The LEGO of EV charging stations


If you’ve been following HappyValley Industry’s coverage of this year’s Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program participants, then you’ve already learned about a few of the cool startups to most recently come out of Penn State, from an app that helps consumers gauge wait times at bars and restaurants to a drug discovery solution that will help pharmaceutical companies get better treatments to patients, faster. In our last article in the series, we’re introducing you to Streamline Charging, an EV charging solutions startup that’s poised to make big industry changes within the year. 

Jonathan Smith is at the helm and, already, the business has seen marked success. Streamline Charging received $25,000 through VentureWell's E-Teams program, participated in the Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank spring 2024 FastTrack Accelerator program and received $10,000 in the Invent Penn State Inc.U competition. The Summer Founders Program is just the latest Penn State entrepreneurial resource that Smith and team have taken advantage of, in order to propel their plans further.  

Smith is currently an architectural engineering student at Penn State, starting his master’s program in the fall. Over his time at the university, he’s worked on a range of sustainability-related products, both at Penn State and via internships.  

As for how Streamline Charging got its start, Smith said, “I’ve had this project going on since my freshman year. I was investigating movable charging stations…and then about eight months ago, when I was looking into the FastTrack Accelerator, I realized this is something that people actually really need. That’s when I decided to go all in and really push to make it something.” 

Smith describes Streamline Charging as the LEGO of EV charging stations. In a typical parking garage, for example, there are charging stations at each individual parking space; in addition to the cost for each station, each station also comes with an install cost that can easily be double the cost of the station itself. Generally, each station can provide a full charge to an EV over eight hours. 

Streamline Charging changes all of this. The startup’s charger features a track with one extremely fast charging station. With the track affixed to a parking garage’s wall, the charging cord can move along the track, so it can service five separate parking spaces. Because the station can charge EVs in just about an hour (compared to eight), with users reserving the charger via an app, five vehicles can use the charger efficiently, with little competition. This ultimately cuts the costs for those who want to offer EV charging stations in their buildings, as they only need to purchase one charger, with one installation fee.  

“The goal is to service anyone who needs charging stations,” said Smith. “The industry is really in its infancy, so right now we’re targeting mainly parking garage operators... Probably in three to five years, apartment buildings will really start taking this seriously.” 

Smith also mentions hotels as potential customers and, while demand for such a solution is relatively low in State College, Streamline Charging still plans to install a demo station in the town. As of late May, the team has ordered all its initial parts and the demo station will be installed within the next two months, and, in four to eight weeks, Streamline Charging will be ready to take orders. 

“This was the one project I was working on that really had an opportunity and a viable market case,” Smith described. “We can lower the cost of installation and charging stations by 20–40%. It was so refreshing to see something in [sustainable] transportation that’s viable today, rather than [something] that would take hundreds of millions of dollars to actually implement.”  

This, combined with Smith’s genuine passion, is why he feels Streamline Charging has been successful thus far in capturing the attention of programs like Summer Founders. And, just as the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem is taking a chance on and investing in the startup, so is Smith. He forwent internship opportunities to spend the summer in State College to participate in the program — an opportunity he said he felt he would regret not taking.  

The Summer Founders Program is already underway and, so far, Smith has said he’s been reaching out to hundreds of property managers, parking structure owners and architects, to uncover how he can expand the startup beyond State College, with an eye on expanding in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh first. The program, as well as Penn State’s similar entrepreneur resources, have been invaluable to the process, he said. 

“Before I started the FastTrack Accelerator,” he described, “I was just wandering. I didn’t know what I was doing, without the guidance of the LaunchBox.”  

His advice for anyone who wants to follow a similar path, taking advantage of Happy Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? “Talk to Elizabeth Hay, first and foremost,” he said, bringing up the Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank. “She’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.”  


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