The benefits of napping are well-documented but in the case of Natalie King, a little shut-eye after attending church led the former attorney to create Dunamis Charge, the first black-woman owned manufacturer of electric vehicle recharging stations.
“I woke up from that nap and there was a clear direction of the next thing you need to do is electric vehicle recharging manufacturing,” recalled King in an interview at her company’s booth at the Motor Bella auto show near Detroit.
Of course creating Dunamis wasn’t really as simple as some sleep and a revelation. The journey began in 2007 when King and her now, ex-husband, started a solar energy firm as an entrepreneurial venture. But, “when the marriage dissolved we dissolved the company,” she said.
Through that experience King said she developed a passion for the clean energy business and created Dunamis Clean Energy Partners in 2012. The new company’s first efforts involved energy auditing, working as a trade ally for several utility companies and incentive procurement, focusing primarily on commercial and industrial customers.
While conducting the energy audits King said she learned many of her clients were upgrading their LED lighting. Acting on that she spent time in China developing relationships with several manufacturers.
Dunamis landed a big LED deal with several Michigan clinics but manufacturer never delivered the product. “I was devastated,” King said.
That’s when a mentor told her to just produce the LEDs herself. King took that advice and Dunamis Lighting was born in 2015.
Things were moving along well and then King awoke from that 2018 after-church nap with the “direction” to dive into EV recharging. It took about a year to conduct research and development and at the end of 2019 engineering, design and prototyping got underway. The devices are now in the final stages of certification.
The new Dunamis Charge is producing three different chargers: a DC fast charger that can recharge a vehicle in 30 minutes and includes a screen that can be used for advertising as an additional revenue stream for operators; a residential model that can be mounted on a garage wall that will recharge an EV in four-to-six hours; commercial model that could be installed in a parking structure.
The company is marketing its chargers to utilities, municipalities, Michigan Department of Transportation and Environmental Great Lakes Energy which will administer federal funding to roll out the EV infrastructure, King said.
Dunamis has also developed a relationship with General Motors Co.’s
“ Once we get our certifications and testing approved we would be considered a preferred vendor for their dealership base,” King explained.
The plan now is for Dunamis to begin production in November at a factory in Detroit starting with about 30 assembly workers and technicians. Kings said she expects the workforce to double in a year and quadruple by 2025.
As an African-American woman it wasn’t easy breaking into the EV recharging business which is male dominated, that why King said “it means a great deal to me to be the first black woman-owned EV charger manufacturer in the country. I am really hoping there are more to come. I want to make sure communities of color are not marginalized and not left out of this opportunity and the multiple benefits this industry brings.”
Insisting production is based in Detroit is an extension of King’s commitment to supporting a low-income, minority community she said is often overlooked regarding environmental improvements and in many cases finds if difficult to impossible to afford more expensive clean energy, battery electric vehicles.
“That’s why I made it point to make sure that assembly plant was located in the city of Detroit because,” said King. “I wanted to create jobs from that. I want those who are under-represented, unemployed communities to be able to learn this technology, feed their families from this technology and really advance and take advantage of it. So it’s very important to me.”