DazeTechnology is an Italian hi-tech startup developing the first both autonomous and conductive charger for Electric Vehicles (EV): DazePlug, which is expected to launch in 2023-2024, addressing issues related to the user experience of manual charging. In 2021 the company will receive a grant of 2.5 million euro from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund to leverage DazePlug from the prototype stage to the industrial one, in cooperation with a prominent Italian luxury carmaker and a German Tier-1 automotive supplier.
Giacomo Zenoni is one of the two co-founders and co-CEOs of DazeTechnology. Before becoming a tech entrepreneur, he focused on computational fluid dynamics at the German National Aerospace Centre (DLR), where he worked within the numerical analysis department.
Inkwood: The electric vehicle charging industry will show exponential growth in the coming years, especially in Europe. What are the strategies that your company is adopting to sustain the competition?
Giacomo Zenoni: DazeTechnology’s strategy is to follow two parallel and coexisting paths.
One is the continuous development of DazePlug – our autonomous conductive charging system – through collaboration with industrial players from the automotive and energy industry. The goal is to be the first mover in the comfort segment of the EV charging market, setting a “de facto” standard. At the same time, we are part of a global association collaborating with ISO called CharIN (“Charging Interface Initiative”), constituted by over 200 members from the automotive and energy industry. CharIN promotes the definition of global standards for electric vehicle charging, and one of them concerns automatic connection devices from the vehicle’s underbody. Therefore we are co-defining the international standard which DazePlug will have to comply with. The second path is to grow in production and sales volumes of “traditional” EV charging products in the private and public space, establishing a diversified product portfolio and exploiting the expected exponential growth of the EV market.
Inkwood: What do you observe in the current consumer behavior with regards to buying a home EV charger or a shared charger? What factors affect the choice?
Giacomo Zenoni: To this day, whoever buys a battery electric vehicle (100% electric) needs a home EV charger because public or semi-public ones are not widespread enough to meet private consumers’ EV charging demand. Moreover, we believe that even when the geographical coverage of public chargers significantly increases, EV owners will continue to prefer a private charger at home for two main reasons. The first is that it will continue to be the most comfortable alternative since it will avoid having to park in a specific place outside the house (e.g., supermarket parking lot) in order to charge the vehicle. The second reason has to do with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communication systems which will be soon incorporated into private EV chargers. These V2G systems will allow the electric vehicle to return electricity to the residential power grid when needed by house appliances such as ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers.
Inkwood: Currently, the electric vehicle & electric vehicle charging industry is highly dependent on governmental incentives for making it cost-effective. After what point can we say the change in trend and the industry sustains solely on market competitiveness?
Giacomo Zenoni: According to the Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 by BloombergNEF, under a scenario without new policies or regulations affecting the market, “unsubsidized price parity between EVs and internal combustion vehicles is achieved in most segments and countries by the late 2020s, and some reach this point much sooner”. The “2035 Report 2.0” published by the University of California, Berkeley in April 2021 goes even further, claiming that “electric cars will be cheaper than gasoline equivalents within the next five years.”
Inkwood: Electric vehicle charging is time-consuming compared to gasoline or diesel refueling, creating inconvenience to the consumers. What are the viable solutions for this? Are there any pipeline projects your company is undertaking in this regard?
Giacomo Zenoni: Concerning EV charging in public or semi-public (i.e., parking areas attached to businesses) spaces, the big game-changer in terms of time-reduction will be DC (direct current) charging. While AC (alternating current) charging needs the conversion from AC to DC to take place inside the vehicle, DC charging converts the voltage outside of the car faster, allowing EV charging to become significantly quicker.
DazeTechnology’s core business is private EV charging, but we are already selling semi-public charging products. In our business plan up to 2025, we are considering entering the public EV charging market as well, regarding both AC and DC charging stations. This step will also depend on which kind of investor(s) and/or commercial partners we collaborate with since large electrical industry players already have a strong presence within this segment, and collaborating with one or more of them could be the key to entering the market.
Inkwood: More and more electric vehicle & electric vehicle charging companies in the United States are adopting the SPAC route for funding. Will this be a norm in future funding? Are other countries expected to follow suit?
Giacomo Zenoni: Merging with a SPAC certainly has several advantages for an EV company compared to an IPO, including financial reporting simplification and the possibility of using future-revenue projections to draw investors’ attention when still not producing revenues (like in the case of Nikola Motor or Lucid Motors). An additional driver behind the SPAC trend might be competitive pressure coming from other comparable private companies successfully raising capital in this way. This might lead to a geographical expansion of SPAC deals outside of the United States. However, this type of deal also bears the risk of allowing public listings of companies that haven’t been scrutinized as much as in a classic IPO process.
Inkwood: Copper prices have reached an all-time high, majorly driven by the electric vehicle industry. How will this affect the input costs of your company? Are there any hedging strategies in place that can mitigate any such issues?
Giacomo Zenoni: The electric vehicle charging industry is characterized by high gross margins, so for the foreseeable future, we will be able to absorb price increases of industry-key commodities in our market prices. In addition, we think that in the long-run technological innovation in the EV battery industry will lead to a diversification of materials used in battery production, leading to an increase in the supply of components and a consequent fall in input prices.
Inkwood: What is your opinion on the current buzz around the upcoming solutions, such as wireless EV charging and vehicle to grid technologies?
Giacomo Zenoni: Regarding wireless charging, we believe that by now, there is meaningful evidence that its energy efficiency is too low compared with conductive charging. That is why we chose to implement the conductive charging alternative in our comfort solution DazePlug.
As mentioned before, we are convinced that vehicle-to-grid technology will be one of the future trends of EV charging and will probably constitute a major bridge merging two historically divided industries: transportation fuel and electricity.