This startup is building a network of low-cost and smart EV charging stations through kirana stores, cafes, tea shops and more
With growing environmental concerns, electric vehicles (EV) are now in focus more than ever before. Industry estimates peg the current number of EVs at approximately one million, out of which around 99.5% of EVs are two-wheelers and three-wheelers. Though clean mobility is slowly gaining momentum, there are a number of hurdles in the way of faster adoption. Range anxiety is one of them. “EVs cannot become a mainstream transportation option until we have an extensive public charging infrastructure,” says Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, co-founder and CTO at Bengaluru-based Charzer, an enterprising venture in this niche sector.
“Charzer was started with an aim to address this problem. We want to convert the neighbourhood kiranas, cafes, restaurants, malls and even tea shops into EV charging stations, thereby creating a vast EV charging station network for the consumer,” he says. According to global standards, there should be a public charging station for every 10 electric vehicles. As per conservative growth estimates (CAGR of 43.13%), by end of 2022, there will be at least 5.3 million EVs which will need 5,30,000 public charging stations in which more than 95% will be Type 2 AC charging stations (Kirana Charzers).
“We have been in the EV domain with our previous startup FAE Bikes since 2016 even when EV wasn’t a buzzword,” says Jaiswal. Talking about the present scenario, he says that the only way to solve the charging infrastructure problem is through a massive and distributed network and this cannot be achieved without public participation. “This was the genesis for Charzer,” says Jaiswal, the other two co-founders being Yugraj Shukla and Dheeraj Reddy.
The company has developed its product—Kirana Charzer—keeping India’s conditions and infrastructure in mind. “Kirana Charzer is a compact, zero-maintenance and IoT enabled charging station that can be installed by small shops and individuals enabling them to earn an additional source of income. It is a compact solution so that it can be installed anywhere with a basic electricity connection, plus the hosts need not make any infrastructural changes to set it up,” explains Jaiswal.
Charzer has removed a lot of fluff which is present in the usual charging stations without compromising on functionalities or safety to bring down the cost to `15,000,” says Jaiswal. “We moved a lot of smartness from the operating system to our proprietary communication algorithm. Due to this, we have been able to remove all fixed monthly costs and our hosts don’t incur any expense when the charging station is not being utilised. Hosts have the flexibility to set their own availability and pricing,” he adds.
A host has to purchase the Kirana Charzer from the company and it will be made visible on the Charzer app. “We take a 20% margin on the transactions that happen through our platform. Our host can be anyone on the road including kirana stores, grocery stores, food joints, restaurants, malls, and any other retail establishment,” he adds. An EV owner can download the Charzer app on his phone. The app is a single-stop solution for his charging requirements. Using the app, he can locate the nearby charging stations, reserve a slot in advance, navigate, pay-for, and operate the charging stations.
Kirana Charzer was launched in February 2020 at MOVE 2020, London. Since then, it has received over 2000 pre-orders from over 60 cities and towns from across India. Kirana Charzer is already installed in all varieties of locations. The locations include battery shop, xerox shop, sticker printing shop, mechanics, vehicle dealerships, bakeries, gyms, cafés, pizzerias, malls, resorts, he says. “We have started getting excellent early usage from 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers. Even car owners are using our platform although the numbers are relatively lesser. Our current monthly subscriber base is more than 350 customers and growing 40% MoM,” he says.
Charzer has raised seed investments from marquee angel investors across India and Europe. “We are looking to raise $3 million soon. With this, we plan to scale up to 10,000 charging stations and increase our presence to 20 major cities,” he says.