Home EV Charging and “Energy Independence”: Meet myenergi Lead Engineer Robin Richard
Pessimism about renewables, Meet Robin Richard, the lead engineer for myenergi, a company hoping to make renewable infrastructure accessible to all.
Electric vehicles (EVs) represent a great number of engineering challenges, but one of the furthest reaching is the question of charging infrastructure.
myenergi is a British company producing renewable energy products for use in the home. Their aim is to provide energy independence and encourage the adoption of renewable and sustainable energy sources.
AAC's Ingrid Fadelli spoke with Robin Richard, lead engineer—EVSE—at myenergi, about his role, the renewable energy sector, eco-smart home solutions, and his advice for aspiring engineers.
Robin Richard, EVSE at myenergi
According to Robin, myenergi's ambition is to "enable and encourage mass adoption and make sustainable living easily compatible with all kinds of lifestyles."
Ingrid Fadelli of All About Circuits: Ok, to get started, what's your background and how did you end up in the field of renewable energy?
Robin Richard of myenergi: I have a Diplôme d'Ingénieur (engineering degree) in Electrical Engineering from the National Institute for Applied Science in Strasbourg, France. One of the requirements for graduation was to work in a foreign country and, as it worked out, being involved in creating the first-ever solar EV charger became my graduation project.
With the project looking promising, Lee Sutton (Co-Founder of myenergi) asked if I would stay in the UK and continue my work. It was a really great opportunity and I grasped it with both hands.
The rest is history, as they say. Within one year of R&D, we developed and launched three new products. We also attended trade shows to gain exposure and gauge public interest, which proved critical as it attracted a number of key investors. It has been non-stop ever since!
AAC: So myenergi develops EV charging infrastructure for use in the home and you use a specific term to describe that. Can you help us understand what you mean by "energy independence"?
RR: This is something that we talk about often, providing our customers with true energy independence. Essentially, a house that barely relies on any fossil fuels (such as electricity and gas). Instead, it generates renewable energy and stores it locally, using intelligent projections to determine the household’s upcoming energy requirements while factoring in the weather forecast. Any energy it deems surplus to the household’s requirements can then be fed back into the grid using smart pricing models.
myenergi charging an EV
AAC: What do you feel are the greatest challenges of working in the renewable energy sector?
RR: Pessimism without evidence or an alternative solution has always been an enemy of progress. Those actively seeking to dismiss progressive technology—like those with a negative attitude toward the transition from combustion engines to EVs—represent one of our greatest ongoing challenges.
The reality is simple; this transition is long overdue and urged by scientists and technology experts around the world.
Pessimism without evidence or an alternative solution has always been an enemy of progress.
The development of ground-breaking battery technology will be a starting point to fulfilling so many of humanity’s greatest ambitions over the coming decades. The first key application will be further increasing electric vehicle range, which has already seen drastic improvements in a relatively short space of time. Indeed, the average range of an electric car is now around 211 miles on a full charge.
While battery tech is an important enabler, what actually matters is how those batteries are charged. There is no point in having an electric vehicle if the energy to power it comes from burning coal. That is why our focus was on developing the world’s first PV-compatible EV charger with an emphasis on self-generated energy.
This is the inspiration behind our name, myenergi, our ambition is to enable energy independence far beyond EV charging—integrated eco-friendly solutions for the home and commercial businesses.
AAC: How do we counter this issue of "pessimism without evidence"?
RR: I think the most important changemaker will be education. If we can guide, educate, and demonstrate, it will be hugely influential and determine our collective ability to overcome the challenges of the future.
Of course, continued investment in the development of new, sustainable technologies and innovative solutions will also be crucial. We need to encourage green energy adoption in every way possible, including economic incentives, legislation, and encouraging changes to personal behavior. That is not to say we should become bogged down in bureaucracy; if we put our focus on the end product and make it an attractive solution, that will be a huge driver of adoption.
...if we put our focus on the end product and make it an attractive solution, that will be a huge driver of adoption.
Alternative sources of energy tend to be expensive. Although we now see the cost of new wind and solar projects falling below that of traditional fossil fuel plants, things like lithium-ion batteries are still expensive. If we can find a way to build high-quality batteries efficiently and affordably with excellent end-of-life recycling, that will be a gamechanger.
AAC: What hardware has myenergi developed with this philosophy in mind so far?
RR: We are constantly innovating and developing new products and ideas, but our current line-up consists of four main offerings.
- zappi: The first eco smart charger, zappi allows customers to charge their EV using renewable energy generation technology (such as solar PV and domestic wind turbines). zappi is widely regarded for its extensive feature list, reliability, and renowned eco charging modes.
The zappi charging wall device
- eddi: A solar power diverter that helps customers to save energy and money, eddi diverts excess energy to heating devices, while logging data to optimize future performance.
- harvi: harvi is an energy harvesting wireless sensor which allows eddi and zappi to be installed without a wired current transformer (CT) clamp. harvi was myenergi’s first patent, addressing industry challenges and barriers to adoption right from the beginning.
- hub: hub, our internet gateway, connects the entire myenergi ecosystem to the internet, allowing users to remotely control their system through our secure smartphone app.
AAC: myenergi doesn't just provide hardware, right? You've also designed an app. Why is an online platform part of your next steps?
RR: The myenergi app is all about giving power to the user. It pairs seamlessly with the hub and gives you full control and access to your devices like zappi and eddi from anywhere in the world. Set timers, monitor grid import/export, and view battery storage information all in one place. It is available for both Android and iOS.
As well as providing in-depth monitoring capabilities, the portal allows customers to program settings and enable charging only when electricity prices are at their lowest.
Promo image for myenergi zappi
AAC: Let's talk about your experiences at myenergi as an engineer. What's your current role and what does that look like day-to-day?
RR: My official title is Lead Engineer, which means I’m responsible for the design and development of EV charging products. I oversee hardware design, prototyping, and testing. I help with developing engineering solutions and I play a driving role in implementing new product features.
My responsibilities also include the firmware development for zappi, our popular EV charger, as well as its testing. Having been a part of myenergi since the beginning, I support various projects and I’m involved in almost everything from an engineering perspective.
AAC: What do you find most interesting and stimulating about your work at myenergi?
RR: It has all the advantages of a rapidly growing, young tech company—each day is exciting! Every member of the team has a direct influence on the products that we are designing and it is a close-knit group, all working together. The engineering department is very open, there is a lot of free discussion between staff and this generates many of our important ideas.
The business is also very dynamic. There is often a lot going on, multiple projects and challenges to find solutions for. Much of this is driven by the industry we are in; it is a frontier sector that is experiencing rapid growth. Not only is it growing, but it is also focused on addressing some of the biggest challenges we, as a planet, face. In that respect, there is a great sense of purpose and that is reflected in our vision.
AAC: What advice would you give to electrical engineers who are thinking about working in the renewable energy field?
RR: It’s a great industry to work in with constant innovation and great prospects for the future. You are doing something to improve the planet and that feels meaningful. Not only that, but you will undoubtedly work alongside like-minded people with a passion for using technology to change the world.
There is a lot of variety too, with many engineering fields and specialties required for a successful project. It combines power electronics, embedded systems, power control, wireless communications, security, complex IP communications, digital signal processing, and so on.
AAC: So you've focused a great deal on home EV charging and solar applications. What challenge is myenergi tackling next?
RR: We have a number of new and exciting products currently in development. It's a big secret for now but I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about them later this year…
Thank you, Robin, for your time and insights!