ChargeLab’s software layer to power ABB’s EV chargers in North America

ChargeLab, a Toronto-based startup that builds software to operate and optimize electric vehicle charging equipment for fleets and commercial customers, has raised a $15 million Series A round. The round was led by King River Capital and notably includes participation from strategic investor ABB E-Mobility, a spinoff of technology company ABB that focuses on electric mobility and building charging stations.

As part of ChargeLab’s commercial agreement with ABB, the two companies will launch a bundled hardware and software solution for fleets, multifamily buildings and other commercial EV charging use cases, according to Zak Lefevre, founder and CEO of ChargeLab. While the partnership with ABB will certainly give ChargeLab the resources it needs to build out and scale its enterprise software, Lefevre noted that ABB’s interest in ChargeLab stems from the company’s need for a better out-of-the-box software in North America.

“The reality is that ABB has a device with the capability to connect to the internet, but they haven’t built those back-end services for connecting it, managing it, doing billing and payments, scheduling and power management and all those things,” Lefevre told TechCrunch. “So we are very much in that transition phase where everybody’s making their devices ready to connect to the cloud, but these big hardware companies haven’t necessarily thought through what all the second order consequences are and all the other systems that chargers are going to need to plug out to, whether it’s a parking management system or demand response system to the grid.”

ChargeLab’s core product is its cloud-based charging station management system, which provides apps for EV drivers, dashboards for fleet managers and open APIs for third-party system integration. The hardware-agnostic software, which runs on the edge and in the cloud, also includes capabilities like automated monitoring of chargers, management of pricing and access rules, payment processing and electrical load balancing, according to the company.

The startup’s latest funding round, which also included existing investors like Construct Capital, Root Ventures, Highline Beta, Third Sphere and Maple VC, will help the company go from its seed stage-level solution of connecting chargers and controlling them in the cloud to more advanced milestones. 

“Is that going to be SOC 2 compliant? Is it going to be scalable across hundreds of thousands of devices?” Lefevre said.  “ABB is selling to the biggest fleets and the biggest enterprises in the world. Are we going to be able to bundle with ABB and meet those needs?”

(SOC 2 is a voluntary compliance standard developed by the American Institute of CPAs which specifies how organizations should manage customer data.)

ChargeLab’s software is embedded onto chargers, which helps ensure those chargers are not only secure but also efficient and working flawlessly on the back end, co-founder and chief technology officer Ehsan Mokhtari told TechCrunch.

“And that ties into the security side of things. EV chargers will be a target of cybersecurity attacks as they are connected, so we are very active and in front of it,” said Mokhtari. “We already formed the InfoSec team within the ChargeLab company, as well as advanced techniques to handle offline behavior and self healing for these chargers. So that is really top of mind for us to build products and take them to market with our partners.”

Aside from ABB, ChargeLab works with EV charger manufacturers like Phihong, United Chargers, Siemens and Tritium. The startup’s tech is also white-labeled by charging networks like Girardin Energy, TurnOnGreen and EVStart. Lefevre says ChargeLab’s software is currently inside thousands of devices in North America, but has yet to surpass the 10,000 charger mark. That said, Lefevre says the EV charging industry is growing exponentially, which means the market opportunity is massive.

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