This S’pore startup has built a “portable power bank” for EVs – so drivers can charge anytime, anywhere

Alfie Toh (47), Darren Tan (46) and KM (45) are all skilled engineers and have spent most of their careers in the automotive industry.

The three first crossed paths through work 18 years ago. At the time, KM was a young executive in the automotive industry and Alfie and Darren – founders of Mach Accessories – approached him to introduce their vacuum molding technology for fully customized accessories to keep minimum order quantities (MOQs) low.

In addition to Mach, Darren and Alfie run a few other companies, and all three of them have individually invested in several startups as well.

Their working relationship soon grew into an eventual business partnership together, when they co-founded Boot technology (P.UP), which offers Singapore’s first mobile EV charging service.

Developing a “portable power bank” for EVs

Things got a bit quiet as this industry was one of the last to be disrupted in any significant way. So when electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving entered the current accelerated phase, we were very excited [and] each kept our eyes open for opportunities.

I had just started driving an EV and got in touch with many owners in different countries. We all said the same thing: the vehicles were great, but range and charging was really tricky. It reminded me a lot of the feeling we had when we got our first smartphones.

– KM, co-founder of P.UP

He mulled over these pain points for a few weeks, eventually calling on both Alfie and Darren to build “portable power banks,” but for EVs. The two thought it was a brilliant idea and nine months later the first prototype arrived in Singapore.

“They had used Mach’s resources to incubate and develop the idea, as well as lead the research and development. I immediately booked a flight back to Singapore and we set up P.UP,” explains KM.

Image Credit: Power Up Tech

The goal of P.UP is to “boost the EV lifestyle” by removing all ties to both charging and ownership.

As an EV owner, KM understands first hand the woes of charging EVs. He regrets that EV owners can only use their vehicle half the time – “the other half, you have to look for charging stations, stand in line, wait for your charging to finish, and so on.”

“This is a constant challenge, especially if you live in a city-state like Singapore, where only five percent of households are lucky enough to live in a country house where they can install a personal charger,” he said.

He also noted that this gap between the number of EVs and the availability of charging will always exist in high-density cities, where land is extremely precious and existing infrastructure limits the free deployment of chargers.

“A good example is the use of slow chargers, small footprint and inexpensive to use. However, the ground on which the vehicle has to stand for a minimum of seven hours to fully charge the car is extremely expensive.”

“That’s why we came up with mobile charging – not just to empower consumers, but to lighten the burden on our government, by extending the coverage and availability of charging to every corner of the island.”

How does it work?

Essentially, P.UP provides power on demand almost anytime, anywhere.

Its website states that their service is available in Singapore Monday through Saturday, 9am to 9pm, and reservations are required at least a day in advance.

“Contact us and we’ll come to you wherever you are. Simple as that. The only restriction is to park your vehicle in a good parking space for safety reasons,” explains KM.

power up tech ev mobile charging singapore
Image Credit: Power Up Tech

All our P.Uppies (their affectionate term for their EV mobile charging transport) are fully electric, including the carrier. We come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the most common one we use now in Singapore is our van type.

All P.UPpies are equipped with some of the fastest DC chargers, with an average charge time of 30 to 45 minutes [for up to] 80 percent [charge]†

– KM, co-founder of P.UP

Similar to mobile plans offered by telcos, P.UP also offers different plans for different lifestyles and driving usage.

For the value packs, they charge S$0.54 per kWh – the cost per kWh is comparable to the cost at commercial fast charging stations across Singapore.

“With P.UP, EV owners have no compromises. They don’t pay a cent more compared to public commercial fixed chargers, [and] we are as fast or faster than all commercial fixed chargers. But the difference is that we come to you, wherever you are and whenever you need us,” said KM.

They are working with NEVC to build a framework of standards

When P.UP first started its pilot project, customers were curious and skeptical about their business offerings, with many doubting its safety and effectiveness.

“Two months after the trial, we were pleasantly surprised by the response. We hadn’t been marketing and word of mouth [about P.UP] had spread quickly,” said KM.

“When we finally got underway in June, the response was so good that we had to intentionally slow things down so our gear could keep up.”

In particular, he shared a heartwarming feedback from a customer, who is an active Grab driver. Due to her high mileage, she uses the services of P.UP every day and thanks to them she can save two hours every day because she did not have to search for charging points.

Despite the positive response from consumers, the startup did not have an easy time rolling out their service, especially as they are a pioneer in this field.

The biggest challenge remains the lack of proper standard regulation of mobile charging in Singapore, which creates a degree of insecurity, especially among potential business customers. This is mainly due to the relatively small size of the Singapore market and the fact that P.UP is the only one in Singapore with a fully working model of this service.

– KM, co-founder of P.UP

power up tech ev mobile charging singapore
Image Credit: Power Up Tech

As such, P.UP proactively engaged foreign labs to certify all of their chargers against International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards, although this was not required.

In fact, it is currently collaborating with the National Electric Vehicle Center (NEVC) – established under the Land Transport Authority – to share the certifications obtained and work with the laboratories in Singapore to build a framework of standards for charging electric vehicles. mobile EVs.

As P.UP works closely with NEVC to give Singapore an edge in mobile EV charging, KM believes that Singapore can and should be the “template and standard” for EV solutions and business models, especially for ultra-high density towns.

Another major business challenge for P.Up was COVID-19, which caused delays in equipment development and production.

“Until now, we are rushing deliveries of our P.UPpies so that we can serve more customers,” said KM.

The “Uber of EV Services”

According to KM, P.UP has received “a lot of attention” from potential partners in other Asian countries, fueling their plans to expand regionally. In line with this expansion plan, the startup is gearing up for Series A funding sometime next year so they have enough capital to support the expansion.

Until now, funding has not been an issue for the startup as the three co-founders had enough money to support the company. In addition, based on Mach’s track record and business reputation, they were able to secure sufficient commercial funding for P.UP to smoothly expand its operations in Singapore.

“We are already in the black in terms of operating margins,” said KM.

power up tech ev mobile charging singapore
Image Credit: Power Up Tech

Closer to home, P.UP has also gotten a lot of interest from local condominiums and is currently drafting proposals for them to see how best to allow condominium residents to charge their EVs.

“It doesn’t have to be in the condominium [premises] — as long as the user a [condo] resident, he or she will have access to our EV charging services at the special rates agreed upon.”

While KM admits this is “new territory” for them, he’s confident they can ease EV charging concerns for many apartment dwellers. After all, the main appeal of P.UP’s service is that users don’t need to install anything.

We believe that EV owners should have a better lifestyle than internal combustion engine (ICE) drivers. They should focus on fully enjoying their vehicles without having to spend time on recharging and other ownership tasks. P.UP exists to make that possible.

For P.UP, [EV] mobile charging is [only] our first step. … Our mobile P.UPpies not only make sure your EV has enough energy, but in the future we will be your “butler” for all the other mundane chores that normal owners have to do for the cars. … We are becoming the ‘Uber of EV services’ for owners.”

– KM, co-founder of P.UP

Featured Image Credits: Power Up Tech

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