Dr. Shihab Kuran

Interview by
Published on
October 6, 2022

In this episode...

Dr. Shihab Kuran is the Founder, President & CEO of Power Edison and the Founder & Executive Chairman of EV Edison. These marketplace-leading enterprises point the way to the quickly emerging electrification of America’s transportation sector. As a pacesetting manufacturer and innovative developer of high-power charging solutions intended for electric vehicles, EV Edison for example offers fast-charging stations, for light, medium, and heavy-duty charging. In this provocative episode “serial entrepreneur” Dr. Shihab Kuran explains where the transformation of energy is ultimately taking us and what it will mean for the vital transportation and supply chain sector in the United States and globally.

Dr. Shihab Kuran

Dr. Shihab Kuran is the Founder, President & CEO of Power Edison and the Founder & Executive Chairman of EV Edison. These marketplace-leading enterprises point the way to the quickly emerging electrification of America’s transportation sector.


i have to say what we're witnessing today in terms of the broader energy transition solar wind energy storage the electrification of the transportation sector is something that's unique welcome to life of the mile delivered by breakworks one of america's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by brooke indicted to tell stories compelling drivers i need to do something industry all here right now

this is life of the mile delivered by freightworks i'm your host butch maltby and uh i am thrilled that today we have the opportunity to speak to a marketplace leader and expert in the whole area of the electrification of of the transportation industry our guest today is dr shihab curran founder president and ceo of power edison he's also the founder executive chairman of evie edison now listen i i learned from a conversation that we had before this podcast today that you're a serial entrepreneur we're going to learn more about that in just a minute but let me put a stake in the ground for our viewers and listeners and let you know that ev edison what we'll be talking about is a manufacturer and developer of high power charging solutions intended for electric vehicles the company offers fast charging stations for light medium and heavy-duty charging and provides engineering construction and third-party charging sites enabling charging infrastructure to scale up and promote clean energy energy we're so thrilled to have you here with us today thank you for having me today thank you well you know what i'm going to jump right in without uh much clarification here let me give you a comment that julie ferber the executive director of electrified power for cummins inc said there are many predictions about electrification the reality is for the foreseeable future we're going to need a range of power solutions to provide fleets with the best opportunity for meeting their needs nacfe sheds light on many of the complexities that will impact the rate of electrified power adoption in commercial trucks i want you as an expert in this industry to paint the picture of where are we in terms of the marketplace's acceptance of of of this direction and what does the future look like so paint that picture for us sure so when it comes to electrification of the transportation sector clearly the battery based electrification is happening for the light duty vehicles we see that everywhere we see every oem either having one or more programs in production or complete wholesale changeover to the products over to electric vehicles when it comes to medium and heavy duty uh it is not as clear-cut and for many reasons one of them is the it is a lot more of a hard roi rather than a soft roi calculation looking at savings looking at technology roadmap adoption and what we're seeing today are two factors that are impacting the adoption rate one is the upfront capital cost associated with electric medium and heavy duty vehicles as compared to standard ice tok internal combustion base engine vehicles that additional cost goes away if you look at the levelized cost per mile or level is cost of ownership and so what we see in the industry is we see a number of players who are willing to finance that extra capex and recover their cost of finance through the savings on the opex side because it is clear that electrified medium and heavy duty vehicles have a major advantage when it comes to the economics the second obstacle that we see is the infrastructure problem meaning one can make the decision to electrify a fleet but what we see uh because of many reasons which i'm happy to dive into because that's our core business the infrastructure becomes a show stopper there aren't there isn't enough power to charge the vehicles in time and we're talking about serious power we're talking about megawatts of power if someone were to electrify appropriately with the latest technology i'll pause here and see if you have comments or questions let me let me ask you this question are we able at this point given our anticipation of the uh embracing of of this technology are we able to anticipate and create a trajectory for what the power needs will be in stages in other words how how far away are we can you can you paint that picture yeah um i'm going to give you i mean i am in new jersey so i'll give you some numbers based on new jersey and and we can extrapolate from there and i'll speak to the light duty vehicle side for a second and then we can uh either use math or use our imagination to what it looks like on the medium and heavy duty new jersey has about six million six million light duty vehicles and if all of them were to be electrified as policies and plans called for and assuming each one of those vehicles have access to what we call a level two charger level two is simply a a 240 electrical outlet like your dryer outlet nothing more nothing less so nothing fancy potentially any garage any home even you know sidewalk or shopping center can have those outlets so if we had an outlet at the level two power level for each one of the six million light duty vehicles uh typically it's about 10 kilowatts for the level two level one is like your 110 or 120 outlet that's about a one 1.2 kilowatt rating level two takes it to about ten that becomes ten kilowatts times six million vehicles that potentially might charge at the same time but even if they don't they have that power capacity available you multiply 10 kilowatts times 6 million vehicles that gives us 60 gigawatts of power requirement 6 0 60 gigawatts it took us over 100 years in new jersey to build a power grid that peaks at seventeen one seven unbelievable so unbelievable we haven't even touched the medium in heavy duty which a state like new jersey and and others have a a kind of oversized share if you wish of medium and heavy duty transportation so the scale is massive

um incredible and so described for us given that and that was a very apt description and and very keen on on the matter describe for us what the solutions are to that dilemma and how you're addressing that yeah sure so obviously this is uh an all hands on deck approach in terms of upgrading the infrastructure we see that at the federal level through through legislation through grants through loans for example the department of energy and specifically the lpo program at the doe uh has billions of dollars allocated uh for the energy transition and and the electrification of the transportation infrastructure so we see a number of of programs coming out of the the feds for that we see state programs uh we call those primarily make ready programs uh that's kind of a coin phrase in the industry make readies effectively making the grid ready making the infrastructure investment ready to for people to bring their chargers and plug in and charge their vehicles so so first of all on the policy side on the federal side on the state level side everyone is moving but the private sector eventually in in one way or another is kind of footing most of the bill for that for that payment so if there's an upgrade and especially if you're a large fleet you tend to pay for most of the expense smaller programs you might get subsidies and so what we see is uh literally possibly hundreds of billions of dollars that would be required for the upgrade of the infrastructure of the grid and that the only way to finance that is through the forward-looking savings of switching over from fossil based fuels and the distinct savings to electrified transport and and then that is a massive investment uh why is it massive obviously upgrading the grid is expensive and it's you know the reliability the safety the issues relating with access and and and very expensive equipment the grid is not an inexpensive machine it happens to be the most expensive machine we ever built it's actually the grid the electrical grid system so so it is a multi-year uh national project to be honest with you this is not something that can be taken on in a regional or city or private sector alone uh power just like water the public gets involved because you have right-of-ways you have other issues everyone needs to come together and it is in in my you know career this is actually even larger than what i've seen with solar and with wind and i saw a study in march of this year i think by the bloomberg new energy finance that shows that electrification the e-mobility they call it industry had exceeded in terms of size financial size that of the solar wind industry combined so it's a big incredible now let me let me also ask you this and of course when we get into these issues of infrastructure and new technology and particularly america's love affair with vehicles and driving and opinions and the like this is not a political question but what do you see as the number of years that it will take for this transformation of how we power our transportation to take place how long do you believe this is going to take you're in a position to give those kind of pressy and insights yeah so i think i think it goes by classes of vehicles and and types uh meaning uh these are vehicles that have a short route of say a hundred miles or less versus long haul um i think uh but in in any scenario i have not seen anything where a complete transition would happen in in less than uh 15 to 20 years at a minimum so it is it is not an overnight obviously and especially if you combine that with what we see with supply chain challenges but you know the grid itself is not ready uh that is why we have two companies we have power edison and ev addison two sister companies one is bringing energy storage innovative energy storage solutions the other one is taking those energy storage solutions coupling them with ev charging and electrification technologies and solutions we are doing a lot of things to help accelerate that timeline for example in the new york metropolitan area we have a site in kearney um about 10 minutes from port newark the largest port on the east coast where we're building the us largest uh supercharging hub it's designed for 200 megawatts over 130 acre site to help accelerate and really move the needle on charging infrastructure in an area like the new york metropolitan area with about 20 22 million people live and there's a fairly significant uh number of medium and heavy duty vehicles interesting now let me let me ask you this is there another country globally that can inform the path that we're currently on and what country might that be and what have we learned so i i would say europe has definitely been ahead not as a country but as a continent and as a market block has been ahead of us in terms of uh infrastructure investment in terms of policies in terms of electrification uh china also has been up there in terms of electrification if you look at the energy storage market the largest battery manufacturers have been coming out of china while we have tesla here tesla has been primarily focused on light duty vehicles but if we look at medium and heavy duty vehicles we see china you look at companies like byd byd has come to the u.s i personally first time met with them over 10 years ago and they they have a dominant position in the buses the school buses and municipal buses and other the likes they also have um class six through class eight uh tractors specialty uh trucks as well that have been electrified um as we know you know these tesla semis are just starting so we we uh can be informed from what we see in europe europe has a number of companies volvo and others uh and the infrastructure as well with through companies like abb uh european company that has done a good job with the charging equipment and protocols so i would look to europe i would look to china uh as two geographies and marketplaces where we can be informed and what to do next and can you unpack for us those companies tell us exactly what they do tell us what the realities are of those enterprises and what you see in the years ahead paint the picture of the founder and ceo at this point sure um so i uh career-wise i i started in the tech space primarily many years ago almost 30 years ago but about uh 15 16 years ago i decided to take a deeper dive in the energy sector and i founded a company called petra solar back in 2006 and we developed very innovative solutions in smart grid and inverter and solar technologies and a couple of years after we launched and built the world's largest solar project which was built in new jersey primarily made of up to 200 000 solar panels on utility poles anyone traveling through new jersey they can look up and see solar panels on poles new jersey is densely populated land is expensive and the poles exist and mechanically strong electrically connected so we developed a technology to allow deployment in a cost-effective fashion and we did that and then we expanded from there to international markets and so on i ran that company for about seven years and and then uh joined in an executive capacity companies like sun edison which was the world's largest renewable energy developer at the time and then after that company called nrg which is the us largest independent power producer with over 50 000 megawatts of generation capacity but then in 2016

some of my colleagues and i decided like we wanted to kind of go back to entrepreneurial routes and establish a company focus on what we call mobile energy storage and we founded power edison in march of 2016 focus on utility scale really large batteries on trucks or on rail or on barges where we can bring infrastructure solutions to areas that need it and where maybe great upgrades are lagging and we did really well we actually won a contract with a major utility in the us for the world's largest fleet of mobile batteries on trucks that that utility can use to stand up the grid and then support the grid depending where they need it and where they need it and and then those solutions are earmarked for supporting the grid what we saw a couple of years ago is that the major requirements or the main requirements for grid solutions were coming from the transportation sector in the form of looking for power solutions for uh from the grid and those were not happening fast enough so to give you an example if a municipality has buses or municipal equipment and they electrify and they need to bring a megawatt or two or three they call the local utility and it might take a year might take five to bring that power so we took the mobile power from power edison we combined that with electric vehicle charging solutions in business and sales and marketing and we created a new company a sister company called ev edison primarily focused on addressing the electrification market and we went out there we secured the partnership for the site that i mentioned earlier the 130 acre site by new york that's a a billion dollar plus real estate site that we're working with our partner on making it the largest uh supercharging hub in the country uh we are combining very innovative eb charging equipment with mobile batteries offering those to a number of top names that were under nda with where they can mention specific names but they are the ones you see on tv having made large purchases of for their fleets and they need electrification solutions so we step in we partner with them we shuttle electrons we bring barges we bring trucks and we plug that gap between today and the time when the grid is upgraded so to be specific if you have a yard and you have trucks that need to be charged and you don't have the electrical connection we can charge a battery on a truck let's say 20 minutes away an hour away or less or whatever and we charge it we bring it to the site and this mobile battery will charge all these vehicles and then overnight it goes back to charge again we can repeat this in a cost effective fashion so power edison has technology on mobile batteries ev edison takes that and specifically addresses the ev market and i can tell you there's so much demand because of the fact that the electrification is happening at a rate much faster than the grid can be upgraded i absolutely i love this for for so many different reasons uh i love knowing by the way that the way that you're gifted and most people don't know this we had an off podcast conversation you started out doing businesses and i'm just so grateful that you went all the way from that fruit and vegetable business to one that is doing the things that it's doing here today it's it's absolutely in incredible and when you think about what's happening with electrification if there's not the power sources then uh you're going to have some people that are discouraged and say why move in this direction that is true and and uh you know it's uh looking looking back at successes or failures uh for for any entrepreneur and i'm one of them i have more failures than successes uh but when you when you look at a common thread of entrepreneurship uh look at passion look at the lessons learned it's amazing that regardless of the technology regardless of the market uh much of the experience is the same in terms of building businesses that address problems in the market and how do you how do you become successful i have to say what we're witnessing today in terms of the broader energy transition solar wind energy storage the electrification of the transportation sector is something that's unique if you look at the energy market for the last say 100 years when technologies were being introduced um nothing is happening at the at the scale and at the speed at which we're seeing things happen today well and it's so important because you you need people that can look up around the corner and see what's happening and then develop solutions to that and um you know let me ask this some have asked the question is it likely is it possible that there may be some as yet unknown energy source that will you know compromise the direction of electrification is that just science fiction or any quick thoughts on that no i i think look at deep at heart i am a technical person my phd is in electrical engineering so i respect what technology and science can do and and how they can transform our lives and frankly uh when you look at the technology of solar and the car the fast pace at which that cost dropped you know look at the technology of battery storage and the chemistries and how fast again the cost and the reliability has has been improving um we're not smart enough today to know what's around the corner five years from today or ten years from today and i think um i definitely see either startup companies or large companies working on disruptive solutions and technologies as a matter of fact when you look at

large let's say heavy duty vehicles you see in the marketplace today that some are doubling down on battery storage as the source of you know kind of storing that energy to propel the vehicle but others are betting on other forms rather than chemical storage which is a battery maybe hydrogen so you see hydrogen as a competing solution for the heavy duty sector because hydrogen is a good carrier of energy in the form of that you take that hydrogen to a fuel cell and you know now you create the electricity and thus motion through electric motors and so uh today i see a race between battery storage and hydrogen you know both are clean no no no pipe emissions in either but uh when you think about that energy source meaning where the energy can come from rather than be stored in um uh there's you know i mean we we see things uh at the grid level you see some innovative uh nuclear uh small systems at 10 megawatt each if if they decide to take that to a smaller level and put it in a pod you know you can you can propel the vehicle i mean the cost obviously is high but again we we've all been surprised with how fast costs can come down when you take it into high volume production i've seen uh technologies on the battery side that are very innovative i've seen uh things like potentially 3d capacitors that can have significantly longer life than batteries and if they're done right the size can be shrunk the weight can be shrunk it's much safer cheaper so a lot of competing technologies in the place that will surprise the good news is they're all moving in the right direction so what we see today in terms of range and cost and weight all these are going to improve and that's something we can bet on so what you're basically saying is that there's a coalition a coalescing of forces that are moving us in this direction and i love how your company is predicated on creating a solution during this interim time frame until the infrastructure and the grid can be where it where it needs to be now if there are people that are watching or listening that want to learn more about your company companies what what should they do and where could they go sure so we we have a website for power edison power edison dot com power addison one word dot com and the website for ev addison is ev dash edison dot com uh that the sites we have a contact form it's simple you put in your contact info you tell us your contact info what you're looking for and we we're an entrepreneurial business we're very responsive we'll come back to you have a discussion we can act as an extension to your team sometimes sometimes we tell you if we can't help you we point you in the right direction we're really passionate about creating the solution and and we are fully immersed in this with a very large number of partners some are small some are large we are involved in policies we're involved in a number of things and i have to say i'm very humbled uh by the passion and the experience of my colleagues that i work with one of one of them made it most recently to the list of forbes 30 under 30. i mean so working with and and his name is yazan working with someone like yazan who's just brilliant uh again to make it of the list of forbes 30 under 30. at ev addison we we are honored and lucky to have a gentleman by the name of dave daley to join us as the president of evie edison dave until recently was the president of the utility in new jersey called pseng and had 30 almost 38 years of experience you know responsible providing power and reliability and you know at the grid level in the new york area at a company that was uh pseg and psng the parent company fourth largest uh electric power company in the united states so i am working with really amazing people that i'm learning from every day and so to answer your question you can reach out to us through the websites and you will have access to the expertise and knowledge that we have and if we can be of help that'll be great well i'm going to say this i say it often the mark of good conversations is they end quickly and ours is coming to an end i'm gonna also say this um if i was stuck on a desert island i think you're on my short list of people that i'd love to to be on the desert island as well because i'm confident you figured out so you would figure out some solution using a team approach to whatever our dilemmas were and uh it's been an absolute delight to have you now listen i know you don't need merchandise and i'm not selling anything but we have a thing that we do at the end of every one of our interviews where i'm like a host for qvc or online shopping and i'm going to tell you one of four things that we're going to send to you as a gift for uh being here it it it's not a 10 million dollar investment but it's our small way of of saying we appreciate you so one item that we have is this uh it's going to be winter before we know it it's a life by the mile little uh hat it's got a leather patch there we've got um the freightworks one hat here it's uh brightworks one studio that we're in that's a hat option we know uh people understand what yeti is we've got a yeti mug good for hot or cold it's got the freightworks one logo the life by the mile logo and then at the mid-america truck show this year this was a hit we had this patriotic themed uh hat with the leather patch so we're going to get your address and send one of those can you tell me real quickly which one you want we'll send it on i'll i'll go for the nuggets scott both logos so that's nice great and uh you know i have really appreciated you you've unpacked some interesting technical information but more than anything else uh i i've appreciated your your heart you know what i i heard someone say once that when your work becomes your play you're really in a great place and i can tell it's not a drudgery that there's still this anticipation this curiosity this desire to to make solutions and it certainly comes through i hope we can have you on again soon this is dr shihab curran founder and president ceo of power edison founder and executive chairman of eb edison he is one of the people that's the tip of the spear with his companies in helping us in this transformation and how we help america move it's been a delight to have you and look forward to talking to you again thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to this channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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