PowerFlex was founded in 2017 by a group of researchers from Caltech. The team was brought together by a motivation to solve a problem they encountered while attending grad school: a huge lack of charging stations to support students and faculty who drove electric vehicles (EV). The school had a system in place whereby EV drivers had to switch their cars around throughout the day; this had a material impact on the productivity of both students and faculty. Upon looking into adding more charging stations, it was quickly realized it was not a realistic financial investment given the exorbitant costs of adding new power to the parking garage and installing the large number of stations needed.
To eliminate the issue of having EV drivers move their cars in the middle of the day, the team wanted to install enough EV charging stations that everyone would be able to plug in for the day without ever having to move their car. This would require a large installation driving the cost up even further. The team realized that if the cars were able to be plugged in all day, they wouldn’t need the full power of the charging stations. Through dynamic, computer-controlled power management, the stations could still provide enough energy for everyone, without necessarily increasing the power requirements.
PowerFlex’s patented technology was incubated out of Steven Low’s NetLab research laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). It was founded by technologists with entrepreneurial experience with the aim to develop, deploy and manage industry-leading, large-scale EV charging systems based on advanced algorithmic research. The optimization algorithms and methods were the outgrowth of a broad research program supported by grants from a variety of sources, including the National Science Foundation, ARPA-E, Department of Energy, Southern California Edison, California Energy Commission’s CalSEED program, Caltech’s Resnick Institute, Rothenberg Innovation Initiative, and the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator at NREL.
Today, PowerFlex has deployed some of the largest single-site EV charging deployments in the world thanks to their Adaptive Charging Network (ACN) technology. This system enables site hosts to maximize delivery of electricity to EVs while reducing or eliminating the need for costly utility upgrades by managing charging based on drivers’ demand, building load, onsite generation, and other variables.
In September of 2019 EDF Renewables North America acquired PowerFlex Systems. Incorporating the PowerFlex technology alongside the Company’s existing solar, storage, and energy management offering, they can provide building owners and facility managers with a single energy ecosystem where all assets work in concert to deliver clean, reliable, and affordable carbon-free power when and where it is needed.