Electric vehicle drivers in search of a fast charge solution in Mecklenburg County now have a few new options to juice up on the road – and they can be confident that their energy is coming from a source that is local and clean thanks to stations recently unveiled by Monroe-based energy startup Koulomb.
“We’ve built a top-of-the-line product that is better than anything else on the market,” said Co-founder Jeff Constantineau. “The wave of EV drivers is coming and Koulomb will be there for them with its super-fast chargers that are conveniently located in the places people already like to work and play.”
Constantineau heads up the executive side of the company while the more engineering-minded decisions are made by co-founder Justin Taylor, who was also instrumental in creating Pure Power Contractors, a solar energy company which spawned Koulomb.
And it’s that solar power experience that Taylor says gives Koulomb an edge over some other charger networks in and around the Queen City. As an EV driver and enthusiast himself he also understands one of the worst feelings in the world is when you arrive at a charging station in need of energy and find that the station is offline, broken or simply decommissioned.
“Historically the chargers have all been small,” Taylor said. “It would be no surprise if there’s a level 2 charger that is broken or down. Those types of smaller, slower stations have no monitoring. And unless someone calls it in, they will never know it is broken. Some of these are just free chargers so there is no incentive to bring that back up. At a 350KW charger like ours you need to get that back up since you’re not making money unless that gas station is pumping as it were.”
For property developers and shopping center owners who are interested in offering effective and reliable charging stations to their tenants and customers, Taylor has a pitch that emphasizes how Koulomb is focused on keeping their stations up and going.
“We are monitoring the stations of course, but also we are monitoring the voltage, the current and we have a camera that can watch,” Taylor said. “If the power is down, we can tell in real time. We have 15 years experience in the renewable sector we can leverage for our network.”
That familiarity with electric utilities also led to their playful choice in naming the firm Koulomb.
“Koulomb is a playful misspelling of Coulomb,” Taylor explained. “He is the physicist who developed battery technology. One Coulomb is a unit of measurement for battery charge.”
And while the charging locations are a short list right now, the company has expansion in mind. Today, the firm has two charging stations with four total plugs at the Chestnut Arbor Shopping Center in front of Mario’s Italian Restaurant at 2945 Matthews Weddington Rd. in Matthews capable of up to 350kW charging speeds.
“We got off to a fast start with this charger and the one at Pure Power contractors in Monroe,” said Constantineau. “And we have six other stations in the works and another 3 that are at engineering stage.”
Some locations will take more work than others, but high speed and reliability are the key goals for each.
“One is in a parking deck so it isn’t easy to drill through all of that concrete,” Taylor said. “There will be a lot of engineering for that one. We have two going into Virginia, one in Atlanta and one coming to Charleston. We are looking at the major cities in the Southeast.”
The Koulomb team also had their eye on one other hiccup for EV owners looking to charge up on the road instead of at home sometimes.
“As a new ecosystem and a new provider, one thing we didn’t want to do was make customers download yet another app on their smartphone to access our network of chargers,” Constantineau said. “You can’t get EV adoption if it is so complicated. We want an agnostic experience. We interviewed a bunch of different software providers and we saw EVConnect had proper scale and proper integration into all the systems we wanted to serve.”
Customers who already have an EVConnect account can simply plug into a Koulomb station and then launch their charging session on their phone. The company doesn’t quite have “plug and play” capabilities on their stations yet, but Taylor said that’s the future goal.
And speaking of future goals, the company also wants to make sure they’re providing clean energy with an eye toward saving the planet that is often important to EV owners. For every kilowatt of energy purchased the company makes sure that it is either provided by a renewable energy source like their own solar power network through Pure Power or they purchase carbon offsets at the end of each calendar year.
“Once we get the network up and going we want to sell ourselves power,” Taylor said. “Then there is no question of where the power is coming from. Electrify America just built a big solar farm in California for their network of chargers, and we want to do a similar thing here in North Carolina in the future. It is a unique opportunity right now to basically own the ‘oil well’ and the gasoline pump for the EV future.”
The company hopes to eliminate the range anxiety of the past for EV owners in the Charlotte area and beyond, with a station near Uptown coming soon that will incorporate solar energy with a 60kW solar canopy on site.
“Energy security and energy economy within the community is like farm to table cuisine,” Taylor said. “It’s sun to car. We are buying those credits from the same grid so we are buying from Duke Energy Carolinas. Instead of buying from OPEC we are buying from our local producers. And it is money circulation in our own economy.”