When Car Maniac invited me to give me tips for my first long road trip with an e-car, he gave me the Juice Booster 2 with the following words: “With this adapter you will reach every destination!” And so it was. In February 2021, I travelled in sub-zero temperatures from Augsburg to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina with an Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro – to a country where the charging infrastructure barely existed. But thanks to Juice Booster, I was able to save myself distances to the 40 or so wallboxes scattered around the country to charge my car. I could use the household sockets in hostels or the high voltage current in a camp.
This adapter, made by Swiss company Juice Technology, is a valuable gadget for any e-car owner. CEO Christoph Erni tells me in an interview how he came up with the idea for the adapter and why the Juice Booster has changed e-mobility for the better.
MS: Do you drive an e-car yourself?
CE: Yes, of course. That’s how the whole thing started. Would you like to hear the whole story?
MS: I’d love to!
CE: I originally come from the IT sector and ran a management consultancy for years, of course with IT clients in the beginning, but later also in other sectors. At one lunch I was sitting with a client’s employee, a true eco-fundamentalist, who was talking my conscience over lunch. He was firmly convinced that using public transport was the only right way to get around, but in the same breath asked me if I could drive him to the airport after lunch, because he was flying to Bali for the cultural exchange.
That was in 2010. At some point, a business partner came by and told me about an American who only wants to build electric cars. At the time, I wasn’t interested, because my view of mobility was: it needs eight cylinders and a manual gearbox! After a while – still annoyed by the inconsistency of the eco-fundamentalist – I thought to myself: ‘Okay, I’ll give it a try’. And if it’s not for me after all, at least I gave it a try.
Today I’m grateful to that eco-colleague, because he was the reason I ordered an e-car in the first place. A Tesla. In terms of driving, it was much better than any combustion engine vehicle I’ve ever owned. To this day, I still notice when I drive from Berlin to Zurich, for example, I used to get out of the car at the end of the journey feeling exhausted. Now I arrive totally relaxed. This is certainly due to the quiet driving, but also to the loading breaks.
"Juice Booster 1 was still a real shoebox”
Charging options were very spotty back then and were in their infancy. And the charging cables you could find on the market were of very poor quality. So, with the support of my colleagues at the time, I decided to start my own development. The Juice Booster 1 was still a real shoebox, but an absolute success. There is electricity everywhere, you just have to have a solution that makes it accessible. And we made that possible – with the mobile charging station and the corresponding adapters. The way you used the device in the Balkans is how the project was intended from the beginning.
And because it worked so well and was so well received, we developed a better device, the Juice Booster 2. It’s still a bestseller today. It has just been rebranded and launched by another car manufacturer. I think it hits the nerve of today. It is easy to use and safe. It may lie in the boot for 20 years and then be used once, or it may serve as a wallbox in the garage every day. The main thing is that it works perfectly.
An alternative for a wallbox
MS: So the Juice Booster 2 is a good alternative for a wallbox?
CE: Yes, absolutely. The product is a fully-fledged charging station. The boosters are currently being used by one of the largest car importers in Switzerland. Up to 20,000 vehicles are stored there, the majority of them electric, which are charged with the boosters day in and day out. And they have been doing so flawlessly for three years. Right from the start, we designed the unit for continuous operation and the toughest environmental conditions, including vibrations and waterproofing.
Symbol for a fresh splash of energy
MS: Since when has the Booster 2 been on the market?
CE: Since June 2016. In the beginning, the quantities were very small and of course we further optimised the device and had the Juice Booster 2 certified by independent bodies such as TÜV SÜD. In 2017, the figures really took off and we can currently report a tripling of sales figures every year.
MS: According to your sales figures, you notice that the demand for e-cars is increasing …
CE: We’ve noticed that all along, but we didn’t expect it to go up so quickly. As I said, I myself was a fan of fossil-fuelled vehicles. And of course I still think it’s nice to see an old Mustang drive by. Perfect for a Sunday outing – but inefficient and therefore pointless for everyday use.
"... this development is unstoppable!"
MS: You didn’t expect the success?
CE: Although we were always very optimistic with the planning, the force has actually surprised us now too. A year ago, when we talked to banks or wanted to open an account for the new company abroad, we had to explain again and again that the mobile future did not lie in hydrogen and that diesel did not have a third youth ahead of it either. Everyone told us that it was crazy to invest our entire fortune in the development of charging stations.
That is now completely off the table. Now the last straggler has really noticed that this development is unstoppable. I think it’s good news, not only for the environment, but also for humanity.
MS: How sustainable is the production of the Juice Booster 2?
CE: Basically, manufacturing is always an intervention in nature. And we started thinking about this very early on. A year and a half ago we started a reforestation project in Canada, and now we are in the process of reforestation in Spain – in the Undabaso Forest. It doesn’t really matter where on earth the reforestation happens. What matters is that it happens in a truly sustainable way. In Canada, we have now reforested an area over 330 football fields that was destroyed by a wildfire. Sustainable mobility starts with sustainable charging infrastructure. And if the trees are not just there for 10 years, but a hundred, then that absorbs many times more CO2. If you’ve had a lot of luck in life, then you also have to give something back. That’s probably also a sign of my age. We were also brought up not to throw away food and to turn off the lights when we didn’t need them.
"Manufacturing is always an intervention in nature, but …"
Of course, there are parts that we have manufactured in China – not much cheaper than in Germany, by the way, while the quality is just as good. But even there we make sure that the transport is as sustainable as possible. We decided to take the train via the Silk Road. That is a better alternative to heavy oil ships or planes. I think we all have to do something for sustainability without having to go straight into the green camp. We e-drivers also realise that the responsible use of resources also has sex appeal! The beauty of e-mobility is: through fun, you get people to discover a whole new environmental friendliness that is ultimately better, more fun and healthier.
"... the responsible use of resources also has sex appeal!"
MS: Why do you call the charging station Juice Booster? And also the logo is more reminiscent of fresh orange juice!
CE: Many people still have reservations about e-mobility and about electricity as a driving energy. There is this expression: “Have you got me some juice from the can.” This one doesn’t just work in German, the English and Americans say that too. It is supposed to symbolise a fresh splash of energy.
MS: Who is behind Juice Technology? That would probably be you!
CE: The original idea is actually mine. And of course we have a great team of many engineers, designers and constructors. I myself can contribute a little bit in terms of software, but primarily on the conceptual level. And I can say what the product has to look like from the user’s point of view. That is the decisive point in our solutions: Our employees are e-car drivers themselves and know what a charging station needs to provide for daily use. It just takes someone who has the vision, and in this case that was actually me.
MS: How important is design in addition to technology?
CE: I personally believe that the feel is something very important. That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on it right from the start. It has to be a decent material that looks good and is robust at the same time. A plastic casing was not a solution for us. We decided on aluminium – among other things, because it can be recycled without any problems. Another example is the button on the booster. We did a lot of tests until we got the right click sound.
Attractive design is only noticeable when it is missing. A charging station is part of the vehicle. This is where car manufacturers also think about design – so why should we stop there. And the fact that we have hit the nail on the head with the simple, timeless and functional design of the charging stations is shown by the various design awards we have won: German Design Award or even the Good Design Award of the Chicago Atheaneum.
"The Swiss army knife of e-mobility”
MS: There are several mobile charging solutions on the market now, but what does yours have over the others?
CE: It is referred to by most as the Swiss Army Knife of e-mobility, much to our delight. And I think that sums it up. We have the same quality standards – our device has to work reliably anywhere in the world. You don’t have to think very much when using it. Even when you’re overtired, you can’t do anything wrong when using it, and I think that’s very important, because it reduces possible sources of error to an absolute minimum. The Juice Booster makes charging carefree and that was the claim from the beginning.
MS: How long did you work on the Booster? From the vision to the final product?
CE: We had the first product in our hands after about half a year. For the second version we needed about two years of development time. Of course, we didn’t have the experience we have now. I am glad for every additional month we invested. We still benefit from this today, because we have created a device that sets a high standard. And that shows that the effort was worth it.
MS: How many different nations work at Juice?
CE: By now we are really very international and that is a very good sign. Just today I was thinking about counting how many nations we have gathered here.
I already have the feeling that we have developed into a company with sex appeal, where really good people from different countries want to come. And we are now attracting the best specialists – an enormously important point in order to quickly drive the development of future products.
And that’s despite the fact that salaries are still start-up-oriented. The majority of our financial resources clearly flow into our research and development. This is an absolute must, because it is the only way we can not only maintain our lead, but also expand it. It is not easy to work for us, as the pressure is already very high. If you drive past our headquarters, the lights are still on at midnight. Even on weekends, our employees are productive. They are aware that we have to really go full throttle for the next two or three years before we can move to a normal rhythm. It’s a good sign that people feel good, which in turn means that working at Juice is more than just a job for them.
We still want to convey the appreciation, of course, and that’s why we have little goodies like free coffee from the in-house barista, croissants, fruit and lunch. Little things that are important to people too.
MS: What else is planned at Juice Technology in terms of e-mobility?
CE: We will continue to expand our clear software orientation and, for example, further develop our recently launched app j+ pilot. The idea behind this was to develop an application that makes life easier for e-mobilists. All relevant data on the vehicle, driving behaviour and charging processes are bundled in one place in this app. For example, a tax-approved logbook is also integrated, making the physical one in the glove compartment obsolete. More functions and vehicles will be added regularly and it should also be possible to integrate load management and connect to the smart home system with it in the future.
"You haven't grasped your own product …"
MS: Could you say that the Juice Booster is a reason why you can no longer avoid e-mobility?
CE: We conducted a survey in cooperation with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) among Juice Booster users to find out to what extent the availability of a Juice Booster favours the switch to e-vehicles or changes the use. A very high proportion of participants agreed that availability extremely reduces range anxiety and therefore encourages the use of an e-car.
One conversation in particular stuck in my mind: I had a customer who had bought the first generation Juice Booster and he came back to get the second version. He told me that he had used the device twice in the three years. I replied that those had been two expensive charges. He shook his head and said, “You haven’t understood your own product. I bought a thousand days of peace of mind.” We could not have had a better confirmation.
More of my electric adventures:
Yes, you can charge your e-car in Bosnia and Herzegovina and reach all your destinations! This beautiful and unique country is a popular place to visit because of its wild nature that also needs to
Srđan Mandić “Electromobility could become a symbol of mobile freedom” People in Bosnia and Herzegovina are fascinated by e-mobility, but are skeptical about it. Mayor of Municipality Sarajevo Center Srđan Mandić is a visionary. He