April 2023

Charging Into The Future Zak Lefevre is a young entrepreneur who has been making waves in the clean energy sector. In 2022, Forbes listed him as one of 30 Under 30 in Energy. He is the co-founder of ChargeLab, a software company that builds software to operate and optimize electric vehicle charging equipment. We asked Zak about his perspective on sustainability and how Electric Vehicles (EVs) can help tackle climate change. Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? A: My name is Zak. I was born and raised in Canada, but at 14, I moved to Beijing, China. I attended an international high school in Beijing before moving back to Canada to study computer science and finance at McGill University. I started my first business while completing my undergraduate degree. After university, I joined the Next 36 startup accelerator program, where I started my first tech company. That didn’t go as hoped - the company failed fast, but less than a year later, in 2016, I founded ChargeLab. Q: How have your personal background and experiences af fected your perspective on sustainability? A: In many western countries, air pollution is a problem, but it is not dire enough for people to recognize in any tangible way. For me, growing up in Beijing in the mid-2000s, smog was literally part of the weather. Years later, I learned that on smoggy days, it would have been healthier for me to go to the country and smoke a pack of cigarettes than to stay in the city breathing that air. Beyond this, my parents always emphasized sustainability. We were the first family in our neighborhood to compost, my dad put solar panels on our roof before it was remotely cost effective, and we always reused or recycled when we could. This certainly had an impact on my thinking as an adult. Q: Can you explain why you believe climate change is an existential risk. A: There is overwhelming evidence that climate change will have serious negative impacts on the world. It will challenge everything from supply chains to real estate prices, and could cause refugee and agricultural crises. At this point, it is a question of how bad we let things become and how we mitigate its impacts. Q: How can EVs help? A: Transportation accounts for 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 37% of end-use greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Switching to zero-emission transportation such as electric cars, trucks, and buses is essential for a clean energy future. Beyond this, EVs also have massive benefits as a whole for cities and communities. The fumes emitted by gas cars are carcinogenic and have been directly correlated with diseases like dementia. The only reason cities are stereotypically “noisy” and “dirty” is because of internal combustion engines. Imagine a future where the air in suburbs and even downtown living is as clean as a cottage in the country. EVs can help us achieve this. Q: How can ChargeLab help mitigate climate change? A: ChargeLab’s software helps optimize EV charging infrastructure, which is critical to support the mass adoption of electric vehicles. By making it easier and more efficient to charge electric vehicles, we can encourage more people to adopt this technology and reduce emissions. Q: How does ChargeLab make charging easier? A: ChargeLab builds software to operate and optimize electric vehicle charging equipment. We do not build any hardware. Instead, we partner with leading EV charger manufacturers like ABB, Eaton, Siemens, and Tritium. ChargeLab and these manufacturers form part of an open EV charging ecosystem driven by the Open Charge Point Protocol. ChargeLab’s core product is a cloud-based charging station management system that is white-labeled by leading charging networks throughout North America. We also provide apps for EV drivers, dashboards for fleet managers and site hosts, and open APIs for integration with third-party systems. Q: How will the trends for the future of EVs affect high school students? A: Depending upon where they live, I believe there’s a good chance today’s elementary school students will never know anything but electric vehicles. By the time someone who is six years old today gets a driver’s license, EVs are going to be truly dominant. High schoolers are in a different camp—they’re going to experience the transition. Electric Vehicles are essential for a cleaner future