For the second time in two months consumer electronics heavyweight Belkin has demonstrated its commitment to products that monitor and manage energy consumption. This morning the company, known for its slick wireless electronics and Apple accessories, announced that it has made “a significant” equity investment in Juice Technologies, a 2-year-old company that makes electric vehicle smart charging and home energy monitoring equipment. Belkin and Juice also say in their release that they will co-create energy management products for the residential and small-business market.
Last month Belkin bought up stealthy startup Zensi, which had developed technology for sensing and monitoring electricity use. Both Zensi and Juice’s technology will be incorporated into Belkin’s Conserve line of energy efficient products, and Belkin says later this year it will introduce more Conserve products. (Check out the story behind Zensi.)
Thomas Hurkmans, co-founder and chief financial officer for Juice, told us earlier this year, that a “major consumer electronics company” with “a billion-dollar revenue business” had taken an equity interest in Juice — that seems to be this Belkin deal. Hurkmans told us then that Juice and its new investor would be working on low-cost home energy management systems, and that the investment was big enough that Juice would not need to raise additional funds in the near future.
Belkin’s release on the Juice investment focuses more on developing home and office energy management products. Under the Plug Smart brand name, Juice sells home and business energy management gear, and utility customer information systems along with its smart charging for electric vehicles. But it would be a very interesting move if Belkin actually decided to eventually sell its own mobile smart EV charger under the Belkin brand. Juice’s Plug Smart intelligent electric vehicle charging system uses software to help drivers juice up their car’s batteries at different rates and times, based on when power grid demands and electricity rates are lower.
Juice already scored a joint development deal with General Electric, which it announced earlier this year, to create charging devices that will integrate with GE’s smart meters (see our list of 10 Electric Car Smart Charging Players to Watch). GE and Juice’s chargers will initially roll out in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, with full-scale production ramping up throughout the year and eventually global distribution.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Juice spun out of a company called BottomLine Resource Technologies, and now has “dozens” of utility partners. In particular San Diego Gas & Electric tapped Juice last summer for mobile charger tech to demo as part of a massive government-backed EV infrastructure trial. The intelligent mobile charger would enable EV drivers to plug in anywhere — on the road, at a friend’s house, in a public parking lot — and add the cost of topping off your electric car’s battery to your monthly utility bill.
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