Today we spoke with Boaz Weizer, CEO at ZOOZ Power, and Ilan Ben David, Co-Founder & CTO at ZOOZ Power
The Climate Journey
Ilan is a mechanical and electrical engineer, and serial entrepreneur. He got into the climate space after selling his previous semiconductor company to Samsung. He and two former army comrades, and friends (Nir Zohar and David Pincu), founded ZOOZ Power (formerly Chakratec), a leading supplier of flywheel-based power-boosting solutions enabling sustainable, ultra-fast (15-minutes) electric vehicle charging, while overcoming grid limitations and deferring costly and lengthy grid upgrade projects.
The Founding Team - Ilan Ben David, Nir Zohar and David Pincu
Boaz, an electrical engineer and MBA graduate, had spent years working in the defense industry but was eager to make a career change that would allow him to make a positive impact on the global warming crisis. Specifically, he was looking for something in the "clean tech" industry. Therefore, he decided to join ZOOZ Power, a company that was on the verge of commercializing their innovative flywheel technology.
Boaz Weizer, CEO at ZOOZ Power
ZOOZ Power enables cost-effective, sustainable, ultra-fast EV charging anywhere, while overcoming grid limitations. The ZOOZTER is a state-of-the-art kinetic power booster designed to enable ultra-fast charging for electric vehicles in locations with limited power grid capabilities. It draws energy from low power the existing grids, stores it, and provides sustained bursts of energy to enable ultra-fast charging. The ZOOZTER-100 provides over 200,000 high-power charge and discharge cycles with no degradation, recycling or replacement needs over a 15-year lifespan resulting in a significantly lower total cost of ownership.
Their proprietary flywheel technology provides CPOs, asset owners, and fleets the ability to accelerate ultra-fast charging roll-out, defer grid upgrade investments, drive more revenue, and improve customer experience.
As of today, the company raised almost $60 million through IPO's and additional fundraising.
We asked Boaz and Ilan a series of questions:
Q: What’s your tech background and how did you end up in the climate tech?
Ilan: I’m a mechanical and electrical engineer, ZOOZ Power is my third company and after the two previous companies I decided “enough with the nonsense”, climate change is the real problem we are facing and it’s what I should be focusing on. And besides what will I tell my grandchildren that I did to contribute to fighting climate change?”
Boaz: I’m also an electrical engineer, I worked in the defense industry for many years in several positions and divisions. After a long time in the industry, I felt that I needed a change. My main guidelines were a mature startup, preferably cleantech, and perhaps something in the automotive field. Coincidently, I had met a shareholder from ZOOZ Power around that time and that’s how all of my guidelines came together.
Q: Tell me the story behind ZOOZ Power
Ilan: There are two external conditions to becoming a startup; First, you need to come up with something new, and second, you need a market change. I teamed up with two friends from my military unit, Nir Zohar and David Pincu and we started looking at the energy sector. PV Solar energy was already a mature method, energy storage was clearly going towards batteries which are usually polluting and non-recyclable and we identified the opportunity and need to develop a more sustainable technology to this market.
Battery costs back then were $1500 per kWh and we thought that we could build a generic energy storage device with a significantly longer and greener life span. Since then, battery prices had gone down and we understood that we couldn’t compete with regular batteries, so after receiving strong feedback from the industry, we pivoted towards power boosting applications, specifically in EV charging, where the challenge and urgency grew exponentially with the transition to electric transportation worldwide. And that’s when the idea of ZOOZ Power was born.
Q: Can you explain your technology to me twice – once on a very basic level and once for techies who understand the science behind your technology?
Boaz explains that their technology is basically a way to store energy, and provide high bursts of power, using a simplified analogy, it is similar to a “flush” of water that a flush tank provides. The grid infrastructure is limited (like a narrow pipe), making it difficult to charge electric vehicles quickly with massive amounts of energy. Their system draws energy from low power the existing grids, stores it, and provides sustained bursts of energy to enable ultra-fast charging – they “fill up the water tank”, and then quickly “flush" the energy into the EV battery when the car is connected, significantly speeding up the charge time. The technology is designed to be able to handle many (over 200K) charging cycles without degradation, unlike chemical-based batteries.
Ilan elaborated, that. ZOOZ Power has developed and a system which improved a process for storing energy using flywheels,
Their system, called the ZOOZTER-100, is connected to the grid, using a standard 3-phase connection.
This energy is then used to accelerate 8 flywheel modules. Each one is made up of a 0.5-ton mass that rotates at 17,000 RPM around an axis with “frictionless” levitation, using magnetic bearings in a vacuum-sealed housing, and stores it as kinetic energy.
Once an EV is plugged into the charger, the flywheel decelerates while converting the kinetic energy back into electrical energy, and then “flushes” it into the EV charger, increasing available grid power by up to 100 kW and providing the boost necessary for ultra-fast charging. The system is efficient, with a round-trip efficiency of 80%. Additionally, the device has a low carbon footprint, 5% compared to legacy tech, and is made primarily of recycled steel, minimizing its environmental impact.
Q: Can you tell me what kind of collaborations you have and who your market is?
Boaz: We have 4 types of customers:
Charge point operators – looking to accelerate their charging stations roll-out with stable, reliable and cost-effective solutions.
Fleet owners such as car rental companies – who are looking to electrify their fleet but don’t have the right infrastructure in order to do it.
Property owners such as convenient stores, fast-food restaurants and more who – have real estate and want to provide charging services (as a service to attract customers or as a new way to generate revenue)
EPC companies – who are developing the infrastructure and are looking for creative and cost-effective ways to operate.
Q: Tell me about your rebranding from Chakratec to ZOOZ Power
Boaz: As the EV market advances and the demand for sustainable energy solutions increases, Chakratec recognized the need to differentiate itself from competitors and sharpen its messaging to better resonate with its target audience. By investing in a rebranding effort, the company was able to not only refine its visual identity and communications strategy, but also convey its unique technology and approach to the different stakeholders and potential customers. A strong brand can help a company stand out in a crowded market and communicate its value proposition clearly, and Chakratec's rebranding efforts were a strategic move to better position itself for success in the future. We believe that our new name is catchier and more memorable, and clearly indicates our focus on quickly moving towards sustainable energy solutions in response to the climate crisis. The name “ZOOZ” besides meaning “move!” in Hebrew, is also associated with the idea of electricity (the Z’s represent lightning) and flywheels (represented by the O’s), which aligns with the company's use of kinetic-based technology for storing energy.
Q: Where do you see ZOOZ Power in 5 years?
Boaz: ZOOZ Power will become a major supplier of power boosters to the EV charging infrastructure industry within the next five years. We believe that the market is in an early stage and we’re helping customers accelerate their electrification rollout with our innovative product.
Q: What are the main difficulties/barriers you are facing? And how did you overcome some so far?
Ilan: The main barrier we faced was technological, it took a long time and know-how to develop a reliable version of the flywheel. The second barrier was the slow development of the market, and challenges in scaling up and convincing customers to invest in new EV charging infrastructure and technology. It’s difficult to penetrate a new market with new technology. The main challenge is market education and building trust with customers. We believe that patience is needed to go through these stages and that we’re working on building trust with customers by rolling out systems in the next few months.
Q: What’s your key to success?
Boaz: I think that it’s a combination of factors, including having the insight and vision to develop the technology and enter the market at the right time, having a strong and capable team of good people in order to develop and improve the product, and a synchronized effort to build all aspects of the company, including product development, marketing and operations. Because our technology is so complex, it's important to have all aspects of the company working together, like having both legs and arms running together to be stable on the path.
Q: What makes your team a super team?
Boaz: Our team is made up of talented, experienced people who believe in ZOOZ Power's vision and have the determination to overcome challenges. It’s important to mention that the energy industry is different from software development, as it has a longer maturing time and requires a higher level of resolve to succeed. The team must be mature enough to handle the difficulty and length of the journey, which is often full of ups and downs. A team spirit is necessary to overcome these challenges, and it's important to be able to stand up and keep going after setbacks.
Ilan: It’s a marathon, not a sprint so our team's resilience is definitely part of what makes them a super team.
Q: Do you have intimidating competitors?
Ilan: This is a young and huge market, there is room for everyone. We believe that competition is good and it only makes us better, but as of now – this isn't “the winner takes it all” situation as there really is room for many players. However, with our industry-leading kinetic energy storage solution and a different, more holistic approach, we have a big advantage looking ahead as the market will evolve and mature. Our unique technology and expertise allow us to offer unparalleled value to our customers.
As the industry grows and new players enter the market, we are confident in our ability to maintain our position as a leader in sustainable energy storage solutions.
Q: If you had one tip to give to other climate tech entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Boaz: It’s all about patience and resolution, you need to focus your efforts on a specific need or problem. Every niche here is an “ocean” so you don’t want to exhaust your effort by trying to solve everything at once.
Ilan: be prepared for a long journey and make sure that you have passion for the field, if you’re driven by a higher purpose, it’ll be easier for you to endure and even enjoy the long way.