San Diego, California
EV charging stations and solar energy storage packs
It's hardly news that the EV market is experiencing explosive growth. The technology has scaled to the point that electric vehicles are close to par in terms of both cost and efficiency with hydrocarbon-powered vehicles. Also, there is a growing acknowledgement among the public at large that climate change is real -- and that something must be done about it.
For many people, purchasing an EV is the best way to express that concern. But there's a potential bottleneck ahead that could throttle the boom: charging stations or, rather, the lack of them.
Gas stations are ubiquitous, and anyone driving a car with an internal combustion engine knows they can always find somewhere to fill up. But though the number of EV charging stations is growing by the day, they remain relatively rare. And while EV range has improved dramatically in recent years -- a few models can go 500 miles between charges -- there aren't enough stations to provide the peace of mind most drivers would demand for, say, a cross-country road trip.
Beam Global aims to change that. The San Diego-based manufacturer specializes in standalone EV charging stations that utilize solar energy, a technology that bodes to accelerate the scaling of EV charging infrastructure dramatically, says Wheatley.
"Our EV ARC 2020s are grid independent," Wheatley continues. "In fact, they're the only off-grid, 100 percent renewable energy option on the market. They can be deployed literally anywhere, from a remote mountaintop to the busiest city street."
Further, the stations can be installed in minutes, says Wheatley.
"You don't need permits, associated construction, or electrical connections," Wheatley says. "Each station fits inside a standard parking space, so you don't lose a bit of parking -- but you can charge up to six EVs from one station at the same time."
The EV ARC 2020 also supports a robust storage pack, meaning it can charge day or night, 24/7, through rain or shine or grid failures.
"And you can use any EV charger you want," adds Wheatley. "In simple terms, our product replaces all the infrastructure that typically makes EV stations work. It just does it in a far more efficient, reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective manner."
Recent data shows that U.S. driving habits are a major reason for the imminent EV tipping point, says Wheatley. The conventional wisdom is that Americans drive a lot -- but that's only true to a degree. More accurately, they drive short distances often.
"The U.S. Department of Transportation found that the average U.S. sedan is driven 20.4 miles a day," Wheatley says. "In other words, we don't drive the long distances we think we drive. A lot of that driving is commuting, and eight out of 10 commuters require less than 24 miles a day for their round trips to and from work. Also, most vehicles are idle 85 percent of the time. So, both the daily mileage and the average down time -- which can be used for charging -- fits perfectly with our products."
Wheatley also observes the current U.S. electrical supply is ill-suited to service the coming boom in EVs. He notes that blackouts and brownouts already are relatively common, a trend that's sure to continue with increasing demand on an already balky grid coupled with climate-change related disasters including wildfires, extended heat waves, extreme storms, and floods.
"Electricity is becoming a fuel, replacing petroleum," says Wheatley. "That means blackouts are moving from a nuisance to an existential threat to the economy. The grid is already struggling with excessive demand. It was never meant to replace oil. So, we need charging sources that are decoupled from the grid, that use renewable sources -- solar specifically. That both avoids the grid inadequacy crisis and significantly reduces the amount of carbon that goes into the air, helping mitigate global warming."
Wheatley says the current perception of solar recharging stations can be properly compared to the views that characterized WiFi a decade ago.
"Back then, WiFi was relatively rare," he says. "It required special equipment. Connecting to it was complicated. Now, there's free WiFi wherever you go. Your phone connects to it automatically. Everyone takes it for granted; no one thinks about it. And that's where EV charging is heading. The stations will be everywhere, and so will the cars that use them. No one will think about it."
In sum, says Wheatley, the Beam approach to charging stations trumps the old grid-centric approach for multiple reasons.
"It's a three-legged stool," he says. "First is structure. The EV ARC 2020 is a ballasted system and can survive 120 mph winds and 9.5-foot floods. It doesn't reduce parking, and it tracks the sun, allowing the production of 25 percent more electricity than is typical for non-tracking solar stations."
Second is power generation. The company is agnostic on solar systems, always researching for best-of-breed solutions.
"Finally, there's storage," says Wheatley. "That's the hardest thing in a system like this. Batteries are like Goldilocks -- they don't like it too hot or too cold. We've developed a passive thermal management system that maximizes lithium battery safety and allows greater energy density, meaning the batteries last longer."
And to top it all off, Wheatley emphasizes, Beam manufactures all its products in the United States.
"We're very proud of that," he says. "It's horrible that the world is so reliant on places like Russia for its energy. We want all our energy to come from our country. We want our residents to fill up with sunshine, freeing them from dealing with people who don't share our democratic values -- and from the gas station experience of pumping noxious, carcinogenic fuels."
Challenges: "Biggest challenge? Education, plain and simple," says Wheatley. "The people in government who are tasked to see that the EV transition happens don't fully understand the issue on multiple levels. My position is don't make decisions in this space until you've owned an EV for six months."
Opportunities: "Our greatest opportunity is the fact that we're moving into a period of real urgency for charging infrastructure," says Wheatley. "The best thing we can hear is that we are a bit behind the curve -- because we can get things back on track with our technology. We're moving toward an electrified world, but also an untethered one. I mean, how many things do you own that still need wires-to-the-wall? Hand tools? Telephones? No. They operate on batteries. That's where transportation is inexorably going, and that represents a massive opportunity for us. We're already in 96 U.S. cities, 13 U.S. states, and 121 countries. We see nothing that can impede our continued growth."
The publicly traded company (NASDAQ: BEEM) recently announced that it generated record annual revenues of $9 million in 2021, with 134 percent growth year-over-year in new orders and 67 percent growth in system deliveries.
Needs: It may be a cliché, observes Wheatley, but it's all about people.
"Human resources ultimately determine what makes any business thrive -- or not," he says. "Access to talent, to the human beings who have the skills and knowledge for this business, are one of our greatest needs. We also need a level playing field when it comes to policy and regulation. We're often discriminated against for the very thing that makes us great: we don't connect to the grid. Across the board, policy makers remain conditioned to thinking that everything electric has to be connected to the grid. That must change. I mean, if the international space station had to be connected to the grid, it wouldn't be up there."