation that is beneficial for governments and companies looking to reshape their future with the use of renewable energy resources,” the company said in a statement.

JuiceBar

JuiceBar, a Connecticut-based EV charging company that’s really playing the Made in America card, unveiled its first residential charger at CES — the Cheetah, aptly named for being quick, so the company says. 

The company, which says it will credit $1,000 for every old charger that is exchanged for one of its new chargers, will be selling its Cheetahs sometime in 2022. JuiceBar has hundreds of commercial chargers, both public and private, across the U.S. and Canada, the same markets that will see the new at-home charger. 

The Cheetah will be available in 16, 32, 40 and 48-amp configurations and 120, 208 and 240 input voltages, which after seeing what Blink is putting out, doesn’t make JuiceBar the fastest Level 2 on the market, but it’s close. The Cheetah also has Bluetooth, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and cloud connectivity, which helps for Smart Grid charging. It has a 25-foot cord with an optional tangle-free cord retractor.

For peace of mind when charging at home, the Cheetah also is built with dual safety relays, which allows the second relay to open and break the circuit in the event that the first closes and fuses shut. The charger’s power is backed by 100% certified carbon reduction projects that offset the carbon footprint of the charger, according to JuiceBar. The company is buying carbon offsets for the first year. After that, buyers can continue to purchase carbon offsets on a subscription basis of less than $1 per week.

The Cheetah will be available for consumers in late Q2 or early Q3, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. They’ll initially be sold through third parties such as auto dealers, house builders and utility companies in the U.S. and Canada. 

Wallbox

Wallbox introduced its Quasar 2 at CES this year, the latest generation of its bidirectional home charger. This one not only allows EV owners to charge and discharge their EV to power their home or the grid, but it also allows owners to isolate their home from the grid and use their EV for backup power during a blackout, even if it’s caused by a natural disaster. Wallbox says its Quasar 2 can power a home for more than three days during a blackout.

The vehicle-to-home (V2H) functionality should help EV owners save money on home energy costs, says the company, particularly in states where power rates are related to demand. Users can schedule charging sessions to happen when rates are low, and those who have solar power installations can store excess energy in their EV during low usage periods.

The Quasar 2 provides 48 amps of power, comes with CCS compatibility for rapid-charging vehicles like the Jaguar I-Pace or BMW i3 and connects to the myWallbox app through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet or 4G.

Wallbox didn’t share how much the Quasar 2 would cost, but said it would be comparable to Quasar 1, which costs about $4,000. It plans to launch by the end of the year.

Meredot

Electric cars aren’t the only vehicles hitting the market. Micromobility vehicles need some love, too. That’s why Meredot unveiled its first commercial Wireless Charger designed for e-scooters, e-mopeds and other vehicles like food delivery robots and wheelchairs. The charger takes the shape of a physical pad that can either be placed above or below ground, and it charges vehicles that have been equipped with a receiver when they are parked on top of it.

Meredot is targeting micromobility OEMs and fleet operators for its Wireless Charger. It’s ready to go to market and license its tech to companies that want to offer a novel and potentially hassle-free way of giving vehicles a charge. For micromobility fleets in particular, charging scooters and bikes, even when they have swappable batteries, is one of the major cost-suckers, so this kind of tech could potentially be a game changer.

“The Meredot Wireless Charger delivers a new, distributed architecture that helps achieve greater site capital efficiency and scalability, saving energy and costs,” said Roman Bysko, CEO and co-founder of Meredot, in a statement. “The Meredot Wireless Charger can become an infrastructural foundation to a new micromobility charging experience benefitting both operators and riders.”

The company claims its tech can charge 50% more e-scooters on the same surface compared to traditional cable charging systems, which can lead to serious savings for charging sites. 

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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