Elon Musk’s House of the Future Lacks One Element. This Startup Found It.
Myenergi wants to send a surge of innovation through the humble electric car charger.
On the 28th floor of London’s Millbank Tower, overlooking the River Thames, the Lincolnshire-based startup outlined a plan to harness the blistering winds outside. Its second-generation “Zappi” is a car charger that’s geared for the age of renewables, actively changing the amount of power flowing into a user’s car. If your home’s solar panels are collecting a lot of sunlight it can push up the charge speed, or if someone switches on the dishwasher it can pull consumption back down. This makes the whole operation more efficient, and helps avoid depleting a home’s battery while avoiding extra trips to the national grid for non-renewable power.
In many ways, it’s the missing puzzle piece of the green energy future. When Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined his house of the future in November 2016, he showed how a Tesla Solar Roof could harvest energy from the sun, store it in a Powerwall, and send it through to a Tesla Model 3 in the garage. That’s all well and good, but one of the first Solar Roof owners notes that fully charging both her cars can deplete the entire Powerwall, pushing the system to buy more energy from the grid. While owners can set a charging schedule, that doesn’t factor in days with less sun or higher power use. “Zappi” fills precisely this gap.
The second-generation version comes in a variety of styles, including both tethered and untethered options, a 22-kilowatt destination charger option, and a hub device to show live data and controls via a smartphone app. The new models comply with next year’s regulations, greatly simplify the installation process, and don’t require an earthing rod. It costs a little more than $1,000 not including electrification subsidies.
“For people who buy an electric car…they will say, ‘Well, this is such a good product, it’s easy to install, inexpensive, looks great, works really well, protects my home energy supply’,” Sir Terry Leahy, who along with businessman Bill Currie invested £1.2 million ($1.5 million) in MyEnergi this January, tells Inverse. “It does immediately appeal.”
Leahy had an unconventional path to renewables. He was CEO of the UK’s largest supermarket Tesco from 1997 to 2011, which under his leadership surged to the point where one in every seven pounds spent in shops went through Tesco’s hands. In 2007, Leahy pledged Tesco to cutting its CO2 emissions 50 percent by 2020, then two years later announced plans to install electric vehicle chargers.
Myenergi itself was founded in the summer of 2016 by technical director Lee Sutton and sales director Jordan Brompton. They launched three products, the “Eddi” that diverts wind and solar power and uses it to heat water, the “Zappi” electric car charger, and the “Harvi” that enables the other two to work without a current transformer. While positioned as products to more effectively use home-generated power, it turned out the “Zappi” may have even broader appeal.
“A lot of customers were coming back and saying, ‘Actually, we don’t even need the microgeneration, this is better than any other charger!’,” Leahy says.
It comes at a perfect time, with Tesla gearing up to launch its wildly-successful Model 3 in the U.K. by the summer of next year. If current sales trends continue electric vehicles could overtake diesel as early as 2020. The National Grid now predicts the market will reach full saturation in 2040, the same year the British government plans to mandate all cars be effectively zero emission. Consumers rank green energy highly when considering their electric car purchase, as Queensland University of Technology research found when interviewing prospective buyers.
As more consumers switch to electric vehicles, Myenergi is working to get them to consider their choice of charger as a key part of their drive to go green. It’s partnering with renewable energy supplier Octopus Energy to offer the charger through the company.
“The energy sector is going through a big transition with lots of EVs coming onto the grid, new markets opening up to be able to almost trade electricity,” Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles, tells Inverse. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to be a tech company right now. If you don’t have the right tech then you just can’t keep up with the market.”
The new Zappi will go on pre-order in December, with the first 1,000 units entering production in January and February ahead of a wider rollout in March and April.
Related video: Watch How Simple It Is To Charge a Tesla at a Supercharger