Electric car charger testing in a box

With electric cars slowly rolling out in 2012, can a business model be built around providing a new kind of modular testing equipment for electric car chargers? A startup called Gridtest Systems hopes so, and has just started selling its diagnostic and testing machines to charging network developers and charger makers.
Gridtest System’s CEO Neal Roche tells me in an interview on Tuesday that there’s a significant amount of investment being made — by both the charger makers and the charger network developers — into making sure electric car chargers are compatible, as well as into charger research and development. “There are 75 to 100 companies that have entered the electric car charging market. Anyone who can bend metal is trying to build a charging station,” said Roche.
Because it’s an early market, Roche’s diagnostic machine can also help customers figure out what charger gear is compatible with what cars and wall sockets in an ecosystem of still-evolving standards. The nascent market also means that charger makers are focused on testing to make sure that the chargers are reliable and ruggedized enough to withstand months and years of use outdoors — there’s not exactly years of field testing on these devices.
Gridtest System’s charger diagnostic machines, which are priced at $4,000 and $8,000 for two different models, mimic an electric car when plugged into the charger, and verify and report how the charger works and then creates a diagnostic report. The box is a combination of hardware and software and Roche’s background is in the networking world. The connection between the electric car and the charger is essentially networking, too, and Roche explains that the car and the charger need to complete “a handshake,” to start working.
Gridtest Systems has a small handful of customers currently and recently raised a seed round of funding from LA-based angel investors Pasadena Angels and Tech Coast Angels. The startup is also a regional winner for the Cleantech Open Business Competition and Accelerator.