EV Women to Watch: Valerie Frank and Rachel Robinson

I had a chance to meet Weavegrid colleagues, Valerie and Rachel, and was inspired by their passion for their work in the electric vehicle and electric utility industries. I hope you enjoy their story in this interview organized by their colleague, Bella Craddock. – Erika

Valerie and Rachel are colleagues at WeaveGrid, a software company that works with utilities and automakers to connect a growing wave of electric vehicles to an electric grid that was not designed to support the anticipated high-power charging needs.

Both women drive EVs, Valerie with a Tesla Model 3 and a Rivian R1S on order and Rachel with a Plug-In Toyota RAV4 Prime. I sat down with them to hear about their journey in the EV industry and the relationship between their EV ownership and their work.

Bella: What were you doing before you started working in the EV space and what drew you into this space?

Valerie: I moved to this space from Nest, where I worked on all things smart home in relation to energy. Why the EV space? Well, first, I’ve loved cars since I was a little girl. Second, it is one of the largest places for the impact of electrification. So, I find the industry compelling from both a personal and practical perspective.

WeaveGrid specifically stood out to me as I had been thinking about the intersection of the grid and electric vehicles, a mindset I had developed in my previous role. The WeaveGrid mission, leadership team, and approach all drew me in.

Rachel: I came to WeaveGrid from Oracle Utilities, where I worked on energy efficiency projects and utility customer-facing web applications – definitely an industry adjacent to WeaveGrid. My move to the EV space, similar to Valerie’s, was sparked by the knowledge that more than half of U.S. emissions come from the transportation and electricity sectors combined. There was and still is a massive opportunity to support a positive transformation for both of these sectors.

Bella: What is the best and worst part about working in this industry?

Valerie: I think the worst part of this industry for me is that I always wish it was moving faster. The best part for me is that I get to work with a bunch of people who, like me, are so excited about this transition and want to see it succeed.

Rachel: For me, the best and worst part of this industry is that we are in a time of tremendous growth, which makes our work at WeaveGrid incredibly exciting but can be frustrating at times. While benefits for the planet and consumer demand for EVs are there, manufacturing capacity isn’t yet.

Bella: Were you interested in EV ownership before moving into the space?

Valerie: Yes, I was. For me, EVs are a no-compromise solution: they produce fewer emissions, are faster and perform great on the road, and have cheaper maintenance costs compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. I’d always been interested in these differences and how they elevate the driver experience. 

Rachel: I took a different journey to my EV. I wasn’t as strongly interested in an EV – really, the decision coincided with having a family and needing a new car. The Toyota RAV4 Prime is cheaper to own than its ICE counterpart and is definitely cleaner, which is a priority for me and my family.

Bella: How does working in this industry affect your personal experience with EVs?

Valerie: Great question – there’s a few ways I’ve noticed, though I think they all tie back to me being very aware of the driver experience, whether that be in owning, driving, or charging. There’s this unique relationship between EV owner and EV that I feel very face-to-face with. My EV is more than just a cool toy or even just my car, it’s a resource for me to learn and reflect on what we do at WeaveGrid.

Rachel: I agree. I’ve also found that driving a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) Toyota RAV4 has made me feel prepared to switch to a full-battery vehicle down the road. The switch from ICE to EV for me has allowed me to learn all about EVs while still having the assurance of a 14.5-gallon gas tank as backup.

Bella: How does driving an EV affect your work? How do you navigate the space?

Valerie: There’s a few things I’ve noticed that I’m sure Rachel is also thinking about. For one, driving an EV makes me more aware of the transitional period. When I’m at work, I often remind myself to think about how I felt when I first started driving an EV. What was I worried about? How did I think about range anxiety? How was it getting moving to kilowatt-hour (kWh) and percentages from MPG and a fuel gauge? Being aware of this adjustment period allows us to create a charging experience that doesn’t alienate new drivers, but meets them where they are. We have an opportunity to empower drivers with greater understanding of their charging and their EV from the start of their EV journey.

Rachel: I completely agree with Valerie. Charging my car has helped me understand firsthand some of the new habits that EV ownership requires – even with a PHEV. The relationship that I have to my car and my local utility company has already begun to evolve, in a similar way to those who have gone straight to EVs.

Also, being a PHEV driver, I think a lot about why people choose the vehicles they do. Whether it be a Tesla Model 3 or Rivian R1S, Toyota RAV4 Prime, or Hyundai Ioniq 5 – there are unique reasons why consumers select these vehicles. What unites these drivers is that simply, people need to go places and these vehicles allow them to do that. Keeping that front of mind in the work we do at WeaveGrid is key. The EV space can get very data-heavy. Remembering that there’s this simple core need running through every EV owner, helps WeaveGrid provide the best product possible.

Bella: To wrap it up, what do you love most about your EV?

Valerie: I love EVs in general – I’m a mechanical engineer by training so I really enjoy how much new technology these vehicles use. Innovations like single-pedal driving have been so cool to see develop and use in my Tesla. Also, I like the sophisticated driver experience I get from my EV. These vehicles embrace software, which not only ties into what we do at WeaveGrid but also improves the whole driving experience. For example, my Tesla can help me find a charger just as easily as it can help me find an In-N-Out. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Rachel: I love that it allows me to meet my and my family’s needs in a cheaper and cleaner way. Not to mention, it’s quieter, drives smoothly, and doesn’t rumble in traffic like ICE vehicles I’ve had in the past. Plus, I have a toddler, so it’s great knowing there’s no exhaust pipe at her height when we’re utilizing the EV-only range in the driveway.

Guest Contributors:

Valerie Frank leads product for vehicle stakeholders at WeaveGrid. She works directly with automakers and automotive OEMs to build an ecosystem of vehicles and data supporting WeaveGrid’s utility products and furthering automotive industry-facing products. Valerie holds a B.S. in Biomechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.

Rachel Robinson leads client success for utility stakeholders at WeaveGrid. She manages definition, implementation, and ongoing program management of orchestrated EV solutions for WeaveGrid’s utility clients. Rachel has been working in energy for more than a decade including in distributed resources, energy efficiency, customer communications, and Utility IT integrations; having delivered successful programs with dozens of utilities across multiple countries. Rachel holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.

Bella Craddock is a Marketing Associate at WeaveGrid focusing on logistical aspects of the company’s marketing, including conference attendance and speaking, developing marketing collateral, maintaining relationships with trade organizations and working groups in the Utility and OEM space, and supporting the Marketing lead with the overall strategy. Bella holds a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Durham University in Durham, England.

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