What’s it all about?
Wireless charging!! We accept this as obvious for our smart phones, but less so for cars and vehicles of all types, but it was a flat phone battery that inspired the technology behind wireless charging leader Wi-Tricity. I speak with CEO Alex Gruzen about the technology, applications, and how close we are to simply driving over a charge pad, walking away, and coming back to a full battery. It’s far closer than you may think.
About Alex Gruzen:
Alex Gruzen is the CEO of WiTricity, the industry pioneer in wireless power transfer over distance and founder of electric vehicle wireless charging technology.
Before WiTricity, Gruzen co-founded Texas-based Corsa Ventures, where he focused on building leading technology companies via early-stage investments. Prior to Corsa, he was the Senior Vice President of the Consumer and Small Medium Business Product Group at Dell, and previously led the company’s global notebook computer business. His experience spans product development, global sales and marketing, operations and growth through mergers and acquisitions, having also held leadership roles at Hewlett Packard, Compaq and Sony. Gruzen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a S.M. and S.B. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
WiTricity is the global industry leader in wireless charging, powering a sustainable future of mobility that is electric and autonomous. WiTricity’s patented magnetic resonance technology is being incorporated into global automakers’ and Tier 1 suppliers’ EV roadmaps and is the foundation of major global standards developed to support wide-scale adoption. Advancements like dynamic charging of moving vehicles, and the charging of autonomous robots and vehicles without human intervention all depend on WiTricity technology
- The WiTricity Halo™ upgrade for electric vehicles will deliver 11 kW wireless charging, enabling a charge rate that provides up to 35-40 miles of driving range per hour of charging time, a speed and efficiency on par with today’s Level 2 AC plug-in chargers.
- WiTricity’s wireless EV charging technology has made it possible to charge the Genesis GV60 without a plug by simply parking and charging over the charging pad.
- FAW showcased its HongQi E-HS9 parking and charging autonomously built on WiTricity’s magnetic resonance wireless charging.
- Alex Gruzen LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-gruzen-b809a97/
- Witricity on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WiTricity
- Witricity onTwitter: https://twitter.com/witricity
- Witricity on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/witricity-corporation
- Witricity on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/witricity
- Witricity on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/WiTricityCorp
About Hyperion Cleantech Group:
Hyperion Cleantech Group is the holding company for businesses focused exclusively in cleantech talent acquisition, retention, leadership development. working with some of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world, helping to find extraordinary talent to enable their growth and success. Partnering with leading cleantech VCs, as well as directly with founders and entrepreneurs in the sector. With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy. We work across EMEA and NORAM, with teams based in the UK, Germany and the US.
Hyperion Executive Search is a retained search firm operating at Board, NED, C-Suite, VP and Heads of… level www.hyperionsearch.com
Fully Charged Recruitment is a contingent recruitment firm operating in the Mid/Senior level. www.fullychargedrecruitment.com
The Coldest Winter, David Halberstan- The Coldest Winter: Amazon.co.uk: Halberstam: 9781509852116: Books
Follow us online, write a review (please) or subscribe
I’m very keen to hear feedback on the podcast and my guests, and to hear your suggestions for future guests or topics. Contact via the website, or Twitter.
If you do enjoy the podcast, please write a review on iTunes, or your usual podcast platform, and tell your cleantech friends about us. That would be much appreciated.
David Hunt 0:32
Hello, I’m David Hunt, CEO and founder of Hyperion clean tech group and your host for the leaders in clean tech podcast. Now, given what’s going on in the world, presently, I’ve never been more convinced about the importance of where we as individuals invest our money as we explored in the last episode, and where we invest our time. In particular, of course, I’m driven to ensure that the very best talent in the world is working in and for the clean tech sector. That’s our purpose at the Hyperion clean tech group. You can find out more about our companies on the episode page. Now I’m super excited about the technology we discuss in this week’s episode, I’ll be speaking with the CEO leading a groundbreaking technology company working tirelessly and lead wirelessly towards the electrification of transport. I’m delighted to have as my guest Alex Cruzan, CEO of y TriCity. Alex has a significant entrepreneurial career, including for some of the global leaders in consumer electronics. Alex also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School as an SM and an SB Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT. I hope you enjoy the episode. Hello, Alex, it’s great to have you on the leads includes that podcast.
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 1:43
Thank you, David. I’m really glad to be here today. Super.
David Hunt 1:46
So there’s an awful lot to dig into. And I’m really keen to hear your thoughts on the electrification of transport, which will certainly go into and digging into the technology of, of why TriCity but it’s customary when we start our conversations to look a little bit of the backstory of our guests. Now I know you’re not a founder for watches if you’ve been there for some time. And you’ve got a really interesting background in consumer electronics, amongst other things to be interesting to see how those kind of dots linked if you like, and perhaps you can share a little bit of the journey to when you took over the reins at watches at?
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 2:22
Well, sure. Yeah. So the honest truth is I’m actually a rocket scientist. At least way back when I went to MIT, I studied Aeronautics and Astronautics with a heavy dose of astronautics in there. And so I’m I was an astronautical engineer and rocket scientist, and worked in that space for a little while, but but found that I, I, you know, I love to technology, but I really wanted to get closer to getting it to people’s hands. And so early in my career, I joined Sony and moved to Tokyo and got very, very focused on consumer electronics, because it just was really a powerful feeling for me, when you could work on creating a product, you know, and see people take their own wallets out and spend their own money to buy something that you had a role in creating. And so that’s always been a theme for me is how to, you know, take technology and make it accessible. And something that would provide joy and you know, a great customer experience user experience. After Sony, I joined Compaq computer at the very beginnings of the PC, home PC industry. Really kind of this was in 96, right around windows 95. And suddenly, there was this new thing called a PC that you were buying in your for yourself for your home, it wasn’t just a business product. And I stayed in that PC industry all the way through compact through the HP merger, worked out, you know, around the world. And then ultimately joined Dell and worked for Michael running the global notebook business for multiple years. And now that all sort of predates my time at y TriCity. But I’ve spent, you know, 20 plus years, you know, building products and getting products into people’s hands. And then I met the electricity team. And as you know what, I was not a founder. I was the second CEO of the company. But I felt it was really, really a special opportunity because why TriCity had invented the technology that allowed you to move power and move electricity at a distance wirelessly. And you know, it was sort of like the last chord in everyone’s lives. And it might in my time at HP as leading the global notebook business right when Wi Fi kind of showed up on the scene. I mean, this is the early 2000s. And you know, in a period of three to four years, we went from Wi Fi Being a very expensive option, initially through an add on card, which costed like at least 10% of the cost of your notebook, your two suddenly went three to four years being completely built in, and I could not sell a notebook that didn’t have Wi Fi built in. So, you know, I look at wireless power wireless charging as really going through the same phases of development, you know, it’s the last chord that we have in our lives, everything else, you know, yeah, telephony data, everything’s gone wireless. You know, and why TriCity invented the technology to get rid of that very last chord. And that’s what that’s what got me excited about the company. And I joined in 2014. And we’ve been moving the technology forward. And now now to production in the eurosense.
David Hunt 5:54
Now fascinating, obviously, that there’s a lot of synergies there. And I recall having to buy a camera with the corner USD, no card that you had to put into your laptop to try and get some very poor wireless connectivity. And it feels like 100 years ago, but clearly wasn’t that long at all. And that kind of evolution, I think of the things that we take for granted, people often forget until it’s done, if that makes sense. You know, obviously, we haven’t now, everybody lives the life of a smartphone or smart device. And yet, it’s only what 910 11 years ago that they came on the scene. And likewise, people are guess kind of familiar now of charging their, their iPhone or their their smart device on a wireless pad. And yet, so many people are incredulous when you start to tell them about wireless charging for electric vehicles. And you think, Well, it’s kind of in two or three years time I you know, it’s going to be that that’s kind of going to be the norm. I’d like to think certainly in some applications, and that’d be really cool to sort of explore with you, Alex, how, how far you are on that journey in terms of commercialization, and where and when we’ll start to see the first watch as the product or wireless charging infrastructure. I know there are pilots around the world from various different places. But I guess from from a more mainstream point of
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 7:03
view. Well, I think your comments are spot on about the, you know, what it takes to roll out a new technology and the deployment. You know, I feel viscerally that I’m just living through exactly what I lived through 20 years ago with the advent of Wi Fi, and all the elements of the work that we do, around you know, getting the technology right getting the architecture, right, getting a standard written around it, getting it designed into products, and then doing the work to bring it to scale and reduce cost and increase availability. It is to a tee exactly what I am doing what our team at y TriCity is doing, and has been doing for the last decade around wireless power. So we get we now have cars coming into the market. Hyundai just launched their new Genesis gV 60. In South Korea with what TriCity is wireless charging. A significant Chinese automaker named FIW just launched their home Qi brand, which is their premier brand in China with wireless charging, we have multiple other automakers launching this year. So you know, it is, you know, part and parcel of what we do, which is get the technology, right, get a standard ratified around it, make it commercially viable, get it into production, and then drive to skill. And so I’m pretty excited about where we are right now. I mean, the vehicles are now actually coming out into the market. And, and more to come, you
David Hunt 8:45
know, was good to explore the throw, I guess one of the questions I have is around, you kind of sit in between, I guess on one hand, you’ve got the utility companies who again, you know, quite old and traditional in terms of how and where power supplied, I remember when I first got into clean tech, it was solar actually and being told by various sort of in the UK, they could do no was other sort of the grid operator saying you can’t pass electricity backwards and forwards. And this was the actual utility company themselves. So I guess on one hand, you’ve got these large utility companies like doing things their way and they’ve been done a certain way for a period of time. And on the flip side, you’ve got the auto OEMs which again, obviously fighting the challenges of electrification on many fronts, you kind of having to I guess, sell on both sides to create the the right environment for the solution release. Are the RE OEMs receptive, are the utilities receptive wherever you’ve had the challenges in terms of bringing the technology to market?
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 9:39
Well, I think you have to be crisp around what what you’re trying to accomplish with the solution. So you know, I think I spent a lot of time thinking about sort of the art of market entry. You know, we have we’ve been working with Global Automakers for a decade now. In fact, over a decade, we started in 2010, working with the Society of Automotive Engineers, Sae, and equivalent sort of standard setting bodies, you know, this is a bit of an alphabet soup, right, but company organisations like the ISO and IEC, which set global standards, you know, they basically said, Look, we had, we didn’t, as an industry that didn’t do a great job when it came to plug in charging, right, there was different connectors, different cables and different standards are in around the world and different among different automakers. And they said, Alright, if wireless charging is the next thing, let’s just do it once. And let’s get it right, from the start with a common standard. So, you know, we have a shot at actually deploying infrastructure and public infrastructure. So that standard was ratified in 2020. So it you know, as things go in the auto industry, it took us literally 10 years to get that standard ratified, is now ratified. It’s the basis of the new vehicles coming out. So, so let’s talk about like, why did the automakers put this effort in? Over 10 years? Right, we’re the we’re the foundational technology for the standard. But still, the automakers own the standard. Why did they put this effort for 10 years? And why are they declined now? Well, the first goal is just to make Evie ownership experience better. Right is think about what it’s like to have a wirelessly charging Evie, you park your car, you walk away, you don’t do anything, it’s charging. Whenever you walk back to it, it’s charged, you get it, you drive again, and repeat, right. So without you doing anything, it’s as if your car had infinite range. So So you know, we know that charge and charging and range is their sort of number one point of anxiety for new Eevee buyers. So we’re gonna make the experience completely something that’s transparent and in the background that you never have to think about. It’s actually it’s actually so much better than any internal combustion engine car you ever had. And going to a gas station petrol station was never a great thing. Now you never have to worry about the only time you might plug in would be the few times you go on super long trips, you know, the trip to Grandma’s house, you know, or here in the States, I’m driving from Boston to Washington, DC. Yeah, you pull over and you do a fast charge, but day to day, you would just never have to think about battery range ever again. So that’s, that’s super appealing, we, we finished market research over 1000 potential Evie buyers, and we found we could increase their interest level in buying an Eevee by 68%. When we introduce them to the idea of wireless charging, it just takes this whole point of anxiety totally off the table. So yeah, you know, as as I said earlier, I’ve been for you know, over over really 30 years now, developing consumer products, changing consumer behaviour is not easy. Today’s Evie buyers are almost by definition, still early adopters, on any kind of technology adoption curve. And so I think wireless charging plays a role in really welcoming in the next wave of buyers with just a much better experience. So that was sort of step one is just creating the sort of the best possible Evie ownership experience. The second part is setting the stage for another impute an important future in mobility, which is autonomy. Right? I mean, you know, we can we can kill two birds with one stone here not only capture the, you know, next wave of buyers with a better experience, but also set the stage for a future that’s electric and autonomous, right and any autonomous vehicle whether that is a you know, a robo taxi in the future, whether that’s a autonomous valet, where, you know, the car just parks itself and charges itself
to you know, any range of like delivery vehicles or factory robots I mean, any of anything that has autonomy needs autonomous charging. And the automakers have decided that’s that’s why TriCity is technology. Right that that’s what we built the standard around as an industry. And, and so we’re setting the stage for a future that’s electric and autonomous. So So those are two important motivations for the standards work. And for these initial product deployments. In fact, the the FA W home Qi that just launched in China is actually being rolled out with a series of autonomous parking garages. Autonomous valet, right is where you just pull it and send the car off to go park itself in charge itself that was actually publicly demonstrated last month. So, you know, I think we’re we’re like really well on our way to delivering on that promise.
David Hunt 15:12
Yeah, yeah. No, I think I saw that clip of that on your website or on your LinkedIn channel. So there’s two really interesting things there. Yeah, two interesting things. One of which is your experience and the whole consumer behaviour thing. Because I get this I’ve driven a car with a plug for many years now. And recently, I was going to an event, not too far away. But it required a bit of a fast charge on the on the way back and did a tweet around know how difficult is this, I go, plug in, go grab a burger, come back, and everything’s all good. And yet, there’s still outside of the bubble that we live in early adopters, huge response from that tweets from people who are still challenging, how difficult it is to have an Eevee versus a petrol station, which of course to us, and to me is ridiculous, because that’s just not the life we live in. But for so many people there is that perception and your perception is their reality in many ways. So this ability to take that away, take that whole issue away. I think he’s quite game changing. And that’s why I’m really keen to see obviously, this starting to roll out in the US and UK in Europe and explore a little bit of when we’ll start to see your product and solutions in the US and in sort of Europe deployed.
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 16:29
Well, so we are in early days, right, we have the first sort of for Chinese automakers launching, right, and I think it is a really kind of a characteristic of that market, that they’re at the front edge of everything that’s happening and electrification, the market there has effectively gone all in on electric where I think many other parts of the world, in particular, the US is still, you know, sorting out deployment and infrastructure and and really, it’s a bit more or less a fair in the sense that, you know, if there’s a car that meets my needs, that’s the right size at the right price point, number of seats, etc, that you know, then I’ll consider buying an Eevee. But if there isn’t, I’ll just wait. And that’s sort of where the US market is at the moment. Although things certainly are accelerating in the past, say, say 12 to 18 months with, I think largely driven as well by more variety of types of shapes of vehicles. You know, I mean, if you go into a market, where, you know, the best selling vehicle in the whole country is a pickup truck. You know, there’s only so much penetration, you’re going to get on EVs until you have an offer a pickup truck, or a minivan. Yeah, or an SUV. But let’s change. The classic Sedan was such a small fraction of what people bought in the US that and if all you had was electrified sedans how, how big do you ever think the penetration could ever get? So that’s changing? That’s exciting. Yeah, Europe, Europe is certainly has is well farther along on both, both in terms of the vehicles offered, but but also just the government mandates and regulations are much stronger than they’ve been. And then of course, China has gone gone all the way forward. So it should be no surprise that the first place our technology is showing up is in the China market with China OEM. Because the it’s no longer a question of, if I’m going to buy an AV kits, which AV am I going to buy. And at the end of the day, they’re all largely the same battery packs, inverters, motors, etc. So, so the now the differentiation is around experience and features and and as we’ve shown, we’re, you know, we’re a great experience and a great feature to add to your vehicle. So what that allows us to do is just to get into the market and get some scale and get, you know, down the experience curve and manufacturing. And I do see it our D star technology showing up in the next two to three years among, you know, you know, European and American and Japanese OEMs. In fact, I know that’s the case. One thing we did last month is we announced a beta programme of a an aftermarket upgrade kit, which is not our core business. But what we realised is that you know, we now are in production, and we have an ability to go bring this to the existing Evie owner base as a feature if they want to add it to their vehicle and we announced the beta for later this year and then production next year. So maybe that’s just a little bit of impatience. I don’t want to wait, you know, for the OEMs to watch natively as the They’re kind of the sort of installed base of owners grows and grows each year.
David Hunt 20:05
So that begs a couple of things. The second point you talked about was autonomy. And again, that’s an interesting point, because, like you said, there’s no point in having autonomous fleets of anything if a bottleneck is that some guy or gal has got to go and plug it in, when it needs to recharge. But I think that’s interesting to see how that will roll out. I was asked, I was actually speaking at an event in Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart A while ago, in fact, just two or three years ago, and I was asked about autonomous vehicles, and I kind of stuck my neck out saying we’ll start to see them in certain use cases by 2025. And perhaps I was a little ambitious, but you’d be good to get your thoughts on how you see that evolving, where we’re likely to see autonomous electric vehicles. First, and and again, sort of what you think of the challenges there? Because it seems a lot of that is around regulation as much as around technology.
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 20:55
You Yeah, you know, it’s very hard to say, clearly where where autonomy is rolling out is in more geo fenced application in certain cities, neighbourhood speeds, weather etc. And, and while you know, there was so much excitement for it, it is clear that there’s a lot more r&d and multiple years of deployment and test ahead. For broad, you know, any environment, any weather, no safety driver applications. So, so where I do think it gets traction in the near term, is this idea of, of autonomous parking and self parking. A much more constrained environment, we have one, you know, one company we’re working with, that is mapping out, literally, so basically, radar, Lidar and LIDAR mapping every internal parking garage, every park or across all of China, as an example, to create effectively the Google Maps of parking garages for exactly this application, right to go, you know, simplify autonomous parking. If you think about combination of autonomous parking with wireless charging, now you don’t need to put a charger at every parking spot. You know, you could have 50 cars on a floor of a parking garage, that are just cycling over, over through the evening through the night. A handful of charges that comes back to kind of infrastructure and better utilisation of infrastructure and utilisation of sort of the power but, but I don’t want to dwell too long. I think that on autonomy, I think that the you know, step one, you know make a better ownership experience. Step two set the stage for the future that’s autonomous and and because when that comes then our technology is not just convenient, not just a better experience, but then our technology is essential. But I’ve learned from from working in the auto industry, you know yet you have to plan that far ahead, but it does take several years to get there. Another another really interesting space for our wireless charging technology for for wi TriCity is in commercial vehicles. I think that again, the technology you know what what TriCity invented is not about a particular power level. Yeah, the passenger car work that I’ve been talking about, you know, like and our like our electricity HALO wireless charging system, that will be you know, putting out as a beta and then production next year for passenger vehicles is an upgrade, you know, that is targeting 11 kilowatts of power that’s, you know, 35 ish miles of range per hour. Classic level two charging, that is a specific design point. It’s kind of all the power that you could get in a home you know, a home charger or for many, many, many parking spots in a commercial garage for example. So, so it’s it is one particular sweet spot that we targeted with a design, but our technology is unlimited amount of power. You can move on with electricity, you can move 11 kilowatts for passenger vehicle and you can move 75 150 300 kilowatts for commercial vehicle it’s just a different design point. You know, you you got to design an internal combustion engine you can design it with 100 horsepower for an economy vehicle or, or 500 horsepower for a sports car. It’s the same with nitrous. So we have we have high power solutions that are developed for commercial vehicles. And what what gets me excited there is that, um, you know, it’s not a convenience and user experience sale it’s actually a, a total cost of ownership story. You can use You can embed the charging into your process the process flow of your business. If the if the delivery van or the middle mile truck is sitting at the loading dock for hours, that time suddenly can be used effectively for charging, you can see, you can build charging into a taxi queue. So the taxi driver doesn’t have to go make charging something else they do. That consumes time. And you know, it takes away from, you know, earning money. And when you have a similar process, you increase the time when you increase the time. And this is really, really critical, you reduce the peak power demand.
And depots and fleets are discovering the Achilles heel, which is when you aggregate across a lot of vehicles and you think you’re going to do fast charging. The total power demand is driving extraordinary cost. And it isn’t about paying for the kilowatt hours that you need in a vehicle, it’s paying the demand charges for the peak power acquired. Yeah. So So wireless charging, wireless charging, gives you a chance at at really evening out the power demand and reducing the peak. And and in some cases, reducing your operating costs by up to 50% by including wireless charging.
David Hunt 26:32
And that’s an interesting thing we talked before, about, you know, rapid charging and the drive for faster charging for, again, for consumer experience, and for sort of a smoother and easier transition to electric vehicles. But that’s an interesting thing, because there is a again, obviously a place for rapids, but it’s not necessarily where the bulk of charging will take place. But going back to your point that I was interested to see just in terms of the capacity, you touched on and read in terms of how much power you can transfer through through the white TriCity technology binges to get your thoughts on that because that getting the power to site and the demand costs that you’ve just touched on clearly are a massive issue, both in terms of the availability of power on any given site. And of course, then the cost implications of that. So did you see for passenger vehicles, perhaps more so than or differently from commercial vehicles where there will be a larger abundance of wireless charging, rather than a sort of a smaller number of hubs for rapid charging, what do you see as the sort of direction of travel, I guess, it will always need both. But I’m just keen to see where you see the wireless charging infrastructure rolling out from a from a passenger vehicle point of view, as well as from a commercial point of view.
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 27:46
Well, my view might be a little controversial here, but I think that the the industry is stuck in thinking about the gas station petrol station. Model and, and the legacy of that. And I think, really not not doing not doing us a service by trying to say, look, it’s Hey, it’s going to be just like your, your prior car, we’re going to charge faster and faster, it’s going to you know, instead of a gasoline pump, it’s going to be an electron pump, and you just go to it and you charge up and it’s only going to take 1015 minutes, and it’s going to be great. And I think that that is completely miss setting expectations for end users. The the gas pump is equivalent to about six megawatts of power, we’re obviously never going to reach that. Even at 350 kilowatts of power. Which is, you know, the fastest fast charging these days. It’s still not that quick experience. And, you know, we’re talking more about batteries that can charge faster and the peak power capabilities of the car. The reality is that I wish more people came out with like, where’s that power coming from? Right, where are we going to get you know, the power that it takes to power hundreds or 1000s of homes just for one DC fast charging station. And I should add that those fast charging stations aren’t really being used from like 11pm to 6am So your utilisation is low. The demand charges are extraordinary. The infrastructure build out is remarkably expensive. Two thirds of the cost is it’s sort of in the concrete and the conduit and the transformers and such as opposed to the charger itself. And and so they’ll never be enough because the economic model doesn’t really sustain them well. And if you want to reduce demand charges, you’ll end up adding a lot of local battery capacity, which just adds more cost, which again, is unused at night. So, so I think what you find is that the cost per kilowatt hour wipes out the vast majority of the savings that you had in going electric. Right. So it’s just not, it’s not sustainable, there won’t be enough if we think that the majority of the way people get their kilowatt hours or another as their miles of range will be going to a destination charger and charging quickly, I just, I just think it’s a fallacy argument doesn’t hold up, especially when you bring it to grid scale, if we’re struggling to deliver that model with three four or five you know, 10% penetration, what happens when we get to 50%. So the at a macro level as an industry, we need to spend a lot more time talking about distributed charging, about making charging where people park whether that’s at home, in their neighbourhood, or at work easier, and and, you know, more more prolific deployment of Level Two charging. If we have any hope of having a viable economic model for mass adoption of EVs I, I fundamentally believe we do need the highway corridors, we need it for range extension, there will be neighbourhoods, urban environment, in particular, where street parking is difficult, and maybe you need to go to a fast charger. But if we think that that’s the model for the macro deployment of very high levels of penetration in the industry, it is not it’s just not going to be viable. I’ve spoken to energy executives, they tell me about the rollout, for example, in the early 70s, of central air conditioning, you know, in the United States and the industry can deliver the capacity, the number of kilowatt hours and car parlance, the number of miles of range of power, right, they can deliver the aggregate capacity, but they can’t deliver it all in one spot. At you know, at hundreds of kilowatts of power, it’s just not that’s not going to happen. So I believe we need to reshift the attention to more distribute, take advantage of the 18 plus hours of cars are parked
and not just focus on how do I go someplace and try to charge as fast as I can. So that that’s in that environment. I think wireless plays an even more important role. We need to be able to make it super simple for people to top up their vehicles. You know, I call it power snacking, right to why TriCity power snack whenever they park without having to think about it. And yeah, sort of periodic and regular top offs of the battery. And yeah, and shift away from a model that I don’t think scales that we’re all going to go to some fast charger somewhere. It’s like the industry is talking to both sides of their mouth. It’s like hey, we could charge super fast just like a gas pump and then the NSA but please We really hope you actually rarely use it because we’ll never feel the scale
David Hunt 33:44
no I totally agree and I think it’s one of the things we’ve got to get away from and obviously are in many instances of getting away from the mindset of just trying to create a the experience the same and you touched on already the same as a gas car but but just electrons rather than hydrocarbons and just change the whole behaviours and mindsets of people in that snack I like that phrase actually but that top up I think is what myself and most Evie drivers are no treat as soon as you’re at work or you’re in a car park in a retail store if they have something or home you just you just top up the electrons while you can you never or very rarely get to a point unless you’re in a long drive where you’ve got a you know pretty much refill the battery from from it from zip so that that kind of mindset like power snacking kind of the thought process
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 34:26
so that’s that’s that’s that’s why trips that’s why TriCity is gold right? It’s just to make the charging something that’s distributed. Simple happens in the background. You don’t have to think about it. That’s That’s what what your city can do. And so to me, that’s an exciting feature that makes that makes the Evie you know, so much better experience than anything we’ve ever done before for sure.
David Hunt 34:48
I’m going to come back to technology Alexa may but also what I’m intrigued by is the experience of leadership and growing businesses in this clean tech sector because there’s so many Fast and disruptive. There have been, of course, examples in the past of telecoms and of course consumer electronics that are, I guess, have some synergies. But it’s also a lot of things, which I think are relatively unique to the convergence of technologies, which are happening at the moment, which broadly found the clean tech umbrella. How have you found working in this sector and building a team in the sector? What have been some of the challenges from a leadership and from a CEO perspective in terms of building the company that you’re building? Well,
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 35:29
first, we have to set the vision and bring together the team globally, right, because our customers are global. And you know, there’s a remarkable amount of invention and innovation that it takes to get to that first viable product. In our company was founded in 2007, we worked across a broad range of potential target markets to figure out like, Where was their product market fit, you know, where did the capabilities of our technology fit a market need? By around 2010, it was pretty clear, we had something special for for EVs, but the Eevee market, you know, wasn’t that big at that stage, right? It was sort of just more of a concept. Now, by 2016 2017. Not only we were, were we six, seven years down the path of having no viable solutions in for testing at OEMs. The automakers, but then the market started to take off, right. So, so now it has shifted to scale and productization. Right. So we we spent many years on fundamental r&d and invention, and working with the automakers to prove that the technology worked, could be efficient, could be manufacturable could be compact. And now that the standard was ratified, we’re now shifting to, you know, how do we make it manufacture designing for for testing and cost and, you know, really about scaling. And it’s a different, you know, different set of capabilities, r&d, and invention led to why TriCity having 1200 patents in the space. I mean, you fundamentally cannot build wireless charging for a vehicle without infringing electricity is intellectual property. So we have a strong licencing business in this. But you know, my aspirations for electricity, we’re more than just licencing we’re gonna go build product. And so now we’ve been going out for the now we’ve been building the product team, to have solutions that we can sell directly to customers, not just a licenced to automaker, so, you know, as I mentioned earlier, like, my background is in large, large scale, computer and consumer electronics products. I mean, I ran the global notebook business at Dell and HP, we sold millions of notebooks every year. And, you know, and now we’re at the very, very beginnings of, of a new industry and an automotive business that as long qualification cycles. You know, we have had to work very closely with the OEMs. And then multiple years enabling their tier one suppliers, with our technology, and, you know, learning to write, you know, automotive grade code, and, you know, and it’s a very different world. So, so it inevitably takes longer than you expect. I think, I talked to him, you know, I come from the PC industry, I come into the automotive industry, and it feels like the product cycle is very long. And then I talked to new friends in the energy business, and they say, Oh, what are you talking about cars are fast compared to, you know, the energy industry. I think I think we’re all transforming, right? We’re all trying to figure out, how do we bring these tech new technologies to market faster? And, you know, what gets me excited about the, the Evie business in particular is, you know, it really is the next great big platform transformation. Right, we saw it. We saw it in computing, going to the personal computer, and then the notebook computer, you know, and then we saw it in telephony, with phones, then becoming smartphones and then enabling all these new services and, and now you see, the auto industry clean completely up ended in the same way in this massive transformation to electrification. So I think every company is is fit trying to figure that out and figure out how to move fast And, and being forced to buy a lot of really great innovative companies that have. Yep, that have been taken, they’ve taken a tech centric view to make nav as opposed to an automaker centric view. Yeah, absolutely. It’s an exciting time.
David Hunt 40:15
Very much. So I think interesting. You talk about obviously, a lot of these things, which were overnight successes clearly take years to, to sort of reach that tipping point. And we have now clearly, despite some objections for people who still want to keep burning stuff, I think reached a tipping point with the evolution towards or at least the beginning of the tipping point with evolution towards electrification of the majority of transportation. How could we talk about smartphone you know, from from kind of invented to being ubiquitous within 10 years, probably even slightly less? What sort of, I guess, trying to take your optimistic watches the hat off and be a bit more objective? How quickly do you see the rollout of, of wireless charging? Now we’re at the point where, you know, you’ve reached commerciality, so to speak.
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 41:00
Yeah, I think we’re, you know, it’s a process over the next five years. I think it’s something that goes slow, and then goes very, very quickly. That’s what I’ve seen in every other transit. I mean, what do you when you see your neighbor’s car, you know, they don’t have to think about charging, just hop in and drive. And, you know, it, this is very much an aspirational, and, I think, a coveted experience. So I think that once we get deployment, it’ll accelerate very quickly. And by that point, you know, I think over the next two or three years, you know, we have a broad array of automakers that have launched the technology and then just start working it down through the, through the product line. You know, and that’s, that’s one of my main motivations for driving our BI TriCity Halo Upgrade Programme is, is, you know, I know what we have planned with OEMs over the next four years. And I just want to get it in people’s hands sooner. So we will, you know, we already have a Tesla Model three driving around our offices that has our wireless charging added to it. We’re working on a Ford Maki, we have other vehicles that we’re we’re exploring and will be an active part of our, of our programme. But, you know, my ultimate goal is broad, you know, factory installed deployment. And that’s, that’s, that’s the path we’re on. I, you know, I, I think about this sort of adoption of technology. I look at look, I’m of a certain age where I look at a cordless phone in my house. And look, I just said it, right? My brain still says cordless phone. Right? Because it had a chord, right? My by my kids look at it, it’s just a phone. If they would even consider using a phone in the house, because they all have a phone in their pocket. Yeah, and even that phone isn’t really a phone, it’s more data device. Probably never really been talk on it. Right. So. So things evolve pretty quickly. I think we were talking about, you know, plugging in our cars. And I think by the end of this decade, it’s clearly, you know, like, your grandkids are saying, Hey, Grandpa, what do you mean, you plugged in your car, that’s crazy. So and I don’t see anything about this technology transition, it’s any different from any of the other wireless shifts that have happened before? What you know, what you see, technology makes it just as efficient. And just as fast. And, and, you know, there’s really no compromise. And and we enable all the sort of future usage models, and some that haven’t already been possible with cables. Right. So we’ve already demonstrated with Honda wireless vehicle to grid, right, so we’ve demonstrated a few years ago, that the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, wireless, bi directional charging, so you can just park your car, and you can send power back to your home or to the grid wirelessly, just the same way you charge it wirelessly. And in fact, I think it’s really important for the future of Vita G vehicles grid, because, you know, sort of fundamentally one of my when people’s batteries pretty charged, they don’t bother plugging in and if the car isn’t plugged in, it’s not available for VDG but with wireless whenever the cars parked there, it’s available. Yeah, no, no user action required. So the kind of like the psychographics of like VTG and, like usage, human behaviour, don’t really line up as well as they would if it was wireless, right. So every v again Part is available to the grid to use as as needed. And I think that frees up a profit pool. That, you know, I have Nest thermostats in my home. And I got money from our local utility company that up to 14 days max a year, they could raise the temperature in my house by 30 degrees when when there’s a real demand. I got 20 bucks for every thermostat from so that, you know, it’s an example like that. How do we? How do we create free charging for end users by making a vehicle to grid possible? How do we get the infrastructure that our home or their apartment building paid for? By making the vehicle to grid possibility there’s value being created? How do we get that into the customers hands. So that gets me excited.
David Hunt 45:49
And you just sort of opened up another can of worms, we could talk for another couple of hours around the whole vehicle to grid and Sadr utilisation of of assets and the ability to create revenue models and all these things, which is phenomenally exciting. But we’re taking a lot of time. And it’s really, really great to hear your story and hear a bit more about the technology and your thoughts will certainly direct people through the episode page Alex to watch his various assets for them to do some to do some research and find out some more. It is traditional, I tend to close out the conversation and it’s with a little bit of some thoughts of what has inspired you along the way. Clearly, you’ve worked with some quite inspirational people. And I think I touched on read Michael Dell’s book recently, which was which was fantastic. But are there any particular book recommendations, either business or pleasure, that either keep you sane when things are crazy or that have inspired you on your journey?
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 46:39
Oh, I you know, probably one of my favourite books is about sort of, well, first of all, I enjoy reading history. I look for you know, many of the books from David McCullough on particular stories that you know, the building of the Panama Canal, for example, is a recent one that I write one of my favourite books is the coldest winter on the on the Korean War, right and just, okay, leadership and perseverance. I believe me working in a startup, as a technology provider, into the automotive industry is is absolutely a story of perseverance. So I look for inspiration on perseverance wherever I can find it.
David Hunt 47:38
Absolutely. Well, thanks for sharing that I’ll add those links to to the website for people to take a take a view on those. But listen, it’s been great to talk to you, Alex. Thanks very much for for sharing, obviously great to see the evolution of the product we look forward to seeing and personally to be able to charge wirelessly in the not too distant future for now. Thanks for having us,
Alex Gruzen – Witricity 47:56
Joe. Well, thank you for letting me share the electricity story and appreciate the time today.
David Hunt 48:07
Hello, and thanks very much for joining some reason clean tech podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed that episode and appreciate you joining us again, please do subscribe if you haven’t already. And please do share any episodes that have particular interest within your community. If you do get an opportunity to write a review on Apple podcasts or your platform of choice, very much appreciated. Hopefully see you on the next episode.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai