While the market for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to expand, several barriers to adoption continue to prevent buyers from making the switch. One of the top concerns among potential buyers is access to charging stations. Currently, there are more than 150,000 charging stations in the U.S. and Canada, but you wouldn't know it by driving along a highway or through a densely populated area. That's because unlike gas stations, charging stations are not advertised on the side of highways or with huge commercial signs. Quebec-based startup, ChargeHub, is out to solve this problem.
"ChargeHub's mission is to simplify the electric vehicle charging experience," says ChargeHub Co-founder and CTO, Olivier Proulx. "If we simplify it enough, it will increase electric vehicle adoption." With the ChargeHub app, EV owners can locate charging stations anywhere in North America and know if they're available for charging.
ChargeHub is also a member of the MongoDB for Startups program, which helps startups build faster and scale further with free MongoDB Atlas credits, one-on-one technical advice, co-marketing opportunities, and access to a vast partner network.
Even though the app is the company's main focus today, it's not how ChargeHub started. Proulx says he and the co-founders worked as consultants in the EV space before EV cars were even on the road. "We were building electric off road vehicles,'' Proulx says. "Clients were asking us, where are the charging stations in Canada? And we thought the easiest thing to do was to build an app that would show that."
After putting the app on the app store for free, the number of downloads convinced them that knowing the location of charging stations was a real problem. So, they diverted their attention away from consulting and started putting more effort into the ChargeHub app.
Evolving the app
It's not just finding a charging station that EV owners find problematic. When you get to a charging station, you need to pay for charging. The market is highly fragmented, Proulx says. In North America, there are currently over 35 operators of charging stations. When you go to use a new one, you have to sign up for an account with the charging operator and deposit funds into the account to pay for charging. With so many different operators, you wind up with multiple accounts, each with a balance. "With ChargeHub," Proulx says, "you can create one account and charge at over 70% of the charging stations in North America."
Today, when EV owners find a station using the ChargeHub app, they can find out if there's a port available before they get there. And, once they start a charging session, the app shows that the charging session has started. That's a lot of transactions that have to happen in real time to ensure a seamless user experience. Proulx says MongoDB Atlas, when he compared it against other databases, gave them the performance they needed at a cost that made the decision easy.
Building with MongoDB
Proulx says that the choice to build with MongoDB Atlas from the beginning was critical to its early success. "MongoDB Atlas helped us get the product up and running on a stable, scalable platform from day one," Proulx says. "We didn't have to worry about having to migrate later. And it helped us prove our concept without having to spend too much."
Getting free Atlas credits from the MongoDB for Startups program also helped. "When you're building a product and going to market, you're trying to save every penny that you can and extend your runway," Proulx says.
The security of Atlas was another key consideration. "Having industry-standard security was critical because we work with electric utilities that are very strict on security," Proulx says. "With MongoDB Atlas, being able to check that box from day one was really critical."
Like a lot of startups, the ChargeHub team had to be strategic about where it focused its resources. Managing a database was not part of that strategy. "We were a small team, we didn't want to have to run our own hardware, we wanted everything in the cloud as a service," Proulx says. "Being able to focus on building our solution instead of running things was critical for us. And being able to pick our cloud provider was helpful in managing costs."
Cloud flexibility was a big factor for the ChargeHub team according to Proulx: "MongoDB makes it really seamless to pick your cloud provider. And they work with all the main cloud providers. It makes our security policies easier to maintain."
The road ahead
ChargeHub's goal is to reach 100% coverage of charging stations in North America. As EV infrastructure expands, and as more people know that a charging station is never that far away, Proulx says people will be less reluctant to choose an EV for their next car. If the feedback he gets from his users is any indication, new EV buyers don't have anything to worry about. "By having an app and a consumer product, you get feedback from your users," Proulx says. "It's so fun to hear from our users who go on road trips and use ChargeHub to go see the mountains and charge on the way. They're so happy they can finally use one app to charge anywhere they want."
If you're looking into an electric vehicle or you already have one, download the ChargeHub app for iOS or Android. Or you can try the all new web experience designed specifically for Tesla drivers to use in the Tesla browser. And be sure to reach out to the ChargeHub support channel if you have feedback. They're always looking to improve the app experience.