Crain’s Detroit Business
Kurt Nagl and Jay Davis
Sept. 15, 2022
A group of Detroit-based EV charging companies is heading up a new trade association for Black-owned companies in the electric vehicle industry.
The new association is being introduced Thursday as a platform to empower minority startups and to provide access in a rapidly changing industry, said Natalie King, chief executive officer of Dunamis Clean Energy Partners LLC, who is helping lead the charge.
Registered as a 501(c)6 nonprofit, the group’s founding members are Dunamis, Vehya, Plug Zen, Walker-Miller Energy Services, and ChargerHelp!. It aims to be national in scope, said King, a Detroit native whose company is the first Black- and woman-owned EV charger manufacturer in the country.
“The ancillary industries that are going to be created by the electrification of vehicles is tremendous, and we want to make sure there is diversity, equity and inclusion in that process,” King said in an interview at the North American International Auto Show. “We want to ensure we are advocating for more Blacks to be in this industry, and I think that’s very important because it’s an underrepresented supplier base.”
King said details about membership dues are still being worked out and that the association is in discussions with nonprofits, universities, and corporations regarding funding and support.
Dunamis, Plug Zen, and Vehya are among dozens of startups across the country competing for a piece of the EV market, expected to hit $824 billion by 2030, according to an Allied Market Research study. The fast-moving transition to EVs has sparked concerns about equity, affordability and access.
That was the theme of King’s presentation Thursday at Detroit Homecoming. King, speaking in a panel on innovation in legacy industries, wants to ensure the chargers are easily accessible to residents of underserved areas.
Dunamis operates a new 32,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near the shuttered Packard Automotive Plant, which is expected to begin production next month.
King, a licensed attorney, self-financed the $1.5 million cost to begin production and recently launched a $30 million private fundraising campaign, which she hopes to close by the end of the year. She said she is committed to ensuring at least 50% of her staff comprises Black and brown employees.
“We hear about clean energy, EV all the time. Dunamis wants to make sure all communities have the ability to participate and benefit from it,” King said. “We want people in disadvantaged areas to be able to use the tech and to help manufacture it, because it’s not going anywhere.”
Dunamis is committed to ensuring at least 50 percent of its staff comprises Black and brown employees. Dunamis, King said, is establishing a new manufacturing facility near the shuttered Packard Automotive Plant.
“It’s important to us that we locate and establish a factory in the city,” King said. “We want to pull (staff) from communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental issues, and integrate them into this burgeoning tech field. We see the boon in the EV industry as a great wealth transfer. We want to make sure that the city that put the world on wheels is integrally a part of it.”