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(upbeat music) (Kevin) Hello, everyone. I'm Kevin Blevins, and I'd like to welcome you to another episode of The Siemens Startups podcast series, where we speak to entrepreneurs to gain insight on how they turn innovative dreams into successful companies. Today I'm speaking with Porter Harris, CEO and founder of Power Global, a company that is enabling electrification globally.

Hello, Porter, and welcome to the podcast. (Porter) Yeah, thanks for having me on, Kevin. I really appreciate it. (Kevin) It's actually our pleasure. Porter, I'd like to start some of the discussion related to you and your background.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to the point of starting Power Global? (Porter) It's definitely been a process. So I've been in electrification now for about 15 years. Really started out my career at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Pulsed Power, moved on to some space systems work at Aerospace Corporation. I'm sure you're aware of AeroVironment, and all they've kind of done as an engineering firm, from the impact for GM's prototype EV1 program.

So I worked there for a couple years on level-three fast chargers, battery design, battery testing, all that good stuff, and then ended up at SpaceX working on the batteries for F9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. Was kind of poached out of SpaceX for Faraday Future when they were on their initial kick, employee 20 or something like that, and developed a battery for them and kind of a novel, the VPA, the Variable Platform Architecture, with the submerged battery design. And after that, started my own company, with another individual, called Romeo Power, which went public in 2020, and really wanted to focus on emerging markets with what I'm doing now, so started Power Global in 2019 to do just that, is enable electrification globally. So, really focus on emerging markets where you see predominant modes of transportation is entirely fossil fuel based. So I wanted to change that.

(Kevin) Yeah, and when you think about electrification and history, 15 years is a long time to be working in that field. (Porter) Yeah, for sure, a very nascent technology for sure. (Kevin) And I either read this or heard this recently, but do I understand correctly that you have 14 patents? (Porter) Yeah, I don't keep track of those. I think somewhere between 14 and 18. I don't know what's been actually put through.

And I know I have a lot of provisionals in place as well. And then I typically stacked a lot of technology within a single provisional. So those kind of end up getting split out into multiple patents. You know, if I had more money, I think I'd probably do even more than that. It's kind of addicting. (Kevin) So, you say you'd do more if you had more money.

Is it something that you have to do a certain amount of testing and that sort of thing in order to get the patent? Or what is it that drives that? (Porter) There needs to be enough, I think, viability behind the idea, at least to be able to put it into practice. So, getting more than a concept at play, but then also getting it going. So typically on my process is get the concept, get the provisional going, try and cover as much as possible, and then through that one year you have with the provisional, do a lot of the development work behind it, and kind of fine tune and find all the little details, and then end up going to a utility patent after that, so. But, you know, there's only so much time in the day and cash to put to these things, so.

(Kevin) Understood, you've got a company to run, right? (Porter) Exactly. (Kevin) Well, I think it's impressive when anybody has a patent in general, and I know in the engineering field it's pretty common, but to have as many as you have, I thought was pretty impressive. I mentioned at the beginning, you're enabling electrification globally. Can you tell us about Power Global? (Porter) Yeah, as I mentioned before, it was built on the premise of bringing clean energy technology, more specifically starting off with mobility, to markets where that really didn't exist.

India is the first real beachhead per se, and you're looking at the largest two and three wheeler market in the world. So it's the largest light duty vehicle market. And so motorcycles alone is somewhere around 25 million new vehicles a year outta that, which is just an incredible amount of vehicles.

And then, you know, you're looking at, between all the light duty vehicles that just fall within that category from mopeds, you're looking at level three, level five auto rickshaws, which are three wheelers, you know, you're looking at about 7 million of those vehicles in the country. And I think it's transportation for about 350 million people in the country alone. So you can see how much influence these modes of transportation are with people. When you look at India, you're looking at, you know, a population about 4 times the size of the US on about 1/3 the square footage of area, right? So it's a high density population. And so light mobility makes the most sense if you're looking at it from a traffic standpoint. But it's all, you know, 99% run by fossil fuels.

(Kevin) And it's tough to watch a video of India, whether it's on television or in a movie or anything of that sort, and not notice the exhaust levels coming from a rickshaw for instance, so. (Porter) Yeah, I mean, you nailed it right there. I mean, that's the biggest aspect of it, is 14 out of the 16 most polluted cities on Earth are in India. So it's huge need for that. And about 30% of that is due to mobility.

(Kevin) It's a noble cause, and that's for sure. Your mission statement says that Power Global wants to improve global accessibility to safe, reliable, and modern clean energy technology through innovative electrification. How do you define modern clean energy technology? (Porter) So I think at the base of it is getting to the lowest common denominator from an energy transfer standpoint. And so looking at that electrification is that it's, you know, more or less a one-to-one, right? And so however that energy is generated, I think, efficiently makes the most sense.

So when you look at traditional forms of energy, it's typically the burning of some sort of fossil fuel, right, and to create it. But if you're looking at sustainable energy, you're looking at potentially generating electricity from solar, from wind, through I know even nuclear, and all these other modes, right? It's all about finding the pathway to this medium that is efficient and easily transferred. So I'd say pretty much anything with electric at its core is the best. And then however much of the external processes you can take out of that, the more sustainable it's going to be.

So when you look at something like solar, you're immediately turning photons into electrons, and, you know, generating electricity that way for immediate use, right? When you start adding in middlemen and all these other processes, I would say that's less sustainable, right, and start, you know, using other fuels, right? That to me is less sustainable in the long term. So, but again, you have to look at what makes the most sense for society from what we've also built up as an infrastructure as well, right? I think we need to be able to, people have to have livelihoods as well, right? To me, it's all about the pursuit of getting to the ultimate efficiency from a electrification standpoint, and doing that while we all kind of are able to feed our family and ourselves. (Kevin) So is Power Global focused on existing technologies out there, battery technologies, lithium, is there a particular thing that you're focused on today, or are you considering other things like hydrogen fuel cell, that sort of technology? (Porter) The core focus is just to really stay on a practical approach to what we're doing. I would love to spend some time developing something new and doing all this stuff, but really we're all about putting what's available into practice now. I mean, there's, you know, yeah, you know, the battery is not perfected, you know, all this other infrastructure is not perfected, but we need to take what we have, which is good enough, and really start utilizing that and putting it out there.

So we're just focused on what I see as the most sustainable and most effectively cost effective mode of getting electrification out there. And so, we don't focus on fuel cells, because ultimately all, you know, 96% of all hydrogen right now is generated by fossil fuels. And if you have green hydrogen, why wouldn't you just use that electricity firsthand and bypass the middleman of actually all these inefficient processes along the conversion pathways? So for me, it's all about immediately using that electrification. And you look at a country like India, like, infrastructure is all electrical.

When you just use that clean energy directly, it's the cleanest way to clean up our society and humanity's output. It's all about being practical, get the solution out there cost effectively. And that's why we've done the battery swapping, is because we're effectively eliminating the upfront cost of the battery, which is the biggest hurdle to electrification, putting that over multiple years, so it is, you know, affordable. Electrification, EV technology, is more cost effective already than fossil fuel based technologies. It's just those upfront costs were just too high to sustain.

So you're using a battery swapping program for light duty vehicles, where it's manually removing from a vehicle, putting into a charger, taking a new one, putting it in, where it's, you know, you're moving maybe 25 pounds around, that's just, you know, sustainable, and doable and cost effective. So, you know, our battery swapping for the auto rickshaws, we're saving 35% in operating costs for anyone on diesel, and somewhere around 25% for anyone using petrol or gasoline. You know, I haven't even checked the latest pricings for those two things, and I know they've gone skyrocket. So, I was saying that, you know, four or five months ago, I haven't even looked at it lately, I'm sure it's probably at least another 25% higher than that. (Kevin) I know I'm paying an awful lot more to refuel my vehicle. And you're talking about the battery swap.

So that kind of takes us to your products if you will. You can't help but notice when you go to your website by the way, that there's a couple of different products that show up right away. The first one is the easy module, which is spelled e, capital Z-e-e module. Can you tell us about that? (Porter) That's a core energy storage product. That was really kind of the third generation military battery pack design that I've done. I figured why not go overboard with this thing, and make sure this thing can be as robust as possible for a network where these are gonna be, you know, exchanged in and out like propane tanks, I guess, in a lot of ways.

But, you know, we wanted this thing to be extremely safe and reliable for any user within, you know, anywhere in the world. So it's been engineered for high vibe, high shock, thermal runaway propagation resistance, various levels of humidity. We have a blind-made adapter that we've developed for tens of thousands of, you know, swaps in and out.

And not to say that the battery will last, you know, tens of thousands of swaps, but at least the infrastructure that it's interfacing with will. And then, you know, it's fully connected, it's full IoT enabled, I guess, you know, with 4G, 3G fallback, GPS, over-the-air updates, all this good stuff. So we can, you know, modify firmware if necessary. So if a user is using it a certain way, we can do things to increase performance or increase cycle life and that good stuff.

And then that lends itself to pretty much any application. And with the change of three parts roughly, you know, five, $10, we can also create a 72 volt battery out of it as well. So, and then those two batteries can be used for the network for both two wheelers and three wheelers. (Kevin) That's amazing. So let's start with a rickshaw, because I guess it depends on the vehicle that you are electrifying, right? How far does someone travel, or what is the range that someone would expect to get on the battery? (Kevin) An average auto rickshaw user within India per day travels somewhere between 90 kilometers and 120 kilometers. There's some kind of special power users that are somewhere around 150 kilometers every now and again.

But the solution that we came up with, with the retrofit kit, a single battery is 45 kilometers roughly. The physics isn't always on just the battery. I mean, you have to look at the full solution from the rolling resistance of the tires. The vehicles are pretty low speed, so cross-sectional area and drag coefficients aren't too big of a player on it, but definitely the tires that are being used on the situation can help out a lot.

But we actually within the retrofit kit have a solar panel on top, which actually covers 40 to 60% of the energy requirement per day. So that's about a 500 watt panel with the vehicle doing somewhere around, I would say 20 kilometers per kilowatt hour, pretty good amount of range total. So the full solution is aimed at about 100, 165, with both solar and two batteries. And then, you know, with the two batteries, at least easily making 90 kilometers of range. (Porter) I think it's great that you're taking advantage of the solar as well. They have plenty of sun, right? So, we all do.

(Kevin) Yeah, tons of sun, and it's actually one of the few applications I do believe solar plays a good play with mobility, because you're talking about two square meters of roof on these vehicles, and they're low speed, right? I mean, you're not gonna be topping probably 50 kilometers per hour, 50, 60 kilometers per hour with these vehicles. So they're really low speed. But they're also low weight.

So, you know, you have a huge surface area and low power requirements. So it's, I think to me, a match made in heaven for sure. (Kevin) I'm amazed that we don't do more of that in our country. (Porter) It's very difficult to do. I mean it's, when you talk about the US though, I mean we're a giant sprawl, and that goes all into the single family home housing issues, and all this other stuff, right? So we're a few people in a lot of square, but it is just, you'd have to be, you know, commuting fairly long ranges where small light duty vehicles don't entirely make sense, right? So that's difficult when, I mean, I know so many people that are commuting an hour, hour and a half, to be doing that on a two wheeler or three wheeler, I think would be very tiring. (Kevin) I am aware of one electric car company that does put panels on their roof, right, and it's handy whenever you, when you're sitting in your office and you want to cool your car down before you go out.

(Porter) Yeah, exactly, exactly. (Kevin) So it'd be helpful in that regards if nothing else. (Porter) Yeah, I saw another one that's, it's claiming full, you basically, you don't even need to charge it. The entire vehicle is more or less all solar. It's kind of like solar cars out there, I mean a lot more stylish, but, you know, it's a difficult sell, because I think there's so many people that are interested in their common, I guess, design aesthetics, right? And so, you know, looking at something that's a little off from what you'd normally see on the road, maybe a little bit of a hurdle for some people.

But I'm interested to see how they do. (Kevin) I'm assuming that there's some level of testing that you've been doing. Are you doing that on a vehicle in the United States, or is all the testing occurring elsewhere? (Porter) We do standard lab scale testing to really validate the design. And then it's really important to have real world data sets as well to put into that testing. So we're actually, we're in the process of getting a few dozen vehicles on the road, and getting that data back for that, you know, just instinctually, you know, knowing what the average vibe shock loads of a vehicle are, what the power profiles look like.

We have a vehicle dyno here that we test the vehicle on. It's nearly impossible to get it, the vehicle street legal here in the US, all the safety requirements for it, no one's allowing that. I actually had the CHP guy said, "Not on my roads." We do so much in the lab and then transfer that over to the real world for beta testing. (Kevin) So kinda moving on to the next product, the second thing that someone would see in your website is the eOsk Battery Swapping Network. Did I pronounce that correctly? (Porter) Yeah, eOsk. Yeah, like-

(Kevin) eOsk. Oh, kiosk, eOsk, okay, great. Well I was, so the answer was no, I didn't pronounce it correctly. So, eOsk. Tell us about eOsk. 'Cause I thought this was the thing that was most interesting to me when I started reviewing, 'cause I wasn't aware of it previously. (Porter) It's pretty interesting. I think over the last, you know, year and a half, we've come up with some nice feature sets on it.

It's a fully connected charging kiosk with full thermal regulation. So it could be put pretty much anywhere in the world and still operate functional. So we have a lot of different design, you know, IP support and patented processes within it. One of the biggest hurdles about emerging markets is that access to reliable energy is very difficult. There's power outages all the time, and, you know, how do you supply, you know, fully charged modules when, you know, the power's going out, right? And so we do have some aspects of it where we shuffle energy around to always make sure that we have modules available for our users. The other features I really like about it is being able to utilize the app and reserve a module.

So it takes into account the average travel distance from where the user's at in the kiosk, and reserves a module for that user. So when they get there, you know, they're guaranteed to have that module. (Kevin) So they don't have to worry about someone else grabbing it first then.

(Porter) Exactly. I think that adds a lot of security to the network, right? I mean, no one wants to get there and be like, oh, there's nothing here for me, right? And immediately, so the user puts the module in, and then another, a lot more IP back there. It's a real quick process. I mean, within a matter of seconds, you know, sub 10 seconds, the kiosk knows who that module's from, whether or not they're paid up.

And then we'll distribute the fully charged module right for them within that time period. So the process is extremely quick. We want it to be very user-friendly, very safe. I mean, there's the blind made on the module is developed such that, you know, there's over a thousand pounds of pull force on that module as well.

So it pulls the module in, locks it in place, establishes all the electrical connections, all the communications, and does all that stuff very seamlessly without the user even knowing about it. And then also we'll kick that module out when it's ready to go, and user just grabs it and puts it right in their vehicle. (Kevin) That's amazing. So it's electrification as a service.

(Porter) Yeah, that's entirely what it is. I mean, I think, you know, the term being coined right now is a battery as a service. (Kevin) Battery as a service. Okay. I was close.

(Porter) Yeah, well that's, you know, it's still a very, very new stage right now. So I liked energy as a service, but I think, yeah, BAAS just seems to be taken off, so. (Kevin) So have you started delivering these eOsks yet? (Porter) No, we have three prototype units right now being built up to get put out there, and we'll utilize those for a e-rickshaw application. So we'll put those on.

E-rickshaws are the low speed vehicles, about 25 kilometer per hour tops, and they have set pathways. So we'll put those kiosks on this kind of path tested out, and then go from there, build it up. (Kevin) Well, we'll be watching closely, and we can say that we heard about it here, right? (Porter) Exactly. (Kevin) That's exciting. So did you run into hurdles as you were developing the eOsk that you had to overcome? And is any of those hurdles that you might be able to share with us? (Porter) As always, with any product development, there's always gonna be challenges that you see and work through and develop around. And that's really where all the, you know, IP gets generated, right, is when you actually, you know, start tackling the problems and working out the different solution sets for that.

I think beyond the technical side of things, hardware is always difficult to get funding for, especially when your beachhead is in India. So, you know, throw those two things together, and it makes it a nearly impossible thing to get funded. So that's always been been a hurdle, but, you know, a lot of supporters definitely for what we're doing. Not only is it, I think, looking to enhance the world and how people live in it, but, you know, also create a sustainable business. (Kevin) So do you have new products on the horizon as well, other than these two that we've just talked about? (Porter) There's a couple things I'm really excited about, for the US side of things, developing a energy storage solution for DC fast charging for the 350 kilowatt standard. So I'm on my, I don't know, however many generations now of a submerged battery cooling design, really excited about this, and utilizing this for stationary storage and for DC fast charging.

So, really enable the higher rates, but also the performance required for those applications. I think this is really, also getting that price point right where it needs to be from the product side, but also from production side of things is, you know, highly automated solution, so. (Kevin) And you're using the Siemens software, really the only question I'm gonna ask you related to that, 'cause I really wanted to hear and focus more on you and your company. How is the startup program helping you to solve any of the problems that you might have? And can you tell us a little bit about what tools you're actually using? (Porter) Yeah, no, definitely.

I mean, I have to say, you know, ever since I utilize NX at SpaceX actually, I was always, you know, blown away at its capabilities, versus other platforms that I've used. So for me it was a no-brainer to go with NX for this thing. But when I found out about the program, that was even more of a push to adopt the software, because a lot of costs, you know, have to be taken into account for startups, right? And typically, you know, these software solutions are not cost effective. But having these kind of programs, you know, allow it to be accessible for us as we're growing as a company, and allow us to really operate on the same page. When you have multiple designers working together, having the ability to really work together, cross-functionally is a huge, huge thing. I mean, not having that kind of communication can really, really add some time to your development process.

So we are using TeamcenterX, along with NX, and then interfacing that with our STAR-CCM, and any sort of analysis tools beyond that as well. So we haven't done any FEA at this point, but I know that there's some product offerings for that. But having the combination of both NX and Teamcenter has allowed this process to go, you know, a lot smoother for sure. Being able to have a process. I mean, I don't like to have too many processes, but when it comes to getting product out, and you're ordering parts, you need to make sure you have the right revs in there, right? I think those are the biggest thing. Before you know it, you know, you're buying hundreds of product to the wrong part, that's just a nightmare.

So that's where companies can really lose their shirt. (Kevin) That's great. Thank you for that. I'd like to talk a little bit about entrepreneurship. Did you experience any challenges in the early stages of developing and creating your company? (Porter) When you start something from scratch, there's so many possibilities, and it's really like staring at the abyss, right? There's really nothing defined.

There's really no processes. And you really have to take it as a, you know, organically. The biggest lessons learned that I've had, you know, you're starting a business, it's all about maintaining focus on what you're trying to get done.

And I think having a core focus on your MVP, right, your minimum viable product, really focusing hard on that and getting that to market as soon as possible, that's the key. You don't wanna get too bogged down on the technology, because that's not what the business is all about. It's about the whole solution working and having business. So you want to take the minimum viable product, get that out there, and then get some revenues, get some business going, and then you can really focus on the whole thing getting built up together. I think that's, those are the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year and a half, two years.

(Kevin) Well, one of the things we often hear is that you have to have passion for the product and passion for what you're developing. And it's really obvious today that you do have that passion for what you're doing in the electrification of a lot of these different products out there. And I remember an early conversation that we had and your desire to electrify anything that you can that is going to impact the planet. And I salute you for that. I think that's a great thing to do. Is there anything else that you would like people to know about Power Global that we haven't discussed already? (Porter) The state of where we are from electrification standpoint is, you know, there's a lot of companies out there that are getting funding, and they're focused on the end use case, right? So you're looking at electric vehicles and all these other things, they're real sexy, you know, it's great.

I love to see it. I think that the biggest hurdle, I think, for the rest of us is, you know, there needs to be a supply chain for all these electrification companies, right? Who's gonna supply the batteries? Are you gonna supply all these? Like, you can't have these single startups doing the entire powertrain every single time, right? I think there's so much more that needs to be done to develop the entire supply chain to support all these new, you know, startup companies. I love to see the focuses, but again, we need to look, I think, and this is more probably geared more towards, like, investors, because how are you gonna get all these things without supporting the everything that supports it, right? I mean, especially here in the US, I mean, I love to see the new initiatives to get, you know, even all down to the raw materials here developed in country. I think that's great. And I think we need to do a lot more focus on that in order to really allow electrification to come into fruition and come into its own, and really, you know, see the light of day.

I think so many people think it needs to be a certain way in order for it to be viable. No, that's not how it works. You know, we need to develop what we have now, and it's a process.

I mean, when I look in research, the initial stages of even petrol technology for mobility, you think about hand crank starting a vehicle, could you imagine if that was still, I mean, you develop it all, you know, it wasn't like, "Oh, I need electric start now. I need all this." Like, no, we have what we have now. We build it up and we grow it. And, but it does, it's, to me, electrification is the only pathway to a truly sustainable future.

I mean, when we start throwing all these other processes in there, you're really missing the point. So I think we need to look at it from a holistic view. I mean, it's not just the sexy things that need to get funded. (Kevin) I think that's a great way to kinda wrap things up. That's a great synopsis.

And I think you've done a great job of pointing to a lot of the things that we need to deal with. I mean, you pointed to the supply chain, right? And I think everybody's talking about supply chain issues today, so that's pretty exciting. Supporter, I'd like to thank you for joining us today. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

I'm excited about what you and your company are doing to electrify the world, and your desire to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I think it's a noble cause, and I think it's one that we should all get our hands around one way or another, right? We wish you all the luck in the world with Power Global. So thanks again for being with us and sharing with us today.

I also wanna thank everyone for listening today's podcast. It's been a pleasure speaking with another amazing startup company. And for our listeners, if you wanna know more about Power Global or their products, you can go to their website, and that's, you can find them at Power.Global.

And as a reminder, Siemens offers special packaging and pricing for small and medium sized startup companies, nearly all of our software portfolio. Please visit, all one word, dot com. Or you can go to any of the Siemens partners' websites, and you'll probably find something there as well. Please feel free to provide comments on today's episode by leaving a review on your favorite podcast site.

Or feel free to email me at This your host, Kevin Blevins. Remember, innovation has no boundaries. (upbeat music)

2024-02-02 19:52

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