New SMART EV Chargers Set to Tackle the Energy Cost Crisis

New SMART EV Chargers Set to Tackle the Energy Cost Crisis

EV charging company LEKTRI.CO teamed up with injection moulding specialists at Hubs to create a new generation of destination chargers

Partnering with Hubs for custom part production, EV charging company LEKTRI.CO developed a range of revolutionary EV chargers to cut energy costs and make EV charging more accessible.

Producing destination EV chargers for home and office use, LEKTRI.CO, has a long-term goal to build a future where communities share renewable energy via an interconnected network of personal solar arrays and electric vehicles equipped with bi-directional charging capabilities (Vehicle-to-Grid).

The 1P7K charger is one of the latest innovations from the company, which currently has two earlier models available, both of which featured in an exhibit at the MAK Applied Arts Museum in Vienna in 2019.

To create the 1P7K, LEKTRI.CO worked with custom parts manufacturer Hubs to source injection moulded components to house advanced electronics. These components were built to weather any conditions.

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How are LEKTRI.CO and Hubs helping to cut energy costs?

With energy costs rising, electric vehicle (EV) public charging is becoming increasingly expensive. This makes home chargers more appealing, especially when combined with PV energy generation.

To tackle these rising energy costs, the 1P7K charger connects to your home or office Wi-Fi and can be integrated with any PV system, regardless of its brand or type. The charger also comes with a smartphone app, making LEKTRI.CO’s product a complete IoT solution.

The smartphone app allows you to charge your car battery not only with excess solar energy but also during the low-tariff hours, automatically adjusting the charging power. You can remotely stop and start charging, or even change the current manually whenever you need to, as well.

The load balancing addon enables LEKTRI.CO chargers to automatically monitor the power used by home appliances and adjust the charging current accordingly.

The product is set to be much cheaper and easier to install than traditional EV chargers, with a suggested sales price of 499 euros for the standard 1P7K model and residential installations costing between 300 and 1,000 euros, depending on the location.

LEKTRI.CO Sales Director Oliver Albu said: “We knew that no matter how affordable you make the charger, the cost you can’t control so easily is the cost of installation.

“We endeavoured to make life easy for electricians, so it became essential to design and manufacture the 1P7K product so an electrician could install it in 15 minutes.”

On the topic of PV integration, Albu added that, depending on several factors, “you can commute for free if you charge exclusively from your PV-generated energy over the weekend.”

With Hubs providing manufacturing support, LEKTRI.CO produced its first batch of 500 1P7K chargers and followed up with a manufacturing run of 3,000 units later this year.

How LEKTRI.CO and Hubs are providing better access to EV charging stations?

LEKTRI.CO was launched in 2018 and is part of a wider group of telematics enterprises, headquarted in Romania, which includes the fleet management company SafeFleet.

After SafeFleet replaced all the vehicles in its sales fleets with EVs, the company reduced fleet costs by nearly 60%.

Keeping these vehicles charged soon became a significant issue, as there were a limited number of charging stations in Eastern Europe - the majority of which were DC (fast-charging) stations dotted along highways.

“The issue for our fleet was how to charge our vehicles in the most efficient way,” said Albu. “Because we had experience, know-how and hardware and software capabilities, we decided to produce our own EV charging station. This is how we got started.”

Albu and his team observed that most charging sessions for their fleets took place over longer periods when EVs weren’t in use. They soon found that AC (destination charging) was far more efficient, and a better technology fit for their product concept.

To charge an EV, alternating current (AC) provided by the grid must be converted to direct current (DC).

Converting from AC to DC power for destination chargers takes place within the vehicle’s onboard charger, but fast chargers have a built-in converter to deliver DC current directly into the EV’s battery.

The issue with faster-charging options (50-300 kW) is that they put a lot of stress on the battery and heat the entire system if used too frequently. This means that DC charging is better suited for quick breaks on the highway, as opposed to home or office use.

“That is why destination AC charging (3.6-22 kW) is preferred in daily city usage scenarios and the better option for when EVs are parked for a longer period of time,” says Albu. “In many day-to-day usage scenarios, slow is fast enough.”

The manufacturing technology

At the same time, the EV chargers that were on the market already were aesthetically lacking, and the LEKTRI.CO team were looking to use new technology to create a sleek and modern design.

The design centres around four LEDs, which light up in various combinations and speeds to communicate the state of the charger.

The key components for the product are the casing that houses the electronics and the cover protecting the four LEDs. Both parts must be robust enough for prolonged outdoors use without obstructing the LED interface.

To build the charger’s case and cover, Hubs used injection moulding technology combined with durable and cost-efficient materials.

Alex Cappy, CEO of Hubs, said: “ By partnering with LEKTRI.CO, we are proud to be instrumental in bringing one of the most affordable and attractive EV chargers to the market,” said Hubs CEO, Alex Cappy.

“LEKTRI.CO’s solutions not only alleviate rising energy costs, but they have also made electric vehicles more accessible”

“Working with Hubs, the LEKTRI.CO team was able to launch a product that can be manufactured easily, while reducing the cost of production and lead times.”

How Online Manufacturing Pushes the Boundaries of EV Industry?

The EV industry is undergoing rapid transformation and growth. A vast majority of innovations in this space come from startups, and not traditional vehicle manufacturers.

While these companies excel at innovation, the inherently low-volume nature of electric vehicle prototyping makes it difficult to compete with established automotive companies which have access to sophisticated manufacturing infrastructure.

Fortunately, online manufacturing services, such as Hubs, level the playing field for EV innovators by giving them access to rapid prototyping as well as high-quality manufacturing at smaller production runs.

Meanwhile, the Hubs DFM (design for manufacturability) experts ensure that product development cycles are successful and cost-effective by eliminating potential manufacturing issues and waste at the design stage.

Plans to create small energy communities

LEKTRI.CO has a broader mission that goes above and beyond cost and energy-saving goals.

The EV charging innovator hopes to increase the usage of EVs and encourage people to share their chargers with others, which would further incentivise more sustainable automotive choices. This is now becoming even more vital in the face of rapidly rising energy prices.

“The first step is to solve this infrastructure problem by making a lot of charging points available,” says Albu, referencing LEKTRI.CO’s significant investment in producing robust hardware and offering it for a price that individuals can more reasonably afford.

“The destination charging technology is a major factor here, as it’s far more efficient and cost-effective. Installing fast chargers is very capital intensive, often requiring government funding, and doesn’t have the same return on investment potential as destination chargers.”

According to Albu, this enables the next step. “Once you have an EV and a charger, the next step will be to install PV panels in order to produce your own electricity,” he says. “The charger is designed to work perfectly with PV panels.”

The company’s connected network of chargers may be a stepping stone toward what Albu calls “small energy communities” where households with PV panels can share power with neighbours (for a fee), meaning that EV owners will be able to use bidirectional chargers in EVs to partially power their homes.

While this future of small energy communities powered by microtransactions, as opposed to monolithic energy providers, may be far off, this is the long-term vision for the LEKTRI.CO team, and the driving force behind their future innovations.

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