By Emanuela Ferraro
Fanatical about electric vehicles (EVs), Enric Asunción is revving up for the mass production of one of the world’s smallest and smartest chargers for electric and hybrid vehicles.
Within three years, the founder of Wallbox Chargers has already secured distribution deals with major automotive companies in 25 countries worldwide. About 9–20 million electric cars could be on the road by the year 2020, jumping to 40–70 million by 2025.
Asunción’s Wallbox technology can recharge plug-in electric or hybrid vehicles "up to ten times faster" than conventional plugs. Unlike EV manufacturers such as Tesla Motors that only make charging systems for Tesla cars, Wallbox has designed generic charging systems that can be used for all types of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Easy and affordable
Aimed at both consumers and businesses, Wallbox chargers can be installed indoors or outdoors. Easily operated remotely via the Internet, the chargers can be set to operate during the cheaper non-peak periods. The Smart Charging and Home Sharing System also automatically optimizes energy usage according to the capacity of each individual household or workplace.
Making it easy, safe and affordable for drivers to charge up their EV vehicles is the ambition of Asunción, an industrial engineer from Catalonia’s UPC university. He created the first certification system for electric chargers while working as the head of EV chargers testing at Applus+ IDIADA in Spain. The Spanish engineering company Applus+ unveiled its all-electric Volar-e supercar during the Circuit de Catalunya F1 test days in Barcelona in 2013.
Asunción was also at the Institute of Robotics and Informatics (IRI) before joining Tesla Motors Netherlands in 2014. During his one-year stint as charging installations manager in Amsterdam, he saw how challenging it was to build the best charging solutions for Tesla customers at home and at work. With about 80% of the EV charging done at home, Tesla had to ensure that potential clients did not reject a purchase because of charging problems. Charging a car had to be just as easy as charging a mobile phone.
While working at various leading automotive and electric charger manufacturers, Asunción still could not find smarter charging solutions to unlock the market potential for the electric and hybrid vehicle industry. His ambition was finally realized after a chance meeting with Eduard Castañeda Mañe, an engineer also from IRI who was working at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
Sharing the same dream, they spent three months designing and building a revolutionary EV charger prototype. With seed funding from local investors in 2015, the first two products were created within 12 months. One was an advanced charger with screen and Wi-Fi. The other was a more basic one with bluetooth to control the charger via mobile phone.
The Commander and Pulsar were the first two chargers to be commercially launched in 2016 at eCarTec in Germany. They quickly became known as the smallest EV and HEV chargers in the market (160x160x99mm), with exceptional technical performances (22kw) - the world’s smallest generic chargers for electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles.
CEO Asunción and CTO Castañeda also created a dedicated smartphone app for the remote control of the charging station and energy informatics control dashboard MyWallbox. In March 2018, local Nissan Leaf taxi driver Roberto San José became the proud owner of Wallbox Pulsar and MyWallbox. Pulsar is the most compact charging device at affordable prices for potential EV owners like private taxi drivers. San José became one of Spain’s first 100% electric taxi owner in 2011. In 2016, Nissan clinched a deal to supply 110 new 30 kWh battery-powered Nissan Leaf vehicles to Madrid’s La Ciudad del Taxi – the world’s single largest deal for a 100% electric taxi fleet.
The more expensive Wallbox Copper is also suitable for taxi fleets and company cars for employees. Copper is one of the world's most advanced charging station system, equipped with visual recognition and sense technology. Just like the latest touchscreen smartphones and tablets, the new chargers can be operated with a simple hand movement. Copper chargers can recognize the user by taking a photo, so that only authorized people can use the charger for their vehicles.
Silicon Valley and beyond
With so much groundbreaking technology achieved with seed funding of below €3 million, Wallbox Chargers managed to win the South Summit 2017 regional in Madrid. Armed with a ticket to Silicon Valley in USA, Wallbox Chargers made its final pitch against MIT’s medtech Leuko, South Korea’s translation app Flitto and Mexico’s Strap for the visually impaired. Wallbox Chargers and Strap were jointly awarded 3rd place at Startup World Cup 2018. Leuko won the top prize of US$1 million for its non-invasive white cell monitor for cancer patients.
Gaining global recognition will spur expansion into new lucrative markets in Asia, USA and Europe. The fast-growing global market for electric and hybrid vehicles is estimated to exceed US$351 billion by 2023. The EV charging stations sector is expected to grow from US$ 5.3 billion in 2018 to US$ 30.4 billion by 2023.
Commercial installations, accounting for a huge chunk of the EV charging market in 2017, include stations at taxi stands, shopping malls, offices, airports and public carparks. Limited use of charging stations may also be offered free by hoteliers and retailers to increase sales and advertising opportunities. Besides government incentives, the convenience of using on-demand EV chargers will also boost the adoption of eco-friendly vehicles.
Asunción expects to gain 15% of European market share by 2020, as well as penetrate key Asian markets by collaborating with EV manufacturers in China, Japan and India. Components are currently sourced locally and also from Germany and China. The chargers are then assembled at a warehouse in Barcelona. Asunción ensures that the company stays ahead through innovation, quality and software updates for clients.
With sales reaching €2 million in 2017, the Wallbox CEO has often pointed out to potential investors and clients: “We don’t aspire to be the biggest player in the market but we want to be the best. The market is growing fast and it doesn’t make sense to ask customers what power they have at home, kw or amps”. Wallbox Plug-and-Drive chargers will take care of everything.
Edited by Suzanne Soh