When Eli Harris co-founded EcoFlow Tech, his goal was to produce a green and mobile energy storage system that could serve as a mobile power station for consumers needing more than a phone charge.
“I wanted to take an industrial amount of power and put it in the consumer market,” said the co-founder and CEO of the company. “There were no portable batteries sized for consumers—only products like the fixed Tesla wall and the small batteries for phones.”
His idea was to put in the hands of consumers a portable battery system that could be paired with solar and used to power lights, camping equipment, small heaters, laptops, power tools, small refrigerators and many other consumer products for customers in the US and abroad.
Working with experienced battery engineers and with $10 million in backing from two of China’s leading supply chain and manufacturing companies, Harris and his associates developed River, a “personal grid” or mobile power station with a 412-watt capacity, the ability to charge 11 devices simultaneously, and a real-time power display. Ecoflow released the product earlier this week on Indiegogo and as of Thursday, had attracted more than $157,000 from 267 backers—523 percent more funding than its goal of $30,000 on Indiegogo.
“We broke $100K in six hours; less than 0.1% of campaigns in history have broken $100K in the first 24 hours and less than 1% of campaigns break $100K total,” said Harris. “It’s an exciting validation of the market demand for River and the new concept of personal energy storage.”
The company launched its product on Indiegogo–in spite of the fact that it had backing from the Chinese companies–because it wanted to build an international brand, get feedback directly from consumers and to show gratitude to early adopters by offering exclusive deals, he said.
“We have a full production line; we wanted to get early customers. We will be shipping in May.” Eight retailers have agreed to carry the product in June, and they are all in the outdoor recreation and power tools industries, Harris said.
The company plans to release larger systems in the near future. “We do have an extremely aggressive product pipeline,” said Harris. “In the next 12 months, we will launch two more products that have different capacities and are more industrial solutions.”
For the prosumer market
For now, however, River is for the prosumer market. “Our most penetrable market is the prosumer market, people who need home backup power, filmmakers, musicians or outdoor campers,” Harris said.
With River, consumers can power a small halogen light, charge a computer 30 times or a phone 50 times. It can keep food cold in a refrigerator or run a heater for a short time, he said.
“We will focus on creatives, outdoor enthusiasts and home backup power. In addition, EcoFlow is working with an anti-poaching group in Kenya. “Medium term, we’ll focus on emergency medical relief—hospitals and schools. Also we’re focusing on powering water filter pumps,” said Harris.
River is unique because it boasts fairly large capacity in a portable unit, and because of its battery management system, said Harris.
The company’s Indiegogo listing says the product is “one-third the weight and double the power of anything on the market.”
“The idea is to replace fuel generators and provide clean personal energy storage,” Harris said. “Batteries are hard to make and hard to control and regulate. There are no standard battery management systems.”
Software contained in the unit provides the needed battery management, providing temperature control and power efficiency.
“It gets the maximum power efficiency out of a cell,” explained Harris. That’s achieved in the lithium ion batteries because the management system recognizes when the batteries are engaged and uses software to keep them in an idle state for as long as possible so they’re not revved up when they’re not supposed to be, he explained.
The battery system has a shelf life of 12 months; if you charge it once a year, it will still have power available, said Harris.
Consumers can run 500 full charge cycles before the capacity of the battery starts to dwindle, Harris said. After 1000 cycles, the capacity will be reduced by 50 percent.
Harris noted that the system has FCC, UL and other certifications.
A personal grid
The system can be charged by most solar panels, but EcoFlow offers its own solar system. The River system has a D.C. input and can accept any charge ranging from 10 to 22 volts. “The solar panels convert charge directly into the DC cable which inputs into River,” he explained. “We encourage people to use any solar solution they have,” he added.
Two companies are in some ways competitors in this market. They are Anker Powerhouse, which offers a number of portable chargers and Goal Zero, which is owned by NRG and also offer portable chargers, said Harris.
EcoFlow is unique, compared to these companies, because its product has “more sophisticated hardware components and superior software algorithms in the battery management system,” according to Harris.
EcoFlow has distributed River to about 150 users, including photographers, musicians, filmmakers and anti-poaching groups in Kenya, he said.
“This isn’t quite a microgrid at the community level, it’s a personal grid, a personal energy storage solution that is totally independent,” said Harris.