Originally posted in Forbes
Elon Musk may not realize it, but Heather Hochrein, founder and CEO of EVmatch, is helping Tesla, along with the other electric vehicle (EV) makers, accelerate their growth, by increasing consumers’ charging options and reducing their range anxiety.
EVmatch is doing this by leveraging the sharing economy – matching apartment dwellers, and others EV owners without a home charging option, with privately-owned charging stations.
Heather is deeply committed to creating an inclusive, clean energy economy. Before founding EVmatch, she earned a Bachelor of Science in molecular environmental biology from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, she spent five years in leadership roles at a residential energy nonprofit. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in environmental science and management.
John Greathouse: Hello Heather. I appreciate you taking the time to chat.
I believe you started EVmatch while you were earning your Master’s Degree at UC Santa Barbara. Getting a degree is hard enough. What motivated you to launch an EV charging network while still a student?
Heather Hochrein: Thanks John. EVmatch grew out of a deep passion for environmental protection and the desire to drive widespread adoption of cleaner electric vehicles. My care for the environment stems from an early connection to the land, fostered while growing up in a mountain town in Northern California. While an undergrad, I realized the threat of global climate change and became committed to creating meaningful and scalable climate solutions.
You’re correct. The concept for EVmatch started as a group Master’s thesis project at UCSB. My team and I identified electric vehicles as an important solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollutants, but also EV charging as a major barrier to adoption. After extensive customer discovery and market research, the idea for EVmatch was born.
Through an app-based sharing application, we found we could leverage the rapidly growing private charging resources to support those without home charging access. We launched the EVmatch service in the Spring of 2017 and have been steadily growing the network ever since.
Greathouse: What problems are there with our current charging infrastructure? How is EVmatch providing solutions to these issues?
Hochrein: Most people currently charge their EVs at home because that’s where it’s most convenient and affordable. Many EV drivers install a Level 2 (240V) charger at home to ensure their EV can be fully charged overnight.
However, this is not an option for many people who live in apartments or don’t have off-street parking. These drivers must rely entirely on either workplace or public charging, which are not reservable, and they’re often too expensive for routine charging.
We’ve applied the sharing economy to EV charging by uncovering private charging options, which are reservable so drivers can rest assured that they’ll never be left without a charge.
Greathouse: My wife drives an EV and I can attest to the reality of range anxiety.
I understand that your initial go-to-market strategy was consumer focused, whereas you are now putting energy, pun intended, behind a commercial offering. Can you give me a bit more color regarding this evolution?
Hochrein: Yes, that’s right! We learned from our drivers that reservable charging would also be useful at commercial sites, and especially lodging destinations. So, we expanded our hosting platform to include hotels, small businesses, and apartment complexes. To do so, we integrated several smart EV charging station brands with our software to enable enhanced access control for commercial clients. We’re excited to include these new commercial sites on our platform and increase the diversity of reservable charging spots for drivers.
Greathouse: What are the biggest myths out there about EV charging? Do you think consumers have a proper understanding of what it’s like to own an EV?
Hochrein: There are many misconceptions about EVs and EV charging. As with any new technology, there is a lot of education required to ensure that customers can make informed purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, many car dealerships are not currently well equipped to sell EVs and often provide misinformation.
One big myth is that all EVs can use fast charging networks, such as Tesla’s Supercharger network or EVgo’s DC fast charger network. This is simply not true. Plug-in hybrids (Chevy Volt and Prius Prime) can’t use these high-powered stations and some pure battery electric vehicles require an add-on at the time of purchase to access fast chargers. And, of course, only Tesla vehicles can access their exclusive Supercharger network.
Another myth is that we can simply replicate the gas station model in order to meet EV charging needs. What many people don’t consider is that charging a battery takes much longer than filling a tank with gas – typically hours versus minutes. Therefore, EVs should really be charging any time they’re not in use, much like the way we charge other electronics. Fast charging is fantastic for enabling long-distance travel in EVs, but is not optimal for everyday charging due to high costs and negative impacts on both the electrical grid and EV battery life. This is why EV charging near “long-dwell” locations, such as home or work, is so important.
Greathouse: Got it. That was an adjustment we had to make when we took our EV on our first long road trip. You have to be patient, even at Supercharger locations.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew during the first year of running EVmatch?
Hochrein: It’s okay to make mistakes. What’s most important is to recognize those mistakes and course correct along the way. Many of my most valuable professional skills were gained through experience – or should I say trial and error? If you’re doing everything perfectly, you’re probably not truly challenging yourself.
Greathouse: Agreed. The only people who don’t make mistakes are people who do nothing. Entrepreneurial mistakes get you one step closer to the truth.
When the world gets crazy, what keeps you motivated and your vision and passion alive?
Hochrein: Getting outside and enjoying nature keeps me motivated and helps me stay grounded. A quiet hike in the mountains or by the ocean always helps to remind me what I’m fighting so hard to protect. My inspiring friends and colleagues also keep me going when the world seems bleak.
Greathouse: I’m with you. Good thing we live in Santa Barbara, as it’s so easy to access epic vistas and open spaces.
Just one more question. I know there are some other folks also trying to tackle EV charging issues. How does your approach differ?
Hochrein: EVmatch provides an innovative approach to EV charging by leveraging privately-owned resources and is the first of its kind. Compared to incumbent public charging networks, our solution provides reservable charging access at a lower cost and can more quickly scale. EVmatch’s solution is capitally-light and positioned for major expansion with the growing EV market.
Greathouse: Thanks again Heather. You’re clearly on the forefront of a huge market opportunity. Best of luck to you and your team.
Hochrein: Thanks, John. Yes, a huge market opportunity indeed. I’m excited for what’s to come!