Blockchain is ending the nightmare of charging EVs underground

I love the use of technology like blockchain and distributed ledgers, but only when it solves real-world problems. I recently sat down with Nikhil Bharadwaj, co-founder, and CEO of electric vehicle charging company Xeal, to learn about a problem that had plagued the company’s early days.

They were installing chargers at apartment buildings in underground parking garages. However, this is a space where it’s challenging to gain Wi-Fi internet connectivity.

Telcos told them the only solution was for either the building owner or themselves to pay tens of thousands for an IT upgrade. They did this reluctantly for an early customer, yet wanted a better solution.

According to Bharadwaj, the concrete and steel environment effectively acted as a “Faraday cage,” which meant that the EV chargers wouldn’t talk to people’s mobile phones when they tried to initiate charging.

You could find yourself stranded, unable to charge your car. “So we had to innovate.”

Ok, I thought they might be telling me about their use of sound wave tech or LiFi, but they have come up with something a lot more interesting.

NFC and blockchain solves a real-world problem 

Their solution is a patent-pending self-reliant connectivity blockchain protocol called Apollo, which, combined with NFC, allows charging stations and smart devices to be deployed anywhere, even in the most rugged environments.

The company calls it the world’s first ‘No Internet for Things.’ 

I’m always interested in the answer to the question ‘Why now?’ and Bharadwaj explained the three inflection points that successfully came together in 2020: 

  1. Pressure on Apple to make NFC chip technology available to third-party developers brought the use of NFC into the wider consciousness.
  2. Contactless payments during COVID became more robust and more widely adopted. 
  3. Wider adoption of Distributed Ledgers.

Xeal has attracted plenty of interest from investors. The company raised $14 million in seed and VC funding earlier this year. Let’s take a look at their tech:

How Xeal charging works