In the not-too-distant future, many of us will stop to fill up our car with gas for the last time; many petrol pumps at your local garage will be replaced by electronic charging stations. With all the petrol and diesel cars still on the road, it might be hard to imagine that future –but it’s approaching rapidly. With the growing need to decarbonize our way of life, many European countries are banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. But are we prepared for this electronic future? In the early days, going electric wasn’t easy because there were hardly any charging stations available. But thanks to companies like EVBox, those fears are fading.
EVBox was founded around 2010 after one of its founders had driven a Tesla Roadster. He became very inspired by that and then decided to start his own company to manufacture charging stations. He saw the big opportunity ahead. In the last 13 years they’ve grown quite steadily, but now it’s really accelerating as the adoption of electric vehicles expands. They were one of the very first to market, especially in the Netherlands – you see their charging stations all over. “We’re on a mission to reduce carbon emissions from transportation all over the world,” says program manager Steven Whittaker. And indeed, you can see and feel that in everything they do. In their HQ, everything is green. And that’s not just because they like it, but it’s really what they stand for as a company.
The Netherlands is one of the forerunners in the EV industry as a whole, and also the charging industry. The country has the highest number of chargers in Europe not only per capita but also in absolute numbers, which is huge for such a small country. That means that the whole charging industry is centered in the Netherlands. As well as EVBox, a lot of big companies like Fastnet are headquartered in Amsterdam, so it’s really a hub of EV charging in Europe.
Ease of use is highly valued. We get feedback from customers who say that now, for the first time, they don’t have to think about charging their cars anymore. “It may sound strange for a company that builds chargers, but that’s really the goal that we’re trying to achieve,” said product manager Chris van de Stadt. “One of the main success stories that we at EVBox have is that we are delivering huge quantities of chargers across Europe. We’re really a European company. Yes, we are headquartered here in the Netherlands, but we really think as Europe, and the US too, to a certain extent, but Europe is our main playground and we’ve delivered over 400,000 chargers across the world, which is huge if you think about it. I’m very proud of that. And it’s only accelerating, because if you look at the market where it’s heading, I see a very bright future in front of us.”
“Range anxiety is a big one,” says program manager Steven Whittaker. “However, now, charging stations are becoming much more common. You can find them on Google Maps, especially driving in the Netherlands, where it’s almost as easy as finding a gas station. Also, if you own your own EV, you can have your own EV charger or charging network, which is quite nice because you never have to go to the gas station. You can charge on your own time and own terms.” At their testing facility, they also test the chargers in a variety of different conditions in their climate chamber, through the whole range of temperatures down to -25 Celsius and up to 60 degrees to ensure they work in a wide variety of conditions, and with different power options.
Innovation in the usability of the product is key. Previously, the charging industry was technology-driven, but now people want a charging solution that is super easy to use, and that they don’t need to think about. As one of their customers said, “I want charging my electric car to be as easy as charging my laptop.” With this new generation of products, they’ve done a lot of user testing, UX design, and spent a lot of time thinking about how the app should work together with the station to provide an intuitive way of using the product. That’s the first part of innovation. Secondly, your charging station, or your EV in general, becomes part of your energy system at home. People are getting electric appliances into their homes like heat pumps, solar panels, and batteries to store energy at home, so your charging station is becoming an essential part of that. Recent developments in energy prices and energy availability have made this even more important.
LIVO, their residential charger, has two versions, one with a cable attached if you want to keep the cable at the station all the time, but also one with a socket where you can plug in your own cable. It has an intuitive LED strip, where the color of the LEDs combined with the icons shows the state of the charger. It’s very intuitive and easy for people to understand what is happening inside the station. It’s a nice sleek design and is made from Makrolon RE, which is a plastic made from biomaterial which reduces the overall foot carbon footprint of the product by up to 70%. EVBox are the first charging company, or EV charging manufacturer, that uses this material.
The EVBox Liviqo is based on the same platform as the EVBox LIVO, but for the commercial and workplace charging market. This station has a screen which shows you exactly what you should do the moment you walk to it because people who drive across Europe with their electric car encounter hundreds of different charging stations, and each of them works differently. You can just walk to your car, take the cable off the cable storage, and then you plug the cable into your car, and you can swipe your card so that you can pay for the charging session. So you swipe your card, and then the station will start charging.
The company also produces a fast charger, the Troniq Modular. Standing at around two and a half metres high, it has a large screen and multiple outlets and cables on both sides of the station. The main difference is that the Troniq Modular is a DC station, which means that it works with direct current instead of alternating current, so the charger must first convert it from AC to DC, which is why it’s such a big unit. It’s also much more powerful – it’s one of the first in the world that can offer charging up to 400 kilowatts, which takes a car from zero to 80% in about 15 minutes. “While if you look at the AC chargers that we developed, those are really built for overnight users, explained product manager Chris van de Stadt. “They would give you a full charge in about 8-10 hours depending a little bit on different circumstances. It’s a completely different thing.”
In 10 years, there’ll be chargers everywhere. Almost all parking lots will have chargers in 10 years. Gas vehicles will be prohibited from entering the city limits, so you’ll need lots of charging. The growth of EVBox has been a classic hockey stick curve. “If you look back, it already looks like we’ve grown a lot,” said Chris. “But if you look to the future, I think right now, still, only a small percentage of newly sold cars is electric. But across Europe, governments and other institutions have set goals to become 100% electric by 2030, 2035. So that’s around the corner, right? That’s in 10 years from now. If you take that into account, and if you think about all the charging that needs to happen to get electricity into those cars, I think the future is extremely bright for us as a company – and with the products that we have, we’re extremely well-positioned to make charging your car as easy as charging your laptop.”
EVBox’s products are revolutionary and changing the way that we power our vehicles. Their products are a complex mix of parts, sub-assemblies, and different systems that all need to work together efficiently. To deliver new products to customers quickly, their design teams must be synced up. The key to that is collaboration and visibility between the internal product teams and the external suppliers that work together to bring the product to market quickly. Competing in the global economy is challenging, today more than ever. You need to share the latest product and quality information with your internal teams and your supply chain partners. You want to deliver innovative products to customers faster than you ever did it before. For all of their product lifecycle management and quality management needs, EVBox chose PTC’s cloud-native solution, Arena, the world leader in cloud-native product lifecycle management and QMS quality management solutions.
Because Arena is truly cloud native, it’s a PLM solution that makes it easy for product teams to collaborate anytime and anywhere. With our Arena SaaS platform, we bring product information, people and processes into a single cloud-native system to speed new product development and new product introduction to keep everyone on the same page. Comprehensive cloud-native solutions help you design, produce and deliver innovative products across dispersed teams, anytime, anywhere. You get work done faster, speeding approvals, whether it’s a new product or an existing product, and collaboration with supply chains. Today those supply chains change faster than ever, so the cloud-native aspect of Arena makes it perfect for today’s agile teams.
EVBox, like a lot of companies in the new generation energy world, green tech world – electrification, solar, energy storage transmission – in that industry, is extremely fast-moving and extremely innovative. Arena helps companies like EVBox move away from older, manual, siloed, disconnected systems and bring together product information, people, and processes in a single cloud-native PLM system. The result is faster product development and faster commercialization. Within the growing EV market, it’s not just the vehicles – it’s the whole ecosystem needed for charging and so forth that creates a market, a great opportunity for EVBox. Within that business, companies must move fast to get their product to market first, they must use agile processes to adapt to changes in the market and unforeseen developments, and Arena enables EVBox to be successful, and to do all this efficiently and quickly.
Thanks to Jon and to Chris and Steven for showing us around EvBox’s headquarters.
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This is an 18Sixty production for PTC. Executive producer is Jacqui Cook. Sound design and editing by Ollie Guillou. Recording by Greg Burke. And music by Rowan Bishop.