Freewire has developed an affordable mobile charging station

An Oakland-based company has developed rolling charging station that costs as little as $25,000 and packs 48 kWh of juice.

8/23/15 5:00 am chumakdenis 1

Not so long time ago we were making a review of external batteries trailers – quite bulky gizmos, but can give a lot of additional range  – up to 1,000 miles.

Well, the point is that these gadgets are really cool and can make your life much easier – when you have a cart that packs about 50 kWh of juice – charging doesn’t seem to be pain in the ass anymore.

However, these rolling charging stations have one serious disadvantage: price.

Really, not all the people can pay through the nose and leave about 50 grand for “electric cart”.

These things are only for people with really deep pockets.

Nevertheless, everything is about to change with the Mobi Charger.

 

The gadget, made by a Bay Area startup called Freewire, resembles a bulked-up ice cream cart and packs 48 kWh of juice instead of Fudgsicles. It can charge a vehicle in as little as 30 minutes, and works with any plug that isn’t a Tesla plug -- proprietary plug is not always a good thing.

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Bringing the eco thing full circle, the Mobi cart uses batteries pulled from old electric cars - Freewire’s getting them from Nissan for the moment and is talking to BMW and GM.

Pilot program

4526.jpgFreewire launched a three-month pilot program at LinkedIn’s Mountain View campus. Instead of plugging into a permanent station connected to the grid, employees can park wherever they like. Fire up an app, enter your location and when you need the car charged, and walk away. Mobi does the rest. An attendant rolls up with a Mobi, plugs in and that’s that.

“It’s charging as a service” - says Arcady Sosinov, Freewire’s CEO.

Degraded batteries in use

Beyond making charging a snap, Freewire provides a use case for batteries that are too degraded to power cars, but still have  as much as 80 percent of their storage capacity. Disconnecting from the grid means you can charge the Mobi’s batteries at night, when rates are low, and move that power to the cars during the day.

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4525.jpg“It’s an interesting idea” - says Greg Dalton, founder of Climate One, an arm of the Commonwealth Club that focuses on energy issues.

“Breaking concrete is a drag. It’s messy, it’s expensive, it’s noisy … Wheeling these little things around gets across some of the logistics and capital costs. It solves the fixed parking space problem and provides a market for aging batteries that can still be useful”.

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Some obstacles

The big problem for Freewire will be providing a service at a price that returns a profit. It saves money by eliminating construction, but the human attendant is an extra cost. “The business for charging is crappy” - Dalton says. “Drivers want charging everywhere, but they only want to pay for it when they use it. And they don’t like to pay subscription services, which the companies need to get steady revenue.”

Second plan

Freewire, which is making the Mobi Chargers mostly by hand in Oakland for about $25,000 a pop, has another business model to rely on if the cars thing doesn’t work out. The Mobi Gen uses old EV batteries to replace diesel generators at special events.

Well, it might work since the price really matters.

Let’s wish Freewire good luck and wait for more news from them.

And yeah…we do hope to see more of these batteries trailers all over the US and Europe. They are easy to install (don’t require the expense and annoyance of tearing up concrete, stringing lines, and getting all the right permits) and charging on your way is an amazing and useful thing.

  the mobi charger freewire oakland battery trailer external battery trailers rolling charging station recycled batteries in use pilot program linkedin’s mountain view campus innovations charging stations fast charging

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