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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

Technology Gives Electric Cars Chance to Deliver Energy to Grid

CEO: Gregory Poilasne

Revenue: $1.5 million in 2016, expecting $5 million in 2017

No. of local employees: Seven

Investors: Gregory Poilasne, Willett Kempton, Nish Mehta, Marc Trahand, Bjoern Christensen and Ted Smith

Headquarters: Liberty Station

Year founded: 2010

What makes the company innovative: Nuvve makes software that coordinates the supply of electricity from electric cars into a community or regional power grid, and vice versa

Nuvve Corp. LLC has flipped the script when it comes to electric vehicles.

In a conventional world, the power grid charges electric cars. Nuvve creates technology that lets electric cars supply power to the grid. It’s called “V to G,” or vehicle to grid.

When you get a fleet full of idle electric cars sending electricity into the grid, it can be powerful stuff.

Actually, with Nuvve’s technology, electricity can flow back and forth, depending on the need.

“Think of us as a mobile power grid,” said Nish Mehta, the company’s CFO.

The need for the business’ product will likely grow as more energy storage ends up at the far ends of the grid. That scenario could easily include household energy storage, said Ted Smith, Nuvve’s chief administrative officer.

‘Bidirectional Flow’

Smith spoke of a “bidirectional flow between islands of power.” Software provided by Nuvve, he said, would be “the enabling balancing mechanism.” The technology works with standard factory-equipped cars from makers such as Nissan, and chargers made by Enel.

Nuvve’s technology is already at work with a fleet operator in Denmark. The California Energy Commission is underwriting a demonstration of the technology at the University of California, San Diego. The campus plans to install 50 specialized two-way vehicle chargers in August. The state is picking up $4.2 million of the bill; Nuvve and its partners will fund the balance of the $7.9 million project. Nuvve says it has 21 projects in all. The vehicle-to-grid software gives electric car owners the chance to offset the high cost of a vehicle by linking it to the grid when parked, and letting it serve as a power source. “We call it the cash-back car,” said Mehta, adding that a vehicle owner with a $399 monthly lease could drive the cost down to $299 by hooking it up to the grid and collecting rebates.

Nuvve reported $1.5 million in revenue last year. It expects $5 million in 2017 and is going for more than $10 million in 2018, according to Mehta and Smith.

“Anytime energy flows, it’s a revenue opportunity for us,” Mehta said.

U.S. Adoption Slower

Nuvve’s technology was developed by Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware, and has been licensed by a group of San Diegans. Since the group licensed the technology in stages, the company has more projects going in Europe. Adoption lags in the United States because the partners received U.S. rights most recently, in September.

Kempton’s invention goes back to 1996. “This platform has decades of development time,” Smith said.

Today, Kempton is one of the company’s six investors. “We’re working on our first big institutional raise,” Smith said.

The company’s distributed resource management software has three components. A “requirements” engine evaluates what is needed out in the power grid. Separately, an aggregator communicates with power sources (including electric vehicles and used electric vehicle batteries) and gets a sense of what resources are available. The middleman between the two is an optimization engine which matches needs and resources.

Playing into the company’s business plan are changing economics.

Battery Prices Down Since 2009

Smith showed off a graph from The Economist magazine, depicting a forecast increase in battery-powered electric vehicles as battery prices fall. The forecast, attributed to Exane BNP Paribas and UBS, shows the cost of batteries has come down sharply since 2009. Going forward, it is expected to slowly level off. Meanwhile, the percentage of electric cars on the road is poised to increase markedly. If the pundits are correct, the worldwide market penetration for electric cars will make a sharp turn upward between 2019 and 2022, hitting 5 percent in 2022 and 10 percent in 2025.

Nuvve sees organizations operating large fleets of vehicles as ideal early customers. From there, it plans to sell to operators of large facilities. Later prospects include single homes and apartment buildings. Mehta said he sees the company selling directly to consumers by 2020.

The company has 15 employees, splitting its workforce between the United States and Europe.

Company representatives anticipate doubling the number of employees by the end of the year.

In addition to several projects in Europe and the United States, the business is working on a project for the United Nations in Africa — Namibia to be exact. There is no stable grid infrastructure in that part of Africa, Smith said.

“It’s frontier economic development,” he said.


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