It’s second time around for Crijn Bouman. His first start-up, a fast-charging equipment company called Epyon, got bought by ABB. Now he’s back as CEO of ROCSYS, a Dutch start-up that’s making automated robotic charging for EVs a reality. He left ABB in 2018 after building up the business.
“At some point I became a corporate middle manager. Basically I then decided to leave ABB and go for an entrepreneurial adventure again. That’s how ROCSYS got started,” Bouman tells Auto Futures.
ROCSYS launched in 2019. As two of the main trends in the mobility market are electrification and automation, Bouman believes that it’s inevitable that EV charging will become automated.
“The long-term direction of the industry will be automation. So charging also needs to be automated. In the short-term, there are many application for automation, especially in the fleet domain, so that’s where we are focusing now.”
For a driver of an EV, ROCSYS is aiming to make charging a simple and completely seamless experience. Bouman explains how it works.
“You park your vehicle, you press a button – ‘I want to charge’ – and then everything happens automatically. If you want to leave, it’s the other way round. So you press the button – ‘I want to leave’. The robot will disengage and the vehicle can drive away.”
Crijn goes on to explain how automated EV charging can help a fleet operator save money and space.
“We try to squeeze the most out of the charging assets, physical space etc, in order to make the business case work. If the business case works, people can really switch to electric for the whole operation instead of doing just a couple of pilot projects.”
“In the industry, professional fleets is the possibly the first domain where automated driving will make a significant impact because it’s often in private properties. You can also think of an automated last-mile. We see automated driving stations with fleets, so that’s why we chose it as a focus for ROCSYS.”
For the past two years ROCSYS has been busy developing its technology. Over the last year it’s been conducting commercial pilots. One of the pilots is with the Dutch electric bus and charging infrastructure manufacturer, Ebusco. Together they are working to automate bus depots through robotisation.
Peter Bijvelds, CEO of Ebusco, says: “The advantages of automating bus depots are many and varied: automating this process means there is no need for human hands and that has two major benefits. First of all, it saves time (and time is money), but perhaps even more importantly, it eliminates the risk of a bus not being charged in the morning, because someone forgot to plug in the bus or the plug wasn’t inserted properly.”
“We are still very much into executing and delivering the pilots. Next year we will launch the series products which, in the end, will be sold in volume to address large fleet applications,” says Bouman.
Scaling up the Business
ROCSYS has just raised 6.3 million dollars (5.25 million Euros) in a new round of funding led by VC group Forward.One, an existing investor. The new funds will help it scale up activities throughout Europe, and launch a North-American business unit.
“The coming period will be pivotal for our business. We will move from technology development and commercial pilots to serial deployment. We are ready for the future, and are very well positioned to engage the full market potential” says Bouman.
“Automation brings EV charging to the next level of reliability and performance. This is crucial to the success of EVs in large professional operations, for example operations depending on fleets. With the investment and support of our great investors, we will make that happen,” he adds.
The entire investment was carried out by ROCSYS’ existing investors Forward.One and Superangel. To date, ROCSYS has raised a total of $9 million (€7.5 million).
In a press statement, Frederik Gerner, partner at Forward.One, comments: “We are truly impressed with the speed and professionalism of the ROCSYS team. Within record time, ROCSYS managed to bring very advanced technology to a marketable solution, while signing partnerships with several of the largest brands in the industry. The simplicity of their solution, using industry-standard vehicle connectors, makes it an obvious choice for major vehicle OEMs. This is why we decided to increase our stake, and to lead this second investment round.”
Charging will be truly seamless, meaning that there’s hardly any involvement from drivers.
At present, the prime priority for ROCSYS is Europe, but it will soon launch its North American unit due to rising levels of interest in the region.
It also recently announced a collaboration with Grivix, supplier of automated high-power vehicle inlets and VDL ETS, a charging test and validation partner. They are working together to develop a robotic charging solution for heavy duty vehicle charging.
After completing this development, an e-truck or e-bus can automatically ask for a charge, the inlet cover opens and closes automatically, and the robot ensures that the plug is securely plugged into the vehicle allowing a fully automated fast charge of its battery. The entire system will be able to handle the expected higher powers in the near future.
“What we’re trying to achieve is a full set of components that can be applied in any heavy vehicle. You can think of trucks, you can think of sea-ports, automated guided vehicles, buses, mining vehicles,” says Bouman.
The consortium will start validation tests with the first samples, including parking guidance and self-opening flaps, later in 2021. The implications of high-power charging will be investigated, and new technology will be developed to offer the highest possible plug charging power with an automated connection.
Finally, we asked Bouman for his vision on what EV charging and transportation will look like by the year 2030.
“Charging will be truly seamless, meaning that there’s hardly any involvement from drivers. It’s completely integrated into the mobility domain, into fleets, into every day life.”
“There will be a larger focus on fleets and shared mobility, where it also makes sense that charging is seamless for the complete operation,” concludes Bouman.