Spotlight on St. Pete Tech: CHARGED

Electric vehicles (EVs) represent a fast-moving trend that is destined to revolutionize our car-dependent society – a trend that’s spurring a lot of economic activity in several industries.

Not all of the action is in California. Charged, the world’s only regular print and digital magazine about electric vehicles, is a well-known and respected voice in the EV industry, and it’s based right here in St Petersburg.

Like many publishing efforts these days, Charged is a global company – contributors send in articles from all over the world, and the editors regularly travel to trade shows and other industry events in Silicon Valley, Detroit, Europe and elsewhere. However, the key personnel, Founder and Publisher Christian Ruoff, Senior Editor Charles Morris, and Associate Publisher and Ad Director Laurel Zimmer, all live and work in The Burg.

“I first moved to St Pete in 2007 and worked as an engineer for a company called Techno-Solis that manufactures solar thermal panels,” said Ruoff. “In 2008, I cofounded a company to design and manufacture power electronics for people who want to build their own EVs. In the following few years, it became clear that the technology was building a lot of momentum and the EV industry was about to take off.”

“When engineers look at EVs we see a much better system than gas-burners in so many ways,” continued Ruoff. “If you gathered together the world’s best engineers and asked them to design a transportation system from scratch, they would never come up with what we have today. EVs are both better cars (because they’re more fun to drive) and they offer a better system on a macro level (more efficient, can be powered by electricity generated from any source, etc.). So, many engineers in the auto industry have grown increasingly excited about the possibilities of electric drive, but in 2010, I could not find a good media outlet that regularly covered the technology advancements that we were seeing.”

Founded in 2011, Charged has grown to serve over 30,000 subscribers to the magazine with more than 1 million pageviews and 400,000 unique visitors to its website in the past year. Charged is a trade magazine – its readership consists mainly of professionals who work in the EV industry, from engineers to corporate execs, as well as members of government and advocacy organizations.

“People are surprised to learn that we actually print the magazine,” said Ruoff. “But for trade media, I think it’s still the best format by far. When you go to a conference, you can’t beat putting a magazine in attendees’ hands. We distribute to offices all over the world and regularly get requests for more copies because a co-worker took someone’s magazine, even though all the content is also available online. One of our best tools for selling advertising is a quote that Tesla’s Chief Motor Design Engineer said onstage at a conference last year: ‘At Tesla, we keep the past issues of Charged on the bookshelf for employees to share. We also recently had some visitors who recognized me from the interview we did last year, which was great.’”

Charged Founder Christian Ruoff (right) interviews Tesla’s Chief Motor Design Engineer (left) in 2016 at a motor manufacturing conference in Berlin Germany.

Every issue features several original articles based on interviews with industry movers and shakers, plus an in-depth roundup of all the latest EV-related news. The content is divided into three areas – The Vehicles, The Tech and The Infrastructure.

Passenger cars get most of the coverage in the mainstream press, but electrification is steadily transforming almost every form of transportation, and the Vehicles section of Charged covers it all. Electric city buses are a particularly fast-growing field. St Petersburg’s PSTA recently decided to join dozens of cities around the world and test battery-electric transit buses – two e-buses are scheduled to debut on Beach Drive in 2018. Electric commercial vehicles are another hot topic – the latest issue of Charged features a cover story on Workhorse, a company that is building an electric pickup truck. Charged has also covered electric boats, construction equipment, trains and airplanes.

The Tech section reports the latest advances in the industry from universities and research institutes around the world. The most prominent quest in the EV world is for improvements in battery tech – thousands of scientists are working on ways to make batteries lighter, smaller, cheaper and safer, as well as improving their energy capacity and charging time. Meanwhile, the imperative to make cars lighter and more efficient is spurring research in many fields: improved motors and electronic components, lighter materials, more efficient assembly methods and cheaper and more environmentally friendly raw materials.

The Infrastructure section is all about charging. Many companies, from global giants to small startups, are producing charging equipment for home/workplace use and for public charging stations. Charging network operators, automakers, electric utilities and government agencies are partnering in various ways to deploy a quickly-growing global web of public chargers – a process reminiscent of the buildout of broadband telecom infrastructure during the early days of the internet. The technology is steadily improving in this field as well – newer EVs with longer ranges will require higher charging power levels, so the pressure is on to innovate.

In addition to the bimonthly print magazine, Charged publishes a daily online blog, and recently spun-off a recruiting group that matches up employers and job-seekers in the fast-growing industry.