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Charlotte-area startup wants to improve the EV-charging experience

Jeff Constantineau (left) and Justin Taylor are co-founders of Monroe-based Koulomb, which is building a regional network of electric vehicle fast chargers, like this one in Matthews.
David Boraks
Jeff Constantineau (left) and Justin Taylor are co-founders of Monroe-based Koulomb, which is building a regional network of electric vehicle fast chargers, like this one in Matthews.

As U.S. drivers contemplate joining the electric vehicle revolution, the availability of charging stations on the road is a big concern. First, you need to find one. And then there's another question: Is it working? Internet forums and social media are full of kvetching about public chargers out of order.

A Charlotte-area startup company called Koulomb is trying to solve that problem as it builds a network of fast chargers in the region. Fast chargers are the highest-powered type of charger on the market. They can recharge an EV battery to 80% within 15 minutes to an hour.

Monroe-based Koulomb owns, installs, operates and maintains its own charger network, at sites leased from property owners. It buys the fastest equipment it can get from top manufacturers. And it watches for problems 24 hours a day. The goal is no downtime, said co-founder Jeff Constantineau.

"Ninety-nine percent-plus uptime is important to us," Constantineau said. "We've got cameras, and we've got all kinds of hardware doing asset monitoring to make sure that these things work when you show up. And you know, we think that that scales pretty well."

Some problems can be fixed remotely. When that doesn't work, a repair crew is ready to respond, he said.

That's not exactly the standard these days. Koulomb hopes its approach will help it stand out in a market dominated by national players such as Tesla, Electrify America and ChargePoint. More automakers and traditional gas stations are getting in on the game, too — GM and Pilot last year announced plans to install fast chargers at 500 Pilot and Flying J stations, for example. Convenience stores, such as Circle K, also are building their own charging networks.

Koulomb recently installed its first four-port charging station at a shopping center in Matthews and has more sites in the pipeline.

"We are heavily focused on the fastest chargers in the country — 360 kilowatts or more — placing them in high opportunity locations: shopping centers, places basically where people eat, play, that type of situation," said Constantineau, who co-founded Koulomb in 2021 with three other investors and entrepreneurs.

The number of chargers is growing rapidly in the U.S. (the Biden administration estimates there are over 130,000), but the quality, accessibility and speed at which they charge a car varies widely. There are about 145,000 gas stations according to the American Petroleum Institute, and pretty much any one of them will fill any standard car on the road in minutes.

Fossil-free electricity for your car?

    One other selling point: clean electricity. At a time when electricity from local utilities is still largely powered by fossil fuels, Koulomb has both short-term and long-term solutions for that.
    "The other thing that I believe sets us apart is all of our electrons are backed by renewable energy. So we are purchasing solar renewable-energy credits to offset any electrons coming off the grid. All the kilowatt hours deployed to the car are backed by that," he said.

    "I think some of our competitors are doing that. Some aren't," Constantineau said. "Because we are at core a renewable energy company, we want to make sure that that's part of the customer value proposition as well."

    Filling up at Koulomb's Matthews charger will cost you 45 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s more expensive than the 10 or 11 cents you'd pay in North Carolina if you charged at home, as most EV drivers do. EVs have different-sized batteries so filling up to the recommended 80% charge would cost between $20 and $25, according to Koulomb. That's still well below what it costs to fill a gas-guzzler's tank.

    Eventually, Koulomb hopes to install solar-panel canopies at each site, to generate its own clean energy and protect users from the elements. When it comes to solar energy, the company has a head start.

    Koulomb grew out of Monroe-based Pure Power Contractors, which installs, monitors and maintains large solar farms. Pure Power’s president, Justin Taylor, who is another Koulomb co-founder, had begun installing EV chargers a decade ago. It was a tough business. But then two things changed, Taylor said.

    • A 2019 North Carolina law allowed charging stations to bill by the kilowatt (the amount of energy used), instead of by time. Until then, state law said only regulated utilities could sell electricity.
    • The number of EVs on the road began growing, boosting demand for charging stations.

    "The North Carolina Legislature allowed third-party electricity sales (through) EV chargers, and the model changed at that point. And that's where we started looking at it again," Taylor said.
    Taylor met Constantineau and in 2021, they founded Koulomb along with a third partner, Mario Fisichello. (An interesting note about their name: The nationwide charging network ChargePoint was founded with a similar name — Coulomb Technologies, but later changed it. A coulomb is a unit of electric charge named for a French physicist. Constantineau and Taylor said they haven't run into any difficulties.)

    Koulomb's growth plans

    Each site can cost $500,000 to $1 million, according to Constantineau. So far, the founders have financed the startup with their own money and equipment loans. They hope to have 15 sites up and running by the end of this year.

    "So we'll grow as fast as we can. And at some point, for us to grow outside the region, we may need to do a capital raise or something fun like that," Constantineau said.

    Federal money could help. He says they hope to take advantage of federal incentives, such as the 30C Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. It pays 30% of the cost of a charging station, up to $100,000, with a focus on low-income and rural areas. There's also money available through the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. NEVI will pay up to 80% of the cost of a charging station.

    So how will people find Koulomb's chargers?

    EV drivers typically use an onboard or smartphone application to plan trips and find chargers, and Koulomb is listed on all the major apps. But for Constantineau, "It's about how do they find us, first? And, then, why did they come back?"

    "Whether you're driving a Tesla, or you're driving a Porsche or a Kia, you should see us (on the app) when you need a charge. That's the first thing," Constantineau said. "When you use our equipment, though, we believe you'll have a great experience."

    He said Koulomb's 360-kilowatt station "is faster and bigger than a Tesla Supercharger, which means a faster charge, a more efficient charge." And they're compatible with any EV.

    Koulomb hopes that builds customer loyalty.

    Koulomb's first public chargers are at Chestnut Arbor Shopping Center at 2945 Matthews Weddington Road, near Mario’s Italian Restaurant. More information is at

    And here's a primer on charger types and speeds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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