Welcome to the EVReady podcast featuring industry leaders and their perspectives on electrification
hosted by EVReady Energy.
Hey everybody, welcome to the EVReady podcast.
Thanks for joining today and I am honored to have on the podcast former ChargePoint
CEO and current ChargePoint advisor, Pat Romano.
Pat, thanks for joining.
Chris, thanks for having me.
Yeah, I really appreciate you joining.
I think when I was thinking about the type of people that I want to have on the podcast
was probably like nobody that I’ve had more good conversations with where we kind of go
back and forth a little bit and I love your personality and kind of your approach to a
lot of these difficult conversations and questions.
So thanks for taking the time.
I appreciate it.
Oh, my pleasure.
I enjoyed all my conversations with you and still do it, so I’m glad we’re getting to
do this.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure and I’m sure we’re going to jump into a few conversations that
we’ve had previously as well.
So first question I had for you, you were ChargePoint CEO a few months ago and everybody’s
curious what you’re doing today.
So tell us a little bit about your current situation, how are you spending your time?
Well, like I said in the introduction, ChargePoint, I’m trying to work on things with the team
there and so I have a set of initiatives that the team there has gotten me involved in.
So that’s a big part of it and obviously I was in ChargePoint 13 years, that part was
almost there, it was February, first week of February, my 13th anniversary, so I’m a
two-week shy after 13 years and so my affinity for that place will be unwavering forever
and it’s not only the place for the people, so whatever they need me to do, I’m going
to do and whatever they want me to stay out of, I’ll stay out of because I’m not going
because I respect and love my team there and so that’s one thing.
What I’m also trying to do and you know me quite well, I think your audience knows me
probably very well personally at all, but I am a hopeless engineer, I’m just an engineer
at heart, I don’t know how my family or friends put up with me, I’m glad I have
them and so I am getting very organized about how I think, about how I spend my time in
the future and I am coming to the conclusion that I’m not done with operating roles in
companies, so I’m going to pursue that carefully and I want to take it slow.
Much like when I sold my previous company and took the job at ChargePoint, I made a
decision then that’s even more, I think, important now.
I don’t want to work in an endeavor that is not impactful beyond the financial return
to investors in the company.
I just, it’s just life is too short to have as big an impact as possible.
Now, I don’t want to sound tone-deaf.
I have got the luxury because I’ve had a little bit of success so I’ve got a little
bit of flexibility with respect to how I pick that.
I know a lot of people don’t get the luxury of being able to just flippantly say, well,
I’m only going to do, I’m going to narrow the subset of companies I can work with that
are going to have large impacts because people have to pay bills.
I know the majority of my career, my kids live it all.
They have to think about all that stuff.
So after recognizing that I’m a very fortunate individual and have the luxury to basically
qualify opportunities by that, I’ll tell you the genre of things I’m looking at or
thinking about looking at.
And because I’m a hopeless engineer, I have two buckets.
I have the bucket of this could be my day job.
I could make it a day job.
And I don’t want this to necessarily be my day job, but I want to be involved in it somehow.
Advisory, friend of the company or member, I don’t know, whatever.
Some kind of role where I got a finger in it somehow and over here a list of things that
hey, these things can be my day job.
So no particular order and I’ll probably not get everything that’s on the list, but let’s
hit the elephant that’s in the room.
Let’s think of charging technology companies.
It’s good to hear you didn’t trade in your orange bike.
Huh?
It’s good to hear you didn’t trade in your Charge Point orange bike.
No, in fact, as a going away present, the team there, I really, really, really miss
every single one of them.
I still see them and talk to them, but I just miss the daily interaction.
So here’s how nice that team is.
They bought me a custom-designed race kit, the outfit that you wear when you’re in a
triathlon that is ChargePoint branded to match the bike that I had painted when I bought
it with a ChargePoint paint job because they know what I think of the company and the people
there.
And that just says a lot about the humans that are at charge point.
I’ve always said, obviously I was there before, the number one thing at ChargePoint, and
it is so real, is the people at ChargePoint.
That’s the thing that I miss, and I hear other people come and go, but that’s the one.
Yeah.
I don’t know if we did it right.
I’d love to be able to bottle, but I can’t tell you what the formula is, but part love,
part some kind of thing that we did.
We have some awesome human beings, like people that if I got into a situation personally
where I needed mental support or just a shoulder to lean on or whatever, I know I could count
on a lot of people, and they count each other equally well just in one direction.
So charging companies that I don’t want to make my day job, and I would never do anything
remotely competitive to ChargePoint, only because I got my baby there, right?
And I got more importantly, I got a set of people that I love and respect so much.
I’m doing everything I can to make that entity, that wonderful place as successful as possible.
Complementary things to ChargePoint in the charging space, I probably wouldn’t do.
It’s not on my day job priority list, but because I’ve been in charging for 13 years,
but I’d stay involved as an advisor board member, whatever those opportunities pop up,
I’m evaluating those things, but they have to be complementary in ChargePoint.
They can’t be competitive.
I’m very interested in nuclear as part of the solution for the energy transition.
I think renewables are only going to get us so far.
If you do the math on how much storage you need to make renewable solely,
the solution for decarbonization of our grid, you’re not going to get there fast enough.
And if you look at non-one-way fission, which is incredibly advanced now
relative to all the things that conjure all the bad things about nuclear,
it’s quite useful.
And more importantly, there’s a lot of really great advancements in fusion.
And I’ve been talking to some folks in that industry.
It’s really amazing.
And it’s been one of those things where people, I think, have said,
it’s been 15 years away for the last 50 years.
Well, eventually, you crack the last problem, and it happens.
And they’re getting closer and closer, especially a lot of the great work that’s being done now
on container packets.
And so I’d like to be involved somehow in that industry, because I think it’s huge.
And then I’ve got a small spot for anything electric with respect to aviation.
I’m an advisor there.
Let me take capital.
One of the largest investors, Michael Lentz, has a fund that’s specifically looking at that stuff.
And so that could be a day job.
It’s aviation or drones, right?
You do one.
I have a close friend who’s got a drone company.
In fact, he and I started 2Wire together.
And I’m working with him on his own company right now, which is fascinating.
He is the best engineer that I know.
And he’s a pleasure to work with.
So there’s stuff there.
I think there’s going to be a lot in the energy space that’s applied.
So if you look at some of the problems that AI is going to generate, your brain consumes,
as an aside, your brain consumes about, I think it’s about 20% of your problem-solving.
It’s an average.
It’s a lot.
Why is that?
Why it’s relevant is AI is going to consume a lot of power because think about what the human version
that that’s trying to emulate is disproportionately consuming in terms of the energy
necessary to keep you alive.
If we’re trying to emulate even a portion of that, relative to what we’re doing now in computing,
it’s going to just dwarf it.
And the power consumption and just how we rethink, how we literally power the data side of this,
there’s going to be a lot of tech and a lot of business models and a lot of creativity applied to that.
So that’s interesting to me.
And then space, and most things, and look, I’m not trying to go to Mars or anything like that.
I think Elon’s got the financial scale and the breadth to be able to take a shot at that.
And thank God that someone’s kind of, when I focus on kind of pushing the envelope,
because what’s happening is all the technology that’s kind of needed to put that together is
But there’s a lot of things in, you know, in communications, in space tech,
and there’s just so much that’s going on to support different applications that can be space-based.
I think that’s interesting. It’s unlikely to be a day job for me,
but it could easily be an advisory job or it could be a day job.
Well, just to stay in the AI piece for a second,
how is AI going to affect the automotive industry?
Because the way I kind of like, I don’t know, I’m not an engineer.
I don’t understand AI, but I think like, you know, Tesla’s approach,
they’re a car company right now, eventually they’re going to be an AI company.
And I’d love to hear from you about that.
Yeah, I mean, look, I think the biggest impact that AI is going to have,
it’s going to have a lot of impact.
The obvious impact that it’s going to have is an autonomous truck, right?
And by the way, on the aviation side, there’s an autonomous component.
It’s actually easier because obstacle-wise, when you’re in the air,
there’s just less obstacles and there’s less density of vehicles.
And I think that’s going to be the biggest impact that AI is going to have.
There’s less obstacles and there’s less density of vehicles.
So if you think about the autonomous flight problem,
aside from policy conservatism associated with anything that’s in the air,
which should be, I’m criticizing that, it’s a much easier problem.
So it’s likely to break first in vertical applications like flight
or constrained applications, construction, farming, things like that.
The autonomous entry is pretty heavily influenced.
It’s been there for a long time and it will continue to go.
And so I think the breakthrough in some people’s thinking associated with
autonomous drive is that autonomous drive isn’t about teaching an AI how to drive.
That’s a relatively simple thing.
The hard thing about driving is not the drive.
The hard thing about driving is the random set of circumstances that can impose
themselves, the itself, in front of a vehicle.
And the vehicle has to be able to interpret it.
I’ll give you an example.
When you pull up to a crosswalk, you’re approaching your crosswalk
and you’re driving.
There’s no stop sign with the crosswalk.
So you’re approaching your crosswalk and you see a person that’s
distracted looking at their phone step off the curb.
You have a mental model because of your entire life leading up to the point
when you have your driver’s license.
You have a mental model of a person because you are.
And you’re like, that person is looking at their phone and it’s likely
distracted.
So you have a mental model for the behavioral characteristics of someone
maybe has been dreaming too much, maybe is physically impaired, maybe is not
paying attention.
You have a mental model for all this stuff.
You see kids playing soccer in the front yard with no fence in the front
yard and they kick a ball that you know missed the last kid that’s going to
roll in front of your car.
You anticipate that because of the knowledge in your brain about life and
your circumstances, not about I know how to make an unprotected left turn
safely by reading stop signs and traffic lights.
That ain’t the hard part.
The hard part is all other stuff, animals, construction, random things going
on in proximity of vehicle that could impede it that it has to anticipate.
That’s what drives the AI problem.
So I think the shift in why, frankly, Tesla was able to get their humanoid
robot up the curb to where it is relatively fast, by the way, is when you
say, hey, wait a minute here, instead of creating an AI that knows how to drive,
why don’t you just create an AI and then teach it how to drive?
Right?
The driving part is not the hard part.
It’s like how long does it take a 16-year-old to learn how to pilot a vehicle?
Not very long.
Why?
Because they circumstantially understand everything else around it.
So that’s, I think, going to be the big change that’s going to advance the
automotive field is the larger AI ecosystem is going to learn how to get bigger
and bigger AIs than understand more and more human context.
And then teaching those AIs, extending those AIs to learn how to drive a vehicle,
that’s a small increment because they already know everything else.
And then the AI can basically expand its knowledge incrementally just to
understand the piloting dynamics of the vehicle.
So I think that’s going to be because there’s an existence.
I love the arguments about do I need LIDAR?
Do I need this?
Do I need that?
Do I need that?
Here’s the existence proof.
It’s very simple that you only need a single camera to drive a car.
Your eyeballs aren’t two cameras.
Your eyeballs are a binocular camera because you get depth from stereopsis.
You get depth perception because you have two eyes that have a slightly off view,
off-angle view of the same thing.
So you are interpreting.
It’s not like you’re like the lizard where you could flip one eye to the left
and one eye to the right.
You can’t make them two cameras.
You can’t do that.
So you have one camera.
Your camera’s mounted on the swivel of your neck.
You don’t have a 360-degree ability to rotate your neck.
I don’t know what your field is, but if it’s 180, you’ve got a pretty good
neck flexibility.
So you can see that hemisphere in front of you, right?
You’re limited by your eyes’ resolution and your ability to deal with darkness.
So you have all those limits, right, that are there, and then you have a limited
slew rate or swivel rate on your head.
You can only turn from the left to the right so fast because the musculature and
the construction of the human body is what it is.
And then what you have, so you can see behind you, is you have three mirrors.
It’s three mirrors, the equivalent of having dynamic cameras that are pointed kind
of to the side and behind to give you the other hemisphere that your neck can’t
turn to see that easily unless you literally position yourself in your seat.
So what it says is one AI, your brain, and one camera on a swivel that has about
180 degrees worth of field of view that can’t move instantly from one view to
the next but has a finite rate at which you can scan and the ability using mirrors
to see behind you.
So you could argue that maybe you replace the mirrors with some additional cameras,
but they’re kind of natural, they’re natural replacements for each other.
That’s all it takes to drive a vehicle about as well as a human.
Here’s the challenge.
Augmenting the camera with a lot of sensors is basically putting a safety net
around an AI that isn’t fulsome enough to be able to handle the circumstances.
That’s the only reason we have all these other things.
Now, we could use these other things to be better than a human.
That would be great.
So maybe we do.
Maybe we have some radar or some lidar and the reason is, hey, you know,
they fought to the ground, can’t see out your windshield, would normally pull
over and not go anywhere.
Well, maybe the car could still drive on those circumstances.
Awesome.
That’s wonderful.
Why don’t we just get back to how well a human could drive a car?
That’d be a great starting point and then we can go further.
So that’s binary how it’s going to affect the auto industry.
Here’s the secondary thing.
So I was out with my friend and his drone company yesterday, right?
They were working on that prototype, really breakthrough,
some really great cool stuff that he’s done.
So we were having a conversation about aerodynamics and I said,
you know, there’s a lot of degrees of freedom.
There’s a lot of factors when you design a drone or car.
Sounds like a machine learning problem.
You can just basically say, hey, look,
I can do a whole bunch of calculations and experiments that are putting
experiments based on a theory that I come up with.
If I change it X, then Y happens.
Why don’t you just let the machine learning algorithm trial this stuff in
a simulation environment kind of arbitrarily and see what the hell it comes
out with.
So now imagine active suspensions, aerodynamic design for the exterior of
the car.
So it still looks nice and doesn’t look like a pure drive, right?
Because, you know, let’s go get the wing.
And that’s not very exciting.
Cabin temperature management, positioning of the audio in the car and
improvements in the audio environment and the entertainment aspects to the
vehicle.
All that sort of stuff.
Driving assistance so you don’t have to take your eyes.
You don’t need to make the text, the speech really so bulletproof that it
actually works.
So you can ask it really open ended.
You can have an open ended, more open ended kind of natural conversation
with the AI that’s powering the vehicle and it can decide things.
So you can say, hey, look, you know, kids are screaming in the back.
You know what they usually like, you know, for food, you know, what are my
options?
Imagine being able to say that instead of having to say, OK, let’s see, I’m
in Florida, so there aren’t any in and out burgers in Florida, so I got to
look forward to it.
Instead of having to do that, you just basically say, the kids are screaming
in the back.
What would they like?
I got to stop the charge for my vehicle anyway.
What would they like?
And imagine it comes back saying, by the way, the other thing that’s in the
little pet peeve of mine, could you please find a place that’s in the
direction of my destination?
My map system knows where the hell I’m going.
Could you stop suggesting restaurants that are four miles behind me?
Because I don’t want to back up.
I mean, just the simple things.
That’s where the auto tech is going to get affected by an AI.
And that stuff doesn’t require a million regulatory things to happen.
So while we may get to the ability to drive autonomously before the powers
would be really enable it because they don’t trust it yet, we will get to
an environment in vehicles where we can have open-ended conversations.
And it’s going to not just be in the vehicle.
It’s going to be everywhere.
It’s going to radically change how often you actually need a screen.
It’s going to be really mind-boggling, but you’re, I think, going to actually
have personal assistants that are effective.
By the way, my parents are still awesomely mobile and stuff.
They’re 80, soon to be 81, 86.
So they didn’t grow up with tech.
I think the tech community has done such a crappy job making stuff for people
that didn’t grow up with tech.
I mean, come on.
They just make it way too hard, way too hard on folks.
I’m an engineer by trade, so I can usually, you know, they can hand me your phone
and I can be like, oh, you didn’t know about the whatever feature that if you go
into set things, I’m this and you turn this on.
And they’d be like, okay, not for nothing.
But, you know, we probably could have found that if we like invested four hours,
but we don’t want to invest four hours in that.
We’d rather go see our friends.
Well, imagine when AI enables that to not have to happen.
So the second piece of AI that isn’t being focused right now, everybody’s focused
on the autonomous thing, to your point about regulators, it’s going to take longer
than the technology, probably do a little bit sooner.
Who is doing the version of AI that you’re speaking about that’s more tied to the
experience?
It’s more tied to the user experience in the vehicle?
Yeah.
I think every car company out there to some degree is trying to figure out how
they apply AI exactly in that way.
Is how do we create a digital assistant extension?
And the battle is the same battle that they’ve been fighting, frankly,
for a long time.
Car companies will either become a docking station for a phone or they will become
platforms that they have value on.
It’s up to them.
Now, I went through exactly the same thing, ecosystem-wise, in my last couple of
years in the broadband space.
So now imagine you’re a broadband carrier.
You know, Tom Cast, the phone company, whoever’s giving you the model, right?
The conversation I would always have with the executives there is, you better be
swimming upstream on the content side pretty quickly.
It’s voice video and data you’ve already got.
You’ve got to lay up on the voice side.
If you have a wireless carrier component to your business, people are going to be
using cell phones.
But man, if all you are is pipe, that’s not a good thing.
Well, a few cable companies have a little toe in the content, but not many.
And the legacy kind of more telephony-oriented companies, they really weren’t successful
in establishing that.
So they get commoditized.
They get commoditized completely.
There’s complete interchangeability there.
It’s only price.
And so over time, because reliability and coverage catch up.
Right?
They all catch up.
And then we get, you know, the buyer, the consumer basically can only differentiate
on price.
It takes a while.
So this would be my question from that, then.
So I always tell people, like, if you look at Apple, right?
Like, Apple, if you ask someone in Gen Z right now, they’re like, well, you know,
So I always tell people, like, if you look at Apple, right?
Like, Apple, if you ask someone in Gen Z right now, what phone are you going to get?
They know what phone they’re going to get.
Nine.
I think it’s nine out of 10.
Gen Z have an iPhone today.
It was 87%.
I think now it’s 90% today.
In the United States, that’s true.
In the United States, yeah.
When a phone’s $1,200, that’s not true for most of the universe.
Yeah.
Look at what I’m carrying, right?
I got one of them, right?
I love, you know, it can innovate a little fast for me, but I mean, I, you know, I, you
know, I’d like the next one to do a lot more than this one.
I bought this one because it’s USB-C and it like, it made me need to throw out Apple
I mean, it’s reliable, it’s got, it’s got great features, works with the Apple ecosystem
really well.
I’m not knocking Apple, I’m just, I think there’s, you know, there’s some things you
could do here, but it’s expensive.
You bring up a good point though.
People in the U.S. buy, or Gen Z buys an iPhone because of iMessage.
In Europe, they do WhatsApp.
In Asia, I actually don’t know the name of it, but I know it’s, I think maybe it’s Facebook.
What’s another type?
WeChat in China.
WeChat in China.
Yeah.
Yeah.
So, so I guess my comment to that is like, tied to the automotive space, it’s always
been like, what’s the make and model?
What’s the fit and the finish?
It’s been like a different experience.
And from my perspective, it’s all going to be about like, what’s the, what’s the content
and the user experience inside the cars was going to drive vehicle sales in the future?
Do you agree?
Yeah, I agree.
And so here’s the thing, right?
Yeah.
And you’ve seen, you’ve seen some car companies making announcements to the Fed.
So part of it is your customer base, your drivers that want your car say, man, my phone’s
with, I don’t think they’re thinking about it just deliberately, but I think it’s what’s
subconsciously you have to get.
They’re like, well, my phone is with me 100% of the time.
I’m in my car exactly 4% of the time, or 4% of the time.
So I’m not going to have a 100% platform drive my decisions in the 4% platform.
So please give me CarPlayer and Android Auto.
So all of my things that I’ve already curated on my phone show up in my vehicle.
And I don’t have to, I don’t have to maintain two platform clients.
I mean, look, I mean, it’s legit.
When some car companies are saying, yeah, I know where I’m going there.
Electric drive, by the way, dirty little secret of the electric drive.
And I said this while I was CEO at the Turk point, I used to say it is it’s driven the
differentiation away from drivetrain.
Anyone can make a brick go zero to 60 in two seconds with an electric motor and a
battery.
So no more is this, oh my God, look at this acceleration.
It might be a little bit of handling driving dynamic short, but I mean, that’s
a new science too.
And using active suspensions and electric motors, you can actually do a lot of
really cool things in software.
No cost structure in that software.
So you’re going to have a roller skate that’s going to come out.
Right.
The base platform of the vehicle.
Then you’ve got a chassis, which is, oh, with the ergonomics of the human.
You’re going back to coach builders and the horse.
All right.
The horse is the roller skate and the coach builder is the thing you sit in that has,
you know, the accoutrements that you like.
You’re going back to that.
So, so you don’t need as many car companies as you have on the planet right now in the
future.
That’s just going to go whoosh.
It’s got to get smaller.
That universe has got to get smaller.
And then the coach component of that has to differentiate in that in-cabin experience.
And if that in-cabin experience is seeded intentionally, because that’s what the,
that’s the 90, that’s the hundred percent use case at my colleague, you know,
percent of the time.
If that horse is so strong that you can’t overcome it, the auto industry commoditizes
over 20 years.
It commoditizes.
And it has a fraction of the players.
And some of them may not be American anymore, right?
Because you’ve got the Chinese that you now have to contend with,
that you never have to contend with.
So unless we continue to erect artificial barriers,
you’re going to have to contend with the manufacturing machine that is China pumping
out some very cost-effective stuff.
It’s pretty nice.
It seems.
And you’ve got to get the in-cabin right.
It seems like China’s ahead of the game right now.
I’ve seen a lot of the vehicles that they’re making at lower price points that
look great.
And my immediate reaction is why aren’t they answering the American market?
But before you answer that question,
because I know you’re going to get to it in a second anyways,
related to you’re talking about consolidation in the automotive industry.
So the NAX connector, obviously the announcement happened in April.
Ford made the announcement, General Motors followed.
Everybody else is following after this.
From my perspective, to me it feels like something bigger is going on.
Because I’m thinking, all right,
why would Tesla give up their biggest competitive advantage in selling cars
in their fast charging network?
And why would all the car companies be willing to give up their data?
And the only thing I can think of is consolidation in some way.
Well, they’re acting out the data.
What data are they giving up?
My assumption was that they would be getting data tied to when someone’s
plugging into the Tesla network.
They’re getting data tied to the batteries that they’re using,
and I’m guessing making them on.
No, there’s no battery information that comes over that connector
that the auto owner doesn’t want to see.
Got it, got it.
Okay, so that’s not a factor you’re saying.
Not a factor, because the battery management system on the vehicle
tells the charger what to do and how it works.
Okay.
And the way it tells you that is using a standard protocol,
so it doesn’t say, here’s all the characteristics of my battery.
What the car says is, hold my beer visor charger.
Here’s what I want you to do.
Go to this packed voltage.
Okay, now you’re at that voltage.
Okay, let’s connect.
Boom, okay.
This is the amperage I want.
And then it ramps the amperage up.
Stop.
I don’t want it anymore actually in that place.
So why did Tesla make that decision?
Why did the auto manufacturers?
Was it just about the experience of the driver?
I have my theories,
and I think they’re based on pretty logical decomposition.
But I’ll start with some humor, as you know,
because I love to start with humor.
Because in all jest there is some truth, right?
So what I’ve told people, I just read articles and stuff,
and they say, oh, ChargePoint succumbed.
And it’s like, what?
We put whatever connector on our chargers that are on the goddamn cars.
It’s the tail wagging the dog.
And we’re tailing that one context.
We’re not dog.
We can’t drive the auto industry to a connector type.
So first of all, I’m like, okay, really, guys?
That’s a reporter that’s got, you know, I don’t know,
no research or no real understanding of charging.
I can say that.
I was on the board for ChargePoint.
I wouldn’t say that way to the reporters back then,
but that’s what I think.
Good timing for the broadcast.
And so what I’ve said to people when I used to work for ChargePoint
is I’ve said, this is a travesty.
In Europe, I’m a big fan of a lot of regulation,
but we said regulation for the good of mankind is kind of necessary.
And in Europe, they said, sorry, car companies,
you’re all going to decide on one thing.
And we should get on that a long time ago.
So now we know a lot of divergence.
There’s really only everyone says, oh, there’s so many connectors
and so many standards.
That’s another thing.
I’m like, please stop asking that question before.
It really isn’t.
In Europe, you got the AC connector, the type two connector,
and then you have CCS2, which includes as a subset that AC connector,
because that’s where the big communication happens.
You got two big PC pits.
The funny thing about the whole Max thing,
we should have reconciled this a long time ago.
I really don’t care what the connector is, and it’s only smaller
because it multiplexes AC and DC over the same pins.
That’s probably the right thing to do for connector size,
for long-term benefit of not being as unwieldy.
But the bottom line is you couldn’t do that
and get it safety certification in the early days of the industry.
It wasn’t something that was fully enabled.
Now it is.
Okay?
Mostly because of the existence of that connector type,
and people get comfortable with software being a safety mechanism.
So a long time ago, we should have made the decision as an industry,
but we didn’t.
So the humor is what I always tell reporters
because I can’t be this punchy when I’m dealing with a reporter,
is I wanted to make a goddamn T-shirt when the next announcement came out
that had a picture of a max connector and a picture of a CCS-1 connector
saying, no one really cares.
Just pick one because it’s too big a pain in the ass to have two.
Okay?
Please just pick one.
So we did.
We picked one.
Now the problem is we got all the other stuff out there
where we have to have a million different kinds of solutions
so you don’t have to put a hydra’s worth of cables on a turdress
and then you have to deal with creative things on adapters
and stuff like that to be able to make it all work in the transition period
until we settle on that.
Now, reasons for it.
Funding.
You can’t get any funding unless you can charge every car
and also a lot of other grant programs.
So you can’t get the funding to subsidize the expansion of charging
without having the ability to charge every car.
So that’s driving, number one.
That’s driving.
Okay?
You think it’s number two?
And this is a theory of mine.
I’m theorizing now.
Number two is if you want a long-term goal,
is that your cars will drive reliably autonomously
in a short period of time in a road or taxi business
is what you transform your company into.
Or a big piece of it.
And maybe in the interim stages,
it’s a way to effectively let your car give you when you’re not using it.
So you own the vehicle,
and you can sign it to a road or taxi platform when you’re not using it,
and then it’s your car you drive yourself,
you drive yourself autonomously,
whatever when you’re not using it.
So now you’re funding the capex for the start-up
of a global autonomous network.
Well, it’s really important to basically have control over charging,
because now they’re autonomous.
Right?
And now they’re being used a lot.
You don’t have to use a fast charger much if you’re a consumer,
because you don’t go outside the battery range that often,
and you’re, you know, you’re topping up around kind of 300 miles range,
or 300 real miles range,
and that’s all good.
It’s fine for a vehicle forever,
because you put the battery in a nicer,
you put the money in a nicer seats or a lower price,
going up 5, 6 million pounds on a battery that’s just crazy down,
unless you want to reserve some for towing or something like that.
So when we get to about 300 real miles,
and we’re only owning a car and using it 4% of the time,
and going to Lake Tahoe or wherever you’d like to go,
ski or go to the beach or see your grandma or whatever,
5, 6 times a year,
well, suddenly, you don’t access that fast charge network that often.
You’re accessing your fuel the morning you sleep,
the morning you work, and maybe a little bit around town.
Incidentally, by the way, it’s not a lot of money in that.
The total fuel that’s going into your vehicle,
you earn about $4,500 kilowatt hours a year at 3 miles per kilowatt hour,
and so the total cost is 12 cents a kilowatt hour,
which is the national average.
It’s cheaper overnight in a lot of places in the United States.
It’s a little over $500,
so the entire fuel for your vehicle is in the auto.
Okay, so now the fraction that you’re going to get for a long haul fuel
ain’t a big fraction.
Also, it’s a rollo taxi fleet,
and then it’s using it all the time.
So if you think your cars are going to become a rollo taxi fleet,
then you best have a leg in the charging network
and the greater charging experience.
Also, if you meant energy and are hoping that,
regulatory-wise, you’re going to have VPPs out there
that ultimately can be broadly deployed in the U.S. right now,
in regulatory pockets,
it’s not permissive in the United States
where you can have your house be part of a virtual power plant,
but let’s say eventually you can.
It’s nice to have a ready-made Apple.
Now you’ve got a ready-made Optane for the energy, right?
You can match supply and demand, you can do a whole lot of things.
So that’s why I think it’s good for everybody
to basically be on one connector,
because it enables the expansion of charging,
which I think happens to be aligned with the question
starting with Tesla specifically,
with Tesla’s long-term goal of basically having a rollo taxi fleet
and a play in energy that is very much oriented,
they have root scale stuff,
but very much oriented around home storage and solar.
And so now if you’re organizing VPPs
and you have ready-made Optane,
you’ve got a lot of economic irons in the fire,
so you can kind of figure it all out.
But for someone to actually make money purely on retailing energy
at fast chargers for the general passenger car market,
you’re starting with 10% to 15% of the fuel,
so 10% to 15% of 4500 kilowatt hours is all you’re going to dispense.
And in that scenario, and so there,
where you probably have questions anyway,
is why would anyone put money in?
And why?
No one makes money on retailing gas.
They don’t make it.
It’s like a grocery store. It’s worse, actually.
But what they do do is they make money on everything else,
and the cross-subsidies matter.
Well, it turns out that it takes a little bit longer to charge a vehicle,
and even if the battery could take it,
the utility grid-scale infrastructure necessary
is probably overwhelming for a very long time at any volume of sites.
And you don’t use it that often,
and you’re going to want to stretch your legs and do something.
So once it takes more than five minutes,
let it take 20, it doesn’t really matter,
and then go buy something.
So a lot of the 20- to 30-minute retail economy components
that are businesses that are out there that can sell you stuff
when you stop, it’s largely food services,
but you can give it anything that takes 20 to 30 minutes.
The mind-jarring examples that I use, I don’t know if these are viable,
but you can easily play golf,
but you could hit a bucket of golf balls pretty easily in 20 to 30 minutes.
So you can imagine a driving range having EV charging,
I don’t know how viable that will be, but you can imagine that.
You can imagine general, quick spot services,
available grocery stores that are on routes
to where people are driving to camp, ski, rental,
shop for the groceries for the week,
20 to 30 minutes while you’re loading up the battery
to give you enough mileage to get to your destination.
These are all applications of people.
People think that it’s going to be a convenience store
selling a bottle of water in Slim Jim’s, it’s not.
It’s way beyond that because you’re there longer.
And now I actually think there’s this weird clip.
People are trying to charge in the Rover state penalties,
your fast charger, like the second your fast charger session ends,
which is encouraging you to stay in the car, that’s nuts.
I shouldn’t encourage you to stay in the car at all.
I should encourage you to get out of the car,
and if you want to spend 40 minutes in the little mini-mart,
or the mini-mall, right?
Spending money? Awesome.
Because the amount of money I’m going to make on you
on the extra 20 minutes is going to be a hell of a lot more
than if you spent an extra 20 minutes sucking power out of the charger
at local 50 to effectively zero horsepower.
So this all settles in two places.
It settles potentially in businesses that have other reasons to put,
we’re only looking at the fast charger segment now,
which we are to the next thing,
only looking at putting fast chargers in,
because they want to sell you power,
but they have other things they can connect it to.
Robotex completes, BPP would happen.
So there’s that genre.
And then there’s the genre of, I’ve got something to sell you,
and you’re going to be here 20 to 30 minutes.
Man, you’re the customer I want.
And so I don’t really care about the profit off the power.
It’s nice. You can’t lose money.
I think it doesn’t make you money.
It doesn’t matter because I’m going to fleece you for very high gross
margin coffee, food, retail items, whatever,
in the store test because you’re captive for 20 minutes.
And that’s all I need.
And that’s where I think it lands on the faster side.
But most of the fuel, most of the fuel for you and I,
when it’s not autonomous, which is going to take a while,
when it’s not autonomous, it’s not going to come in then.
So I want to,
I want to go back to where you’re talking with VPPs and for most
people that are listening and don’t know what that means,
virtual power plants.
And I want to take it back to charging a little bit.
So V2G,
it has felt like an overhyped component of the industry for several
years now,
and it doesn’t feel like it’s happening anytime soon.
Like what’s the trajectory there?
So, you know, I think, yeah.
You know, I just say what I think and what I think is typically,
typically the result of me not being,
I usually look at the math behind stuff.
So here’s the math on V2G that it’s kind of a hybrid,
the qualitative and quantitative process.
So for most charging, your car is dormant 96% of the time.
So whether it’s plugged in while you’re sleeping or you plug it in at
work occasionally,
or you plug it in when you’re, you know,
shopping on the grocery store.
Slowing down or speeding up the rate of charging without sucking energy
out of the back.
So if I slow down the rate of charging,
it looks like I’m feeding it.
Okay.
So if I have a charging session,
it’s not started at peak rate,
but that started at say somewhere between 60 and 80% of peak rate.
Remember just plenty of time over night.
I usually don’t have an empty battery when I show up at the shopping mall
and I need to be full.
It’s not a bill while anymore.
Knowing that people lose that connectivity.
It’s just like your phone, right?
You plug it in when you can.
You’re in an Uber.
You ask the guy to pull out a little cable.
You plug your phone in.
Maybe at 10% battery, you get out of the Uber.
You got 30% battery.
Did you care?
Did you say drive around the block a little bit more so I can get another
15%?
You unplug the cable and then you go.
And then when you get in the Uber to come home,
you plug it in a little bit more.
That’s what happens with an electric vehicle.
It’s all our behaviors.
So.
VDG is best solved.
The benefits, the proposed benefits of VDG are on minutes,
easily achieved by just varying the charge rate for long duration parking,
for long duration parking,
for the fast charge when you’re going to the beach.
Don’t.
And by the way, everyone says, no, we need to throttle that to the grid.
No, don’t throw that.
You can put a bolt of lightning in the car, put a bolt of lightning in the car.
Right.
Do not try to throttle that.
That is misguided.
Misguided.
People don’t want to wait.
You want to throw cold water on the EV growth curve.
Have it be unreliable when they’re driving the other battery.
That’s a nightmare.
So anything that will take fast charge for long haul driving.
Long haul driving on long haul corridors.
No energy management.
It’s boom.
As much energy as your car will take.
Or if I have limitations on the site, as much the fraction of energy,
the peak fraction of energy I can give you out of this site.
That’s what it needs to be as fast as it can go practically.
Okay.
Now.
If when you’re not, when you’re in long duration settings,
I can just speed up and slow down the charging session
and have 90% of the grid benefit without having the complexity of grid
type disconnects and things like that for the charging infrastructure
because I can’t kill a repair tech.
So when I feed in from my solar array on my roof, when I feed in.
Right.
And by the way, that’s why I’m losing power as I’m going through my final
inspection, my solar battery on my, on my, on my roof.
I have a gateway.
It was putting it on the side of my house.
So basically disconnects me from the grid when the grid goes down.
So my solar battery isn’t feeding into the grid.
When the repair guy is out there on a pole, trying to fix something,
don’t put on all that complexity for charging for charging.
So just use charge session management.
And don’t turn it off.
It’s 20%.
That’s it.
Start at 80%, go up to 100, down to 60.
Then you’ll get tons of grid benefit from that.
So now where does VDG really work?
Vida Home.
And by the way, Vida Home.
Oh, my car is going to be my backup for my house.
Okay.
Let’s take all our personal situations.
Unless we’re, unless we have a fleet of vehicles.
I don’t have a fleet of vehicles.
I don’t want to look at the cars that I need.
I’ve got two cars.
Look at me.
Look at my wife.
My parents are far away because they stay here a lot.
All that sort of shit.
But I don’t have a car that’s guaranteed to be here.
So it can’t be my sole backup.
Now it can augment.
It can augment.
But let’s say everyone’s, the two cars are out and there’s someone home
and the power goes out.
Let me change the application on you.
Instead of speaking of it residentially, how about commercially,
where five years from now, across the United States,
I know it already exists in California to some extent,
40% of, I’m going to give you a specific example,
40% of cars at a high school are electric.
And employees of the school have an opportunity to,
if the technology exists, plug into the school.
What does that look like?
Fine.
You’re looking at rare-acquired circumstances
where I have to put in a lot of infrastructure to get benefit.
And if I sped up or slowed down the charging,
here’s a different way to construct it that’s much simpler.
If you’re load control integrated with a utility or a grid operator,
from a software perspective,
from a software perspective,
which charge point is in cases where that’s being played with
by the utilities,
and it’s on a mass scale with them,
and it’s anywhere it should be.
Let’s say you’re a load control integrated.
And what’s offered to the school is,
I’m going to reduce the cost of energy going through vehicles.
We’re going to have a separate remetered service,
and we’re going to put all of your EV chargers on a separate meter.
You’re going to get a separate bill for it.
That’s going to be a separate rig structure.
And if you let us manage it,
that rig structure is going to be ridiculously cheap
to the point where you can give the power to teachers.
So instead of the teachers that are parked there in the staff
getting a dynamic check
where they don’t know they’re going to get a check,
what the school system says is,
for all the teachers that have electric vehicles,
your fuel’s free,
or your fuel’s three cents a kilowatt-hour.
Way cheaper than you can get at home.
They can get in charge for you.
And so now what happens is this is guaranteed.
And it matches the rate structure that I get from the utility.
There’s no complexity there.
It’s far less complex.
You don’t really need the, I don’t want to feed power in.
You really need to be able to use cars as a grid resource.
There’s examples of where you can have time-aligned,
where vehicles are time-aligned to where there’s extra,
there’s a need for energy.
And that peak is moved to later in the day in most places.
So here’s another thing for teachers in California
when you’re using your example.
The grid doesn’t need their power during the day.
Yeah.
That’s unique to California, though, right?
That’s unique.
Yeah.
So here’s what could happen.
Here’s what could happen.
Imagine if I had enough battery,
not as much as in my car, enough battery,
so like if I weren’t home and the power went out,
like, you know, the stationary battery could deal with
the basics in the house.
Imagine if your car was like a little electronic tanker.
Now, this is going to take a lot of thinking,
and you may never get there doing regulatory complexity,
but now imagine that all day long at school,
I’m filling up at three cents a kilowatt hour
because I’m incented because there’s a rate structure.
I’m making a rate up, by the way.
There’s a rate structure that says if I can dynamically adjust
the charge rate, and sometimes I’m going to want you
to take it faster because I’ve got an oversupply
when it’s solar, right?
In exchange for that ability or utility to have that
20% up and down control or whatever percentage
that I want to put in rate structure,
you get a flat rate sheet only for your EVs,
separate from your, you get a really…
And you bring that to your house?
I’ll bring it home.
I’ll bring it home.
And how does that help?
They don’t have the base loader at night.
So now what you’ve done is you can anchor energy back to your house.
And so it’s kind of like with unmade companies in Silicon Valley
and their employees do when the food is free,
is they take home a lot of quote unquote leftovers
that aren’t really leftovers, like they stopped their fridge at home.
It’s the same thing applied to energy.
It’s wait a minute.
I can charge it way cheaper than I can charge my lights at home.
So they load it up every day and they come home with it.
Most cars now have 70 kilowatt-hour battery packs.
You’re not going to burn through that, right?
I think that story when you’re talking about like in many cases,
EV feels unrelatable to the general public in many cases
because they haven’t experienced the lifestyle.
I think that very basic story is the most relatable
future application that will get people who want to buy an EV.
Yeah, that’s a good one.
And what’s interesting is if I have solar and battery at home,
the installation of that included the necessary infrastructure
to disconnect it from the grid when the grid’s down.
So all the safety stuff is there so it doesn’t have that barrier.
So the advanced parking lot at a school,
it’s harder than you think to be able to separate it from the grid
and still have it feed in and all that sort of stuff.
I mean, I’m not going to get into technical details.
You know, you have to put in extra stuff
that’s not really giving you any benefit at home.
You need all that stuff anyway when you’ve got your solar and battery.
Right?
And so now when your car comes home,
having your charger be part of that home charging ecosystem
where you can use it as overnight power augmentation,
you still need to get it.
I still think you need some stationary battery
if you want to truly live a situation.
But that’s viable.
You can tanker energy.
You can time shift energy from day to night.
And I think time shifting energy from day to night is incredibly important.
Wind is not correlated with the sun,
but the solar component, which is the fastest growing component
of most generation is being added.
All the new generation.
Yeah, so that was my power going.
It is all good.
So here are my two final questions for you.
Number one,
what happens to the consolidation of the automotive industry?
Number two,
what happens to the consolidation of the EV charging industry?
Yeah, so I’ll take the first one easy
because we already talked about it a little bit.
The consolidation of the auto industry has to happen
because the differentiating on powertrain performance,
even though no one really needed it,
but it was the emotional buying decision,
that’s just not there anymore.
And I think what you’re seeing now is not only that,
but it’s the cars used to be much more of a fashion item like sweaters,
where one style didn’t fit all.
That’s really consolidating.
So you just don’t need that many players when you remove,
when you make so much of it software, differentiation-wise,
and so little of it platform over time.
It’s just got to shrink,
and then you bring in the Chinese component,
which they never had a hand in the auto industry globally until recently.
So that’s just naturally going to over time shrink,
and you’ll probably see it.
Big car companies that have a lot of brands consolidate brands first
because I don’t understand why they maintain so many different sub-brands
that overlap having the same car with different badging.
I can see if there was a legacy attachment in a region to a particular brand,
and you bought that company and you wanted to keep it transitional,
great, but transition it because it’s too big a pain in the butt to manage.
So big car companies with a lot of brands shrink to a core set of brands,
and then car companies merge because they can leverage their investments.
Another way it could go is it could separate,
and both of these things could happen to some degree,
where car companies get formed to basically be coach builders
for roller skates that they buy through supply chain,
where they focus on the novel vertical application of the vehicle.
So a vehicle really geared for someone that camps,
or a vehicle really geared for someone that windsurf,
or does a lot of water sports, or whatever.
I’m making these things up just to be evocative,
but you get what I’m saying.
It could go in that direction too, and it likely will be a combination.
It likely will be a combination.
The charging industry kind of really is, most people,
I don’t think think about it in buckets.
They lump us all together, but really very different.
You have tech vendors, and the tech vendors split into two kinds,
actually three kinds.
Then pure play hardware.
That’ll come off because they don’t have enough control over their destiny.
Pure play software.
Lots of value in the software,
but lack of ability to basically move the feature set
for the subset of features that basically need a hardware component.
And then lastly, you have the ones that are full stack integrated
that also have the ability to have third party hardware
that’s kind of like the charge points of the world.
I think the commoditized hardware vendors, who knows what happens there,
but that always consolidates.
That’s going to come down to a few players,
and it’ll continue to exist because the pure play software players
will consolidate because it’s a lot of scale to support that stuff
and to keep doing all the InfoSec and all the regulatory stuff
that you’re going to have to do on the software side
because you’re critical infrastructure.
There’s going to be partnerships between those companies
and the general purpose hardware, the commodity hardware players.
And then you’ll have the full stack integrated players
that’ll charge point, that’ll serve as customers, I think, better.
But I think another component that’ll pop up are integrators
that take the component companies in front of them.
So they create a virtual charge point where they create
a pure play software vendor and a pure play set of hardware vendors,
something that they can present to the market as one interface
to a whole bunch of independent technologies.
It’s very messy, but it’s possible that it goes in that direction.
And what I can tell you is that there is no market out there
that I have ever seen that doesn’t consolidate at scale,
and the scale of this market is breathtaking.
I’ll leave you with this.
280 million cars just on US roads, cars and light TV trucks.
We are about 1% penetrated.
Look how big in revenue the companies are that are in the space
with a 1% penetration of EVs.
That’s the TAM right now, 1% of the 280 million cars.
Holy bejesus when this thing gets the 10%, 20%,
and it consolidates a little bit because it’s got to, as it consolidates.
Oh, my God.
So this is what I think most investors are missing.
This is like the front end of a growth curve
or this transformation that’s just massive
and then add other regions, add other verticals like fleet,
all that sort of stuff.
It’s going to head in a direction that’s really pretty magical, I think.
And guys like you that are intrepid enough to try to build a business
to really help customers who, frankly, are uneducated
and is taking advantage of this, hats off to you.
It’s a really necessary thing, and I’m glad a very competent
and also very nice person like you is doing that.
Thank you very much.
I appreciate the kind words,
and thank you for spending so much time talking about all this.
Anytime.
The problem with me is if you want me to talk about something,
just ask because you had me at home.
I know you’re always good for that.
Well, thanks again for the time, and I’ll talk to you soon.
All right, take care. Bye.

Skip to content