Electronics > Power/Renewable Energy/EV's

Looking for EE Partner(s) to start an open source hardware project / company

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snick:
Hello everyone,
new joiner here, and starting with, probably, a very controversial request. (I guess this should be crossposted in the Open source hardware category, but here feels more appropriate).

I want to build open source hardware and software for the residential energy management (inverter, mppt, bms, ev chargers),
and eventually build a company on top of it. 

Disclaimers:
- I have a very rudimental understanding of EE
- My day job is in software. I work on machine learning problems in one of those big tech companies, and have roughly 20 years experience in the field.
- I have a good understanding of the cost ($$) of what I'm proposing here
- I have never design, implemented, certified and sold hardware. I did, although, got trough certification of some real time software in the automotive industry. The bureaucracy aspect is understood.
- I'm here to learn, but please be open minded and nice :).  When a newbie comes to me with software questions, I always start with the assumption that maybe they know something that I don't know, despite my experience in the field.
 
Some beliefs / intuitions.

- The user experience when it comes to electrification of homes, energy management, and setup of energy positive homes is suboptimal (it's complicated, confusing, and suboptimal from a performance standpoint)
- I'm seriously worried we are going through a brand siloing. Talking about the European market, you start seeing more and more companies offering 'full solutions' that are not inter-operable with other hardware (Inverter / mptt, bms, energy meter and optimizer with proprietary protocols, etc).
- The digitalisation of the hardware is still years behind. I worked with few protocols (CanOpen, Modbus, some proprietary ones). They are rudimental, hard to use, and prevent a lot of further optimisation (ie.: they operate best effort with no real-time guarantee, they are often buggy because the underneath firmware is not fully implemented, updates are hard to execute, etc). 
- A lot of the products out there, requires a full commitment to a use case from the get go. I really hope this is not going to trigger people, but I feel there is no much of a pathway to modularity. (ie.: if I double my system kWh capacity, I need to replace completely half of my components, rather than just add additional).
- There is a business model : When it comes to this segment of Hardware / Software, being open source allows experts to implement / use it for free (license alike of AGPL), and help iterating and improve it, while normal consumer would still purchase the hardware / service.
- I can talk for hours on the value of having advance control software in a residential system, from local performance to grid optimisation.


If you read up to this point, thank you. You are either think I'm crazy and full of BS, or you think I might have some point, and you want to know what's next.

I'm looking for a partner(s), that is interesting in exploring this one layer deeper.
I know I want to eventually cover the grid tie, and island use cases, battery and ev (v2h), but there needs to be proper sequencing and decide where it makes sense to start.
Ideally we would first brainstorm the entire product line, go extremely wide with the thinking, and then decide where to start first.
I don't have a geo preference, but ideally UK or Europe for a timezone perspective (or at least someone familiar with the grid systems / legislation in 1 of the european + uk countries)
I'm happy to pay for consultancy, but what I'm really after is a partner to work on this together. I don't believe paying my way through this is the way to go. I need someone that is willing to challenge me, while believing in the end goal. If I just throw money at my intuitions, I will get something most likely not useful as an end product.

So, anyone interested ? (open also to general commentary, but please be nice, I'm conscious I'm a bit crazy) 



 

Bicurico:
How do you expect to make money?

Why do you think you can achieve better solutions than global players?

Why do you want to make it open source?

Doesn't make sense to me.

Phoenix:
You don't need an EE to work on this project. Start with a raspberry pi and put a hat on with your required CAN RS485 whatever transceiver hardware.

Once you get thousands of sales maybe it will make sense to roll your own hardware.

snick:
Again, we are discussing about convictions and beliefs (that can be wrong), would love to hear if there is anyone that approach this with 'why not' rather than 'why'

Re Bicurico questions:

How to make money:

- hardware is sold at cost (covers cogs + operations)
- revenue: recurrent from energy savings subscription.
 

Why do you think you can achieve better solutions than global players?

I cannot have better margin than a big player. Full stop. What I can do is serve a niche better than them.

The energy positive home segment is underserved, and the users interested in it are usually prosumer that wants more control. I'm talking about tens of thousands of installations, not millions.

Why do you want to make it open source?

Why not?
On hardware:  The value here is not on the hardware, it's on the software (orchestration part of it). No electronic company have the know-how to run it. If they 'copy' the design, it means it's compatible, which is a win-win.
On Software: the fact that some software is open source doesn't mean there is no room for a paid service. (in fact this is how open source communities payed for themselves).
Ultimately, if someone find this useful, copy it and scale it to millions, I feel the entire planet is better of. so win win even in that case, and If I lost money in the process, I think the ROI is higher that donate to some green charity and I'd probably have a lot of fun in the process.
 

on Phoenix (prototype it with what you have, sell it, if volume, scale)
- that's more or less what I've done so far, for projects for myself and friends. not a raspberry pi, and not a can rs485, but same concept, micro controller, some reverse engineering of SE and SNA products, and of you go.
- I personally think it's hacky while it works, and I'd never buy something like that for myself. But I'd buy an inverter that offers the same capabilities, and gets certified anytime. 

to put it in other words, you can build a Nest thermostat with a 'raspberry over a rs485 over a cheap honeywell' as much as you want, and you would not sell more than 10 of them, but this doesn't exclude the fact that there are ~3M people a year willing to drop 300 USD for the same thing, just packaged as a real product (and benefit for it)
 

 
 

Phoenix:
Have you heard of SwitchDIN? They are (one of) the leading energy management system controllers in Australia. They work with residential customers, utilities, VPPs etc.

Their residential Droplet device is... A raspberry pi in a branded box. They are working on their own hardware in time but why take resources away from their key offering (the energy management, the software, the AI stuff) for it?

https://www.switchdin.com/

As you seem to be aware, this area is hugely volatile. Do you really want to try and hard lock down your hardware before operating in the area for a while? I mean really operating with many varied customers, not just your lab prototype.

Could you aim to be hardware agnostic?

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