ChargerHelp raises $2.75M to keep EV chargers working

The coming wave of electric vehicles will require more than thousands of charging stations. In addition to being installed, they also need to work — and today, that isn’t happening.

If a station doesn’t send out an error or a driver doesn’t report an issue, network providers might never know there’s even a problem. Kameale C. Terry, who co-founded ChargerHelp!, an on-demand repair app for electric vehicle charging stations, has seen these problems firsthand.

One customer assumed that poor usage rates at a particular station was down to a lack of EVs in the area, Terry recalled in a recent interview. That wasn’t the problem.

“There was an abandoned vehicle parked there and the station was surrounded by mud,” said Terry who is CEO and co-founded the company with Evette Ellis.

Demand for ChargerHelp’s service has attracted customers and investors. The company said it has raised $2.75 million from investors Trucks VC, Kapor Capital, JFF, Energy Impact Partners, and The Fund. This round values the startup, which was founded in January 2020, at $11 million post-money.

The funds will be used to build out its platform, hire beyond its 27-person workforce and expand its service area. ChargerHelp works directly with the charging manufacturers and network providers.

“Today when a station goes down there’s really no troubleshooting guidance,” said Terry, noting that it takes getting someone out into the field to run diagnostics on the station to understand the specific problem. After an onsite visit, a technician then typically shares data with the customer, and then steps are taken to order the correct and specific part — a practice that often doesn’t happen today.

While ChargerHelp is couched as an on-demand repair app, it is also acts as a preventative maintenance service for its customers.

Powering up

The idea for ChargerHelp came from Terry’s experience working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including head of customer experience and director of programs. During her time there, she worked with 12 different manufacturers, which gave her knowledge into inner workings and common problems with the chargers.

It was here that she spotted a gap in the EV charging market.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said.

And yet, the general practice was to use electrical contractors to fix issues at the charging stations. Terry said it could take as long as 30 days to get an electrical contractor on site to repair these non-electrical problems.

Terry often took matters in her own hands if issues arose with stations located in Los Angeles, where she is based.

“If there was a part that needed to be swapped out, I would just go do it myself,” Terry said, adding she didn’t have a background in software or repairs. “I thought, if I can figure this stuff out, then anyone can.”

In January 2020, Terry quit her job and started ChargerHelp. The newly minted founder joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a curriculum to teach people how to repair EV chargers. It was here that she met Ellis, a career coach at LACI who also worked at the Long Beach Job Corp Center. Ellis is now the chief workforce officer at ChargerHelp.

Since then, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator, raised about $400,000 in grant money, launched a pilot program with Tellus Power focused on preventative maintenance, landed contracts with EV charging networks and manufacturers such as EV Connect, ABB and Sparkcharge. Terry said they have also hired their core team of seven employees and trained their first tranche of technicians.

Hiring approach

ChargerHelp takes a workforce-development approach to finding employees. The company only hires in cohorts, or groups, of employees.

The company received more than 1,600 applications in its first recruitment round for electric vehicle service technicians, according to Terry. Of those, 20 were picked to go through training and 18 were ultimately hired to service contracts across six states, including California, Oregon, Washington, New York and Texas. Everyone who is picked to go through training are paid a stipend and earn two safety licenses.

The startup will begin its second recruitment round in April. All workers are full-time with a guaranteed wage of $30 an hour and are being given shares in the startup, Terry said. The company is working directly with workforce development centers in the areas where ChargerHelp needs technicians.

#abb, #automotive, #california, #career-coach, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-stations, #driver, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy-impact-partners, #evs, #green-vehicles, #inductive-charging, #kapor-capital, #los-angeles, #new-york, #oregon, #sparkcharge, #tc, #texas, #transportation, #washington

From the ashes of nearly a billion dollars, Ample resurrects Better Place’s battery swapping business model

A little over thirteen years ago, Shai Agassi, a promising software executive who was in line to succeed the chief executive at SAP, then one of the world’s mightiest software companies, left the company he’d devoted the bulk of his professional career to and started a business called Better Place.

That startup promised to revolutionize the nascent electric vehicle market and make range anxiety a thing of the past. The company’s pitch? A network of automated battery swapping stations that would replace spent batteries with freshly charged ones.

Agassi’s company would go on to raise nearly $1 billion (back when that was considered a large sum of money) from some of the world’s top venture capital and growth equity firms. By 2013 it would be bankrupt and one of the many casualties of the first wave of cleantech investing.

Now serial entrepreneurs John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah are reviving the battery swapping business model with a startup called Ample and an approach that they say solves some of the problems that Better Place could never address at a time when the adoption of electric vehicles is creating a far larger addressable market.

In 2013, there were 220,000 vehicles on roads, according to data from Statista, a number which has grown to 4.8 million by 2019.

Ample has actually raised approximately $70 million from investors including Shell Ventures, the Spanish energy company Repsol, and the venture capital arm of the $10 billion money manager, Moore Capital Management. That includes a $34 million investment first reported back in 2018, and a later round from investors including Japan’s energy and metals company, Eneos Holdings that closed recently.

“We had a lot of people that either said, I somehow was involved in that and was suffering from PTSD,” said de Souza, of the similarities between his business and Better Place. “The people who weren’t involved read up about it and then ran away.”

For Ample, the difference is in the modularization of the battery pack and how that changes the relationship with the automakers that would use the technology.

“The approach we’ve taken… is to modularize the battery and then we have an adapter plate that is the structural element of the battery that has the same shape of the battery, same bolt pattern and same software interface. Even though we provide the same battery system.. .it’s same as replacing the tire,” said Hassounah, Ample’s co-founder and chief executive. “Effectively we’re giving them the plate. We don’t modify the car whatsoever. You either put a fixed battery system or an Ample battery plate. We’re able to work with the OEMS where you can make the battery swappable for the use cases where this makes a lot of sense. Without really changing the same vehicle.”

Ample’s currently working with five different OEMs and has validated its approach to battery swapping with nine different car models. One of those OEMs also brings back memories of Better Place.

It’s clear that the company has a deal with Nissan for the Leaf thanks to the other partnership that Ample has announced with Uber. Ample’s founders declined to comment on any OEM relationships.

It’s clear that Ample is working with Nissan because Nissan is the company that inked a deal with Uber earlier this year on zero-emission mobility. And Uber is the first company to use Ample’s robotic charging stations at a few locations in the Bay Area, the company said. This work with Nissan echoes Better Place’s one partnership with Renault, another arm of the automaker, which proved to be the biggest deal for the older, doomed, battery swapping startup.

Ample says it only takes weeks to set up one of its charging pods at a facility and that the company’s charging drivers on energy delivered per mile. “We achieve economics that are 10% to 20% cheaper than gas. We are profitable on day one,” said Hassounah.

Uber is the first step. Ample is focused on fleets first and is in talks with multiple, undisclosed municipalities to get their cars added to the system. So far, Ample has done thousands of swaps, according to Hassounah with just Uber drivers alone.

The cars can also be charged at traditional charging facilities, Hassounah said, and the company’s billing system knows the split between the amount of energy it delivers versus another charging outlet, Hassounah said.

“So far, in the use cases that we have, for ride sharing it’s individual drivers who pay,” said de Souza. With the five fleets that Ample expects to deploy with later this year the company expects to have the fleet managers and owners pay for. charging.

Some of the inspiration for Ample came from Hassounah’s earlier experience working at One laptop per child, where he was forced to rethink assumptions about how the laptops would be used, the founder said.

“Initially i worked on the keyboard display and then quickly realized the challenge was in the field and developed a framework for creating infrastructure,” Hassounah said.

The problem was the initial design of the system did not take into account lack of access to power for laptops at children’s homes. So the initiative developed a charging unit for swapping batteries. Children would use their laptops over the course of the day and take them home, and when they needed a fresh charge, they would swap out the batteries.

“There are fleets that need this exact solution,” said de Souza. But there are advantages for individual car owners as well, he said. “The experience for the owner of a vehicle is after time the battery degrades. With ours as we put new batteries in the car can go further and further over time.” 

Right now, OEMs are sending cars without batteries and Ample is just installing their charging system, said Hassounah, but as the number of vehicles using the system rises above 1,000, the company expects to send their plates to manufacturers, who can then have Ample install their own packs.

Currently, Ample only supports level one and level two charging, but won’t offer fast charging options for the car makers it works with — likely because that option would cannibalize the company’s business and potentially obviate the need for its swapping technology.

At issue is the time it takes to charge a car. Fast chargers still take between 20 and 30 minutes to charge up, but advances in technologies should drive that figure down. Even if fast charging ultimately becomes a better option, Ample’s founders say they view their business as an additive step to faster electric vehicle adoption.

“When you’re moving 1 billion cars, you need everything… We have so many cars we need to put on the road,” Hassounah said. “We think we need all solutions to solve the problem. As you think of fleet applications you need a solution that can match gas in charge and not speed. Fast charging is not available in mass. The challenge will not be can the battery be charged in 5 minutes. The cost of building  charges that can deliver that amount of power is prohibitive.”

Looking beyond charging, Ample sees opportunities in the grid power market as well, the two founders said.

“Time shift is built into our economics… that’s another way we can help,” said de Souza. “We use that as grid storage… we can do demand charge and now that the federal mandate is there to feed into the grid we can help stabilize the grid by feeding back energy.. We don’t have a lot of stations to make a significant impact. As we scale up this year we will.”

Currently the company is operating at a storage capacity of tens of megawatts per hour, according to Hassounah.

“We can use the side storage to accelerate the development of swapping stations,” de Souza said. “You don’t have to invest an insane amount of money to put them in. We can finance the batteries in multiple ways as well as utilize other sources of financing.” 

Ample co-founders John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah. Image Credit: Ample

#ample, #better-place, #cars, #charging-station, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #inductive-charging, #japan, #lithium-ion-battery, #nissan, #nissan-leaf, #one-laptop-per-child, #range-anxiety, #renault, #repsol, #sap, #shai-agassi, #shell-ventures, #tc, #transport, #uber, #venture-capital

ChargeLab raises seed capital to be the software provider powering EV charging infrastructure

As money floods into the electric vehicle market a number of small companies are trying to stake their claim as the go-to provider of charging infrastructure. These companies are developing proprietary ecosystems that work for their own equipment but don’t interoperate.

ChargeLab, which has raised $4.3 million in seed financing led by Construct Capital and Root Ventures, is looking to be the software provider providing the chargers built by everyone else.

“You’ll find everyone in every niche and corner,” says ChargeLab chief executive Zachary Lefevre. Lefevre likens Tesla to Apple with its closed ecosystem and compares Chargepoint and Blink, two other electric vehicle charging companies to Blackberry — the once dominant smartphone maker. “What we’re trying to do is be android,” Lefevre said.

That means being the software provider for manufacturers like ABB, Schneider Electric and Siemens. “These guys are hardware makers up and down the value stack,” Lefevre said.

ChargeLab already has an agreement with ABB to be their default software provider as they go to market. The big industrial manufacturer is getting ready to launch their next charging product in North America.

As companies like REEF and Metropolis revamp garages and parking lots to service the next generation of vehicles, ChargeLab’s chief executive thinks that his software can power their EV charging services as they begin to roll that functionality out across the lots they own.

Lefevre got to know the electric vehicle charging market first as a reseller of everyone else’s equipment, he said. The company had raised a pre-seed round of $1.1 million from investors including Urban.us and Notation Capital and has now added to that bank account with another capital infusion from Construct Capital, the new fund led by Dayna Grayson and Rachel Holt, and Root Ventures, Lefevre said.

Eventually the company wants to integrate with the back end of companies like Chargepoint and Electrify America to make the charging process as efficient for everyone, according to ChargeLab’s chief executive.

As more service providers get into the market, Lefevre sees the opportunity set for his business expanding exponentially. “Super open platforms are not going to be building an EV charging system any more than they would be building their own hardware,” he said.

#abb, #android, #apple, #chargelab, #chargepoint, #charging-stations, #companies, #construct-capital, #dayna-grayson, #electric-vehicles, #electrical-engineering, #electrify-america, #inductive-charging, #north-america, #notation-capital, #rachel-holt, #reef, #root-ventures, #siemens, #smartphone, #software, #tc

Planning 500,000 charging points for EVs by 2025, Shell becomes the latest company swept up in EV charging boom

Shell’s plan to roll out 500,000 electric charging station in just four years is the latest sign of an EV charging infrastructure boom that has prompted investors to pour cash into the industry and inspired a few companies to become public companies in search of the capital needed to meet demand.

Since the beginning of the year, three companies have been acquired by special purpose acquisition vehicles and are on a path to go public, while a third has raised tens of millions from some of the biggest names in private equity investing for its own path to commercial viability.

The SPAC attack began in September when an electric vehicle charging network ChargePoint struck a deal to merge with special-purpose acquisition company Switchback Energy Acquisition Corporation, with a market valuation of $2.4 billion. The company’s public listing will debut February 16 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In January, EVgo, an owner and operator of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, agreed to merge with the SPAC Climate Change Crisis Real Impact I Acquisition for a valuation of $2.6 billion— a huge win for the company’s privately held owner, the power development and investment company LS Power. LS Power and EVgo management, which today own 100% of the company will be rolling all of its equity into the transaction. Once the transaction closes in the second quarter, LS Power and EVgo will hold a 74% stake in the newly combined company.

One more deal soon followed. Volta Industries agreed to merge this month with Tortoise Acquisition II, a tie-up that would give the charging company named after battery inventor Alessandro Volta a $1.4 billion valuation. The deal sent shares of the SPAC company, trading under the ticker SNPR, rocketing up 31.9% in trading earlier this week to $17.01. The stock is currently trading around $15 per-share.

 

Not to be outdone, private equity firms are also getting into the game. Riverstone Holdings, one of the biggest names in private equity energy investment, placed its own bet on the charging space with an investment in FreeWire. That company raised $50 million in new round of funding earlier this year.

“The writing is on the wall and the investors have to take the time. There’s been a flight out of the traditional investment opportunities in markets,” said FreeWire chief executive, Arcady Sosinov, in an interview. “There’s been a flight out fo the oil and gas companies and out fo the traditional utilities. You have to look at other opportunities… This is going to be the largest growth opportunity of the next ten years.”

FreeWire deploys its infrastructure with BP currently, but the company’s charging technology can be rolled out to fast food companies, post offices, grocery stores, or anywhere where people go and spend somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour. With the Biden Administration’s plan to boost EV adoption in federal fleets, post offices actually represent another big opportunity for charging networks, Sosinov said.

“One of the reasons we find electrification of mobility so attractive is because it’s not if or how, it’s when,” said Robert Tichio, a partner at Riverstone in charge of the firm’s ESG efforts. “Penetration rates are incredibly low… compare that to Norway or Northern Europe. They have already achieved double digit percentages.”

A recent Super Bowl commercial from GM featuring Will Farrell showed just how far ahead Norway is when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. 

“The demands onc capital in the electrification of transport will begin to approach three quarters of a trillion annually,” Tichio said. “The short answer to your question is that the needs for capital now that we have collectively, politically, socially economically come to a consensus in terms of where we’re going and we couldn’t say that 18 months ago is going to be at a tipping point.”

Shell already has electric vehicle charging infrastructure that it has deployed in some markets. Back in 2019 the company acquired the Los Angeles-based company Greenlots, an EV charging developer. And earlier this year Shell made another move into electric vehicle charging with the acquisition of Ubitricity in the UK.

“As our customers’ needs evolve, we will increasingly offer a range of alternative energy sources, supported by digital technologies, to give people choice and the flexibility, wherever they need to go and whatever they drive,” said Mark Gainsborough, Executive Vice President, New Energies for Shell, in a statement at the time of the Greenlots acquisition. “This latest investment in meeting the low-carbon energy needs of US drivers today is part of our wider efforts to make a better tomorrow. It is a step towards making EV charging more accessible and more attractive to utilities, businesses and communities.”

 

#biden-administration, #chargepoint, #charging-station, #corporate-finance, #economy, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #evgo, #food, #greenlots, #inductive-charging, #los-angeles, #norway, #nrg-energy, #oil-and-gas, #partner, #private-equity, #riverstone-holdings, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #super-bowl, #tc, #ubitricity, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Wireless charging tech developer Powermat pivots to industrial applications with Jetsons Robotics partnerhsip

When the two year-old Indian company Jetsons Robotics began searching for a partner to help design charging stations for their autonomous rooftop solar installation cleaning robots, the Israeli company Powermat was an obvious choice.

While the company had made its name as the designer for wireless charging technologies for consumer electronics, over the past two years the company was shifting its focus to more industrial applications. So it made sense to work with the Indian company on new form factors and applications for its charging technologies.

Indeed, the consumer market that Powermat had hoped to capture had been, by that point, broadly commoditized, so the tech developer needed a new direction.

Cleaning rooftop solar installations can be a costly endeavor, running companies anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 per year, according to Jetsons Robotics chief executive, Jatin Sharma. The use of robots to replace human labor can save money, but the autonomous solution that the company wanted to build necessitated some kind of wireless charging dock, he said.

Contact-based charging meant too many variables in the outdoor environment, but an inductive charger would be too costly. Until the company worked with Powermat on a solution, Sharma said.

Backed by 100x.vc, Sharma’s robots are already cleaning roughly 1.7 megawatts of solar installations on a daily basis.

For Powermat, the solar cleaning robots are a good test of the company’s new industrial focus, according to chief technology officer Itay Sherman.

“You can look at it like maturation of the market,” Sherman said. “Powermat had been a pioneer in driving wireless technology. This market is maturing and we are moving on to markets where the technology and innovation is important. We have decided to shift our efforts to these emerging markets. Robotics is one, medical devices, IOT, and the automotive market are others.”

 

#charging-station, #chief-technology-officer, #consumer-electronics, #designer, #electrical-engineering, #engineering, #inductive-charging, #powermat, #ran-poliakine, #robot, #tc, #wireless, #wireless-technology

Ad-supported EV charging network developer Volta raises $125 million

Volta, the developer of a network of electric vehicle charging stations that monetize using advertising, has raised $125 million in new funding in a process managed by Goldman Sachs.

Volta builds and operates a network of electric vehicle charging stations that are sited in parking lots around grocery stores, pharmacy chains, banks and hospitals.

The company has placed its charging stations, with their 55-inch digital displays in locations at 200 cities across 23 states, according to a statement.

The charge is free for vehicle owners and is supported by the retailers and consumer goods companies that want to reach the EV audience.

With the new financing, Volta has now raised over $200 million in funding and intends to use its cash to begin expanding internationally.

Companies who have placed Volta’s chargers on their sites include Albertsons Companies, Giant Food, Regency Centers, Wegmans and TopGolf. Brands advertising on the company’s screens include GM, Hulu, Nestlé, Polestar, Porsche and Unilever.

“Since our initial investment in Volta in 2018, excitement and interest in electrification — and specifically solving for public charging solutions — has continued to gain momentum,” said John Tough, Managing Partner at Energize Ventures, a major and existing investor in this round. “Our conviction in this team has similarly grown, and we believe Volta is poised to lead this market as the most capital-efficient and highly utilized EV charging network in the country.”

 

#charging-stations, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #electrical-engineering, #goldman-sachs, #green-vehicles, #inductive-charging, #managing-partner, #nestle, #network, #porsche, #tc, #unilever, #volta

Astrobotic teams with Bosch and WiBotic to give its Moon rovers wireless charging and smarts to find power stations

Lunar exploration startup Astrobotic is working on developing ultra-fast wireless charging technology for its CubeRover shoebox-sized lunar robotic explorers. The project, which is funded by NASA’s Tipping Point program with a $5.8 million award, will tap Seattle-based wireless charging startup WiBotic for expertise in high-speed, short-range wireless power, and brings in Bosch to assist with developing the AI-based data analysis that will help the robots find their way to docking stations for a wireless power-up.

Existing lunar rovers are typically powered by sunlight, but they’re actually very large (roughly car-sized or larger) and they have a lot of surface area to soak up rays via solar panels. Astrobotic’s rovers, which will initially be under five pounds in weight, won’t have much area to collect the sun’s power, and will instead have to rely on secondary power sources to keep enough energy for their exploratory operations.

That’s where WiBotic comes in. Working together with the University of Washington, the startup will be developing a “lightweight, ultra-fast proximity charging solution, compromised of a base station and power receiver” specifically for use in space-based applications. But finding these stations will be its own special challenge – particularly in a lunar context, where things like GPS don’t come into play. Instead, Bosch will leverage data collected from sensors on board the robot to generate a sensor-fusion result that can provide it with autonomous navigation capabilities. That work could be instrumental in helping future rovers navigate not only to power stations, but also to various destinations on the lunar surface as robotic science and exploration missions ramp up.

The goal is to have a demonstration rover charging system ready to show off sometime in 2023, and the partners will be working together with NASA’s Glenn Research Center to test the technology in the facility’s thermal vacuum chamber test lab.

#aerospace, #artificial-intelligence, #astrobotic, #astrobotic-technology, #commercial-lunar-payload-services, #energy, #google-lunar-x-prize, #gps, #inductive-charging, #moon, #outer-space, #seattle, #space, #spaceflight, #tc, #university-of-washington

Apple Magsafe Duo Charger Review: Useful, but expensive and underwhelming 

In addition to the new iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I was able to try out Apple’s new MagSafe Duo Charger. It’s a folding dual travel charger that will hold both an iPhone using MagSafe and an Apple Watch using its more traditional magnetic charger.

Does it work? Yep, works exactly as advertised. Your iPhone will rest comfortably on the MagSafe side of the charger, aligning using the internal magnets. The Apple Watch side pops up and out to allow easy access for closed loop bands. The whole unit folds over to make it easier to travel with and will even fold over backwards if you don’t need one side or the other. It works, for sure.

But that folding is where we start to get to the iffy stuff. For context, you have to understand that this thing is $129 but feels like it should be $70. When you realize that it is a charger that doesn’t come with a power adapter, I would not be shocked if you mentally downgraded it to $40. 

The hinge and casing are coated in soft touch rubber that is sort of press molded on. While the hinge works fine, it is wobbly and immediately creases. The rubber is thick enough that it doesn’t give the impression that it will rip immediately or anything — but it’s not exactly confidence inducing. This is an inexpensive hinge solution that you would expect to see from a price conscious third-party accessory, not from Apple. 

Because the whole thing is press molded, there is also this ridge that runs around the exterior of the unit. It has a basic seal on it but you can see the layers of lamination if you look closely. It looks ripe to nick, fray, bend and get dirty. Not great for something that’s meant to throw in a bag. 

White also a bad choice there, mine’s already getting dingy and I can’t even travel anywhere right now.  

The thing charges adequately fast and the devices lock on well. The Watch charging part of it feels the most premium with its smooth little chrome hinge. The MagSafe Pad and Watch charger are Apple’s typically nicely peened aluminum, and the whole thing has a decent amount of heft to it. For what it’s worth, I was unable to test one thing which is whether it will charge an Apple Watch and an iPhone in fast charge at the same time with the 20W power adapter. I’ll try to update this review with that info.

Of course, because the iPhone side is magnetic, you do get the MagSafe benefit of being able to pick the phone up if it’s attached, but that’s more awkward when it’s a big bundle of charger vs when it’s a slim MagSafe puck on the back of your phone. Fine for a quick alarm check in your hotel maybe.

But I’m sorry to say that I find the whole thing a bit underwhelming after the hype of AirPower and its eventual demise. Apple may very well have had this thing planned the whole time that it was trying to make AirPower happen, but the arc of that story landing on this device is sad trombone indeed.

The MagSafe Duo does work, and there are a couple of engineering bright spots. But you will not feel that it’s worth the money by the time you purchase the $129 charger and the $19 20W power brick to go with it, and there are many third party accessories on the market that do this job just fine.

#airpower, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-watch, #charger, #inductive-charging, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #magsafe, #mobile-phones, #rubber, #tc, #telecommunications

Marshall Major IV wireless headphones offer great sound, plus 80+ hours of battery life and wireless charging

Marshall’s new Major IV headphones ($149.99) combine lightweight comfort with wireless charging, and up to 80 hours of playback for an iconic headset that’s affordable and flexible. At home or on the go, these are a great option with unique features that you won’t find anywhere else in the headphone market.

Basics

This is the fourth iteration of Marshall’s Major on-ear wireless headphones, and they offer a number of improvements new to the lineup, including a new folding clip design that makes them even more compact when packed for travel – and that allows them to rest comfortably on a charging pad to enable another new feature, wireless charging using the Qi standard.

Marshall has also greatly improved battery life, advertising an insane 80 hours of usage time on these, way up from the 30+ promised in the last generation. They still feature square earcups with that iconic Marshall look, but the detail on each is flat instead of pebbled faux leather (that remains on the headband). The multi-directional control knob is also carried over from past Major designs, and there’s a 3.5mm socket for wired sound, and for sharing your audio connection out to another headset.

In the box, there’s a coiled 3.5mm for that vintage Marshall amp feel, as well as a USB-C cable for wired charging, which will provide a full 80+ hours of use from 3 hours – or 15 hours from just 15 minutes with a new quick charge feature.

Design and performance

The design of the Major IV is classic Marshall aesthetic – which is great news. They look fantastic, with the iconic logo in script on both earcups. As mentioned, the earcup face is now smooth and matte, which looks great, and there’s a silicone edge on each which helps keep the right earcup in place when placed on a wireless charger.

Image Credits: Marshall

These are compact, over-ear headsets that rest comfortably, and that comfort is helped by the lightweight materials used in their construction. Despite feeling very light, they feel like they’re made of quality materials thoughtfully constructed, and should last a long time in terms of durability.

Marshall’s multi-directional controller is both an attractive cosmetic detail in gold, and a smart control interface that offers intuitive manipulation of audio playback and volume.

Sound-wise, the Major IV provides great audio quality for a headset in this price range. The bass is rich, and the highs are clear. There’s no noise cancelling at work here, so you will get a decent amount of audio bleed-in from your surroundings, but they do a decent job of sound isolation for an over-hear set. And the sound quality is made all the better because of the class-leading battery life Marshall has managed to pack into the Major IV. 80+ hours is just astounding, and it means you’ll likely be able to go at least a week or two without even thinking about a charger while using these actively.

Bottom line

Marshall has really delivered an amazing value with the new Major IV. Combining style, performance and quality into a headset that also has amazing battery life and unique wireless charging capabilities is a true achievement – and perks like 3.5mm wired audio sharing just round out the package. These are a great everyday wear headset that you won’t want to go anywhere without.

#audio-engineering, #components, #electrical-engineering, #gadgets, #hardware, #headphones, #headset, #inductive-charging, #marshall, #reviews, #tc, #wireless, #wireless-charging, #wireless-headphones, #work-from-home-gear

Power electronics and wireless charging startup Eggtronic raises $10M Series A

Eggtronic, the Italy-founded startup developing power electronics, wireless charging and data over power technology and products, has closed around $10 million in Series A funding.

Backing the company is Rinkelberg Capital — the investment fund from the founders of TomTom — and funds managed by an unnamed investment bank in Milan. It brings the total raised by Eggtronic since 2012 to $17 million.

Eggtronic says the capital will be used to develop a new integrated circuits division at the Eggtronic research laboratories as it continues along its roadmap of more efficient power transformers. Eventually, the company hopes its “capacitive” wireless charging technology will be adopted universally as a new industry standard.

Founded by CEO Igor Spinella out of Italy’s Modena — famous for its balsamic vinegar, opera heritage and Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars — and now with offices and production facilities in the U.S., Italy, and China, Eggtronic is best-known for its sleek laptop charger and stone-shaped wireless chargers.

However, it also makes various power electronics for other brands, and it is B2B, including producing ICs that other manufacturers can use in their own devices, that is the company’s longer-term and “scalable” future.

Spinella tells me that Eggtronic’s consumer and white-labeled products serve as a direct way of signalling to the market what Eggtronic is capable of and brings in revenue that can be reinvested into R&D to get to a better wireless charging future.

“We were not in California, and working in a capital intensive field almost unknown by Italian investors, we created a pipeline able to validate us as a manufacturing and design company, invest in R&D — [including] being able to create some incredible demos of our most innovating technologies — and scale internationally,” explains Spinella.

Those demos included a capacitive wireless surface able to charge a smartphone in 2015, a TV in 2017, and two laptops connected and charging via data over power in 2020.

“These R&D demos were extremely important milestones to validate our own idea of wireless power and data,” says Spinella. [This includes] total position freedom: you can literally put every device on the desk randomly, charging and connecting them all”.

In addition, the company has been able to demonstrate high power use-cases, and data over power that it claims can hit the same speed of a USB 3 cable but wirelessly.

“This technology has already some industrial customers, the next steps are the creation of ICs and the first retails products based on these ICs, then we can work on the adoption by a leading company,” adds the Eggtronic founder.

In the interim, the company is applying some of the same capacitive technology to power conversion for existing applications, such as Eggtronic’s laptop chargers and power bricks.

“We filed several patents in this area, starting from our capacitive power converters able to remove the transformer, increasing efficiency and reducing size,” says Spinella. “Today we have several architectures that we invented, able to cover most of the typical applications, from some tens of Watts to kW, with our own resonant architectures (capacitive, inductive, and hybrid), with several proprietary control algorithms, our own ‘Power Factor Correction’ circuits, several proprietary ways to shrink the size of the components, to reduce the number of stages in series and so on”.

Meanwhile, Spinella is being advised by consumer electronics veteran Mark Gretton, who is the former CTO of TomTom and helped pioneer mobile computing at Psion. He was introduced to Eggtronic via Rinkelberg Capital, before deciding to invest and join as an advisor.

“I decided to get involved because firstly I liked and respected Igor, but also because unlike so many technology companies that come my way, the Eggtronic proposition was refreshingly simple,” Gretton tells me. “We are going to make something that is an integral part of everyone’s lives better through applying technology. There was no change of behaviour, complex business model, or solution to a problem nobody knew they had. Just designing better power electronics for everyone”.

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Volkswagen launches home EV charging system sales ahead of ID.3 vehicle deliveries

Volkswagen has started to sell a home-charging device as the automaker prepares to bring its new ID family of electric vehicles to market.

The ID.3 is the first electric vehicle under the ID label and will only be sold in Europe. Customers who made reservations for the launch edition, known as ID.3 1st, will be able to order their vehicle starting June 17. Volkswagen said this week that the deliveries for the ID.3 1st will begin in September.

And that means that, at least for now, the home-charging device known as Wallbox will only be available for sale in eight countries in Europe. Volkswagen is making three versions of the Wallbox that will range in price between €399 and €849 ($448 to $953). Those prices don’t include the cost of installation.

All of the versions will have a charging capacity of up to 11 kilowatts, permanently mounted Type 2 charging cable and integrated DC residual current protection. For now, just the base model is available, according to VW.

The two premium models, the ID. Charger Connect and ID. Charger Pro, will be available later this year. These models come with additional software that allows for the kind of interaction and analytics that Tesla owners are more familiar with. The ID. Charger Connect will allow customers to link their smartphone to control charging processes. The ID. Charger Pro has that connectivity feature plus an integrated electricity meter designed for commercial uses. The integrated meter can be used to bill electricity costs for company car drivers, according to VW.

Wallbox Volkswagen ID. Charger

Image Credits: Volkswagen

The ID.3 is the first model in the company’s new all-electric ID brand and the beginning of its ambitious plan to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025. The ID.3 will only be sold in Europe. Other models under the ID brand will be sold in North America.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #charging-stations, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #greentech, #inductive-charging, #north-america, #smartphone, #tesla, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-group, #vw-group