BL!XT: Innovating Circuit Breakers for Greater Sustainability. Interview with Chairman and Co-founder, Charlotta Holmquist
Circuit breakers can be found in all our homes, electric devices, and cars among many other technologies that we use in our day-to-day lives. Yet the technology behind them has been the same for over 150 years. BL!XT – also spelled BLIXT – aims to be a game changer in this field. How? By producing an innovative Solid State Circuit Breaker that could be crucial to improving the way we use electricity. The most obvious impact of BLIXT’s Circuit Breaker is a reduction in energy consumption, but there are of course other benefits, many of which are outlined in the below interview.
Impakter sat with Charlotta Holmquist, Chairman and Co-founder of BL!XT to find out how this project is becoming reality.
What is your story and how has it influenced your decision to start BL!XT?
Charlotta Holmquist: Twenty years ago when I founded my first start up, I was motivated by the freedom of being an entrepreneur and the joy of turning an idea into a real business. Eventually the hard work resulted in a success and I got addicted to entrepreneurship. As a seasoned serial entrepreneur I then started learning about the climate crisis. Yes, it is a true crisis. I strongly felt I must use my accumulated experience to try to make a difference.
For this to happen at the speed we need, the innovation must have a significant global impact, provide an attractive opportunity for investors and bring benefits to all stakeholders in the value chain. While legislation, such as carbon taxes, can make a short term push in the right direction, I believe the long term solution must be market driven. Business will be the ultimate platform for change.
BL!XT is so far the most ambitious challenge I have ever taken on. On the other hand, our innovations spark for an entirely new energy paradigm. I would never be able to make this journey alone and in BL!XT I have found my dream team. My co-founders, board directors and myself have decades of experience from digitization, innovation, energy industry and entrepreneurship. And not least, we share the same values and vision with BL!XT: That is to Empower the Electric Evolution.
In the Photo: The Evolution of the Circuit Breaker. Photo Credit: BL!XT
Can you please explain what BL!XT is producing?
Charlotta Holmquist: Despite being the entry point to all electricity in a home, circuit breakers are still, after 150 years, mechanical products that sit idle most of the time. With its strategic location it could represent one of the largest energy savings potentials and pave the way for clean energy, but since they are mechanical, they can only serve one purpose: safety.
The new BL!XT Breaker is the first and only miniature solid-state circuit breaker. You can imagine this pure digital device being a smart meter, remote control and a fast breaker all-in-one single device. It can modulate the control from 0-100%, controlling the power just like a water tap, and cut circuits within only 250 nanoseconds.
Since circuit breakers are omnipresent where electricity is being used, the potential use cases are beyond the residential fuse box. Fueled by a global trend of electrification, we currently receive requests from companies around the world, ranging from energy to mobility, aerospace, nautical and industrial 4.0. To manage the vast interest and to allow for the potential customers to try out our technology we will soon start shipping demonstration kits. This will demonstrate the uniqueness with our technology and let the corporates explore the broad variety of use cases for themselves.
When will you be ready to be on the market? How big will be the challenge to enter into a very competitive and traditional field?
Charlotta Holmquist: Our goal is that our advanced, IP protected designs integrate in millions of electrical devices, fuse boxes, connected cars, industry 4.0 applications, energy generation, storage and charging solutions around the world. We aim to make it a low cost, mass market product and offer it on licensing bases to our customers, including OEM manufactures and energy service providers.
We have covered some distance in the technical development but still have plenty of work to do. For example, in order get to down to disruptive price levels we need to make the current version into a silicon chip, which takes time and costs quite a bit. Moreover, local rules and regulations are not changed over a day, but need time to adapt to new technology in order to facilitate the paradigm shift. BL!XT recently teamed up with ABB Synerleap with the objective of co-development and shortening time to market.
In the Photo: BL!XT Team. In the Middle Charlotta Holmquist. Photo Credit: BL!XT
What are your thoughts about SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)? How do you think your company can give a positive contribution in that sense?
Charlotta Holmquist: UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set the game plan to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The goals are clearly inter-connected and overcoming the challenges for one goal will fuel the success for other. Blixt, being an enabler for the future energy market, clearly has direct positive impact in the areas of Climate Action and Innovation.
While there is a general clear vision of how the future energy market will look, the big question is ’how do we get there?’ A welcomed mega trend are distributed energy resources, producing renewable energy potentially everywhere there is a need. However, sources such as wind and solar also have highly variable supply. At the same time the growing number of electric vehicles creates new disruptive loads that usually occur at peak hours. The most common solution to handle the fluctuations and peak demand is, unfortunately still, backup forms of power, dirty diesel generators or coal plants.
In this context we see that BL!XT can play a vital role by providing grid-edge intelligence and the ability to control loads beyond the meter. Essentially, we turn the fuse box into a smartphone, collecting and communicating rich, real time electricity usage data as it passes through the circuit breaker. This data is communicated to the energy service provider so that it can effectively manage the future grid. Crucially, the BL!XT Breaker also allows real time, remote control of appliances, heating, cooling and EVs, thereby enabling demand side management.
BL!XT has just started up an impact study, in collaboration with the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and some leading European utilities, in order to quantify the carbon savings that can be achieved through our technology. We expect the results to be significant and a hope for a brighter future.