Supported by Upwork. VICE News retains complete editorial independence.Electric cars, which have lower carbon emissions than fuel-powered vehicles, are becoming a popular transportation choice. As a result, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have been popping up everywhere, with the number of EV charging ports predicted to surpass the number of gas stations in the U.S. by 2030. Yet these charging stations are often filled with “out of order” signs, with many even being ripped out of the ground due to an undiagnosed problem.
Kameale Terry and Evette Ellis are co-founders of ChargerHelp!, a startup that is dedicated to fixing these broken EV charging stations. In the third episode of a new documentary series by Motherboard called “Silicon Ceiling,” we spoke with Terry and Ellis about ChargerHelp! and how they’re not only solving charger problems but building an entire workforce of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) technicians. Terry’s first job was in EV driver support, where she was on the phone with stranded drivers to help them get back on the road. Through this experience, she saw that the infrastructure powering EVs and their chargers isn’t reliable or streamlined for users. Terry formulated all the knowledge she learned from diagnosing these issues into a curriculum on the EV ecosystem and what people should understand in order to fix EV charging stations. Ellis, whose career is in workforce development, met Terry at the Los Angeles Cleantech incubator where Terry was training EVSE technicians with her curriculum and Ellis was the career coach on the project. “[Terry] had just completed our first cohort of folks that went through her curriculum, and I think it was their graduation day. She said I want to talk to you. Would you be my co-founder? And I was like, I don't know what a co-founder is. I don't understand entrepreneurship that way. I came from a working family. You know, we get a job, we get a paycheck, we pay our bills on Fridays,” Ellis said. “I really didn’t see where I fit into it, but once she explained to me that workforce development she wanted to be weaved into ChargerHelp!, then I could see my value add there.”
The core mission of ChargerHelp! is not only to fix broken EV charging stations but also to train a workforce of people who can maintain these stations. “In your parking lot, we would sell what we call reliability as a service. And so it's a per month, per charging station fee that allows for essentially unlimited truck rolls and also a clear understanding of what your uptime metrics are,” Terry said. Terry and Ellis hope that their story inspires other female founders, specifically Black female entrepreneurs like themselves. “The advice I would give to other Black female founders specifically is to know your numbers. I think the best thing that I ever did is understand my unit economics. So somebody can ask me what is the cost? What's your price? What's your margin? How can you reduce that? I just make sure that my numbers don't lie,” Terry said. “If you focus on your numbers, you can be profitable and you don't need these investors.”ChargerHelp! recently announced a partnership with Tesla to help survey their charging stations in California and provide insight pertaining to each station’s overall performance.