Major electric vehicle dilemma solved by Aussie couple's simple idea

Yasemin and Merich Selvi have created Alchemy Charge which allows everyone, even apartment owners, to be able to charge at home.

Alchemy charge founders Yasemin and Merich Selvi.
Yasemin and Merich Selvi created Alchemy Charge, a solution to a frustrating and common problem among EV drivers. Source: Supplied

An Aussie couple has found a solution to a frustrating EV charging problem simply by "monetising the power point", ultimately providing access to easy charging for everyone at home — including apartment dwellers.

Until now, most people living in apartments or strata blocks haven't had access to suitable charging infrastructure, due to costs or maintenance works — issues those living in houses don't have. It's even resulted in Aussies getting creative with how they charge their vehicles.

But the Alchemy Charge smart point, created by Yasemin and Merich Selvi, aims to solve the common dilemma of not being able to charge the vehicle while at home. The idea came to them not long after they each purchased a Tesla a few years back. They have a construction business which works “predominantly in the strata space".

It didn’t take them long to realise the various issues associated with charging EVs in strata buildings.

"The hardware or infrastructure is expensive and the installations are complex — they have to be done by a licensed specialist," she explained. "Also, infrastructure upgrades in older buildings. There’s also not enough power coming into the block to service the amount of charging needed, plus there’s maintenance."

Looking at international markets, which far surpass Australia on the EV transition front, the NSW couple found 95 per cent of EV charging was done at home in some European countries, not with superchargers on busy highways.

Although in Australia, where the number of people living in strata-managed apartment buildings is around 2.5 million nationally and growing, most don't have that option.

Electric vehicle parked in commercial car park charging via smart point.
Alchemy charge is a simple power point that can be installed to individual paring bays allowing electric vehicles to charge. Source: Supplied

So how does it work? Yasemin said it's really simple. All EVs come with a portable charger cable suitable for level one charging, with one exception the Tesla Model Y where it's an add-on. Drivers simply plug that into their wall device which has been pre-installed for $250, and then they scan the QR code.

“Then you activate a charging session, then stop the session and you pay for your usage, either in time or kilowatt. And then once a month we reconcile and we pay the host, usually the strata committee," she said.

"The vision is that you have one in every parking spot as opposed to having dedicated EV parking spots, which kind of eliminates some of the heat as well," she continued. "What we’re mostly seeing is that the tenant or the owner, if they want a power point, then they pay for one of the smart points to be installed in their spot".

left: Electrician installing power point for Alchemy Charge: Right: Car plugged in to power socket on wall.
The power points are installed by an electrician and can be used via the portable charging cable. Source: Supplied

This means, the entire strata committee, including those who won’t be using it, won’t have to pay for it — it’s only those who choose to use it. There’s also a power limitation which means excessive charging won’t fry the system if all used at once — concerns apartment owner and EV convert Robert Till previously expressed to Yahoo.

"You’re not actually sharing the power across X amount of spots. Every spot has a dedicated amount of power,” Yasemin explained.

There’s a queuing system and when one gets unplugged another gets picked up. This means the power won’t get “dialled down” like regular fast chargers.

While a standard power point is enough to effectively charge a vehicle, it does have some setbacks, including the possibility of overheating. The portable charging cables all have heat sensors and can disconnect when they overheat, but not when attached to an extension lead which is often seen.

"The cable’s heat sensor loses its ability to function," she added. Resulting in the car, the wall or the power socket overheating. "It's an obvious hazard".

Alchemy Charge outlet on car park pole.
Public car parks, Airbnbs and strata properties can all benefit from the smart solution. Source: Supplied

It’s not just strata buildings that can benefit though, it’s anywhere where there’s shared power. So commercial car parks, hotels and even Airbnb properties. “It’s a great way to stop power theft," Yasemin said.

So far, Alchemy Charge has been installed at roughly 200 sites nationwide, but demand is rapidly growing. Park on King, a car park at Sydney’s Domestic Terminal is currently taking part, but “we've also got Airbnb's dotted all over Australia”.

"It’s the power loss conversation, so the loss of revenue because of [other people's] power usage. Because the consumption obviously goes up with electric vehicles, “she said. “It also makes sense in caravan parks and self-storage units”.

In October, the NSW government recognised that "more than 90 per cent of EV drivers charge their vehicle at home". And so that "people living in apartments don't miss out," it announced a $10 million budget to retrofit 100 apartment buildings with EV charging stations throughout the state.

The grant is part of the NSW Government’s commitment to rolling out charging sufficient infrastructure by 2030. The grants are for buildings with 10 or more apartments and will co-fund up to 80 per cent, to a maximum of $80,000, of the necessary upgrades.

But for buildings that don't fit the criteria, Alchemy Charge might just be the solution.

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