Former Tesla employees design EV chargers in disadvantaged communities


Orange Charger, an EV charging infrastructure startup formed by a group of ex-Tesla employees, has designed a charging station solution for low-and-moderate income communities in apartment buildings.

The company closed a $2.5 million pre-seed funding round this week from early-stage investor Baukunst. The funding will help to scale affordable EV charging for apartment communities by leveraging lower-powered charging systems.

Orange’s business model is centered around creating affordable charging networks from the ground up that provide site owners with a compelling return on investment while maintaining equitable costs in order to bring EV charging to disadvantaged communities.

Orange installs alternating current (AC) chargers with enough energy to satisfy daily driving needs using standard 120-volt and 240-volt solutions. More stations can be installed on the same circuit making EV charging possible for the largest concentration of residents at each site.

The company says its Orange Outlet system is designed to provide EV charging to some apartment residents at 70% cost savings over other EV charging solutions.

The Orange Outlet 520 model operates at 120 volts, delivering 1.92 kWh of charging capacity, adding five miles per hour of driving range at 16 amps continuous current. The Orange Outlet 620 model operates on 240 volts, delivering 3.84 kWh of charging capacity, adding 15 miles per hour of driving range at 16 amps continuous current.

The company reports that both Outlet systems retail at $400 MSRP (excluding taxes and shipping), are wifi and cellular phone enabled and come equipped with Bluetooth interconnectivity.

The Outlet measures 4.9 inches x 4.9 inches square, with 1.5 inches of depth into the wall, slightly larger than traditional electrical outlets. The Orange Outlet is designed for installation over an existing outlet socket without further modifications as are necessary for higher powered charging. The Outlet is UL-915 certified and carries a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.

The proprietary OrangeNet software management system used at each charging site allows the property owner to manage outlets across multiple EV charging sites.

“Orange has achieved equitable access to electricity by re-thinking the entire process of vehicle charging by creating a system specifically for apartment communities, rather than pushing a public charging model that doesn’t fit onto them,” said Nicholas Johnson, chief executive officer of Orange Charger.

“At Baukunst, we believe a charging solution designed specifically for affordability and rapid adoption in apartment communities will catalyze the equitable EV movement,” said Matt Thoms, general partner of Baukunst, a San Francisco technology venture capital (VC) firm that formed in 2022 with an initial capital fund of $100 million.

The early-stage VC investor was joined in the pre-seed funding of Orange by angel investors that include Tesla co-founders Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard, as well as Johnathan Crowder, founder of Intellus Capital, and Sven Thesan, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist.

Redwood City, California-based Orange Charger formed in 2020 by Nicholas Johnson, who was previously chief technology officer of LYT, and from 2015 to 2017 was an electrical engineer in Tesla’s climate control and thermal systems group.  Other Orange team members include chief operating officer Neil Joseph, Tesla’s former head of delivery organization, and head of sales Don MacNeil, Tesla’s former regional representative for New England.

Currently the company is offering charging solutions in San Mateo County, California and the Eastern Bay Area, where Orange can qualify for incentives under Peninsula Clean Energy’s EV Ready program.  Under PCE’s program, building owners can receive $2,000 to $5,500 in incentives per port for Level 1 and Level 2 EV charging deployments. New building constructions can receive $1,000 to $2,500 per port for the same deployments.

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