ChargePoint, a company that builds electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for cities around the world, has raised $127 million in a round of funding to build what it calls “the most comprehensive global EV charging platform” for businesses and fleets.
The company didn’t reveal a valuation at this round, but it has now raised north of $660 million since its inception nearly 15 years ago.
Although EVs represent a small percentage of new car sales overall, there is evidence to suggest that habits — particularly in some markets — are changing. Just 2% of new car sales in the U.S. last year were electric, a figure that rises to 56% in Norway, while Deloitte forecasts that a third of all vehicle sales globally will be electric by the end of the decade. And when you consider that automakers such as Volvo now only make cars with electric or hybrid engines, Ford is finally embracing long-range electric cars, and Tesla’s shares are riding on the crest of a wave, it’s clear that EVs are really starting to shake off their “fad” status.
One of the main obstacles to widespread EV adoption is “range” and access to charging stations. With battery technology improving all the time, including increasing capacity and lowering costs, having access to an expansive and reliable charging network will go some way toward convincing people that electric is their future.
Founded in 2007, Campbell, California-based ChargePoint has already created an extensive EV charging network, spanning the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. It currently claims charging stations in 114,000 locations, a figure it has previously stated it plans to grow to 2.5 million by 2025. Prior to now, ChargePoint had raised around $530 million, including its gargantuan $240 million round back in 2018, and with another $127 million in the bank the company said that it will invest specifically in its commercial platform for fleets in North America and Europe.
ChargePoint targets all manner of vehicle companies, from bus depots to employee car lease schemes, and its offering extends far beyond that of simple charging stations.
Indeed, ChargePoint’s add-on services include real-time data covering charging station and vehicle information, energy management tools to lower electricity costs, a mobile app that lets drivers view and locate the nearest available charging station, and automatically-generated reports detailing fuel savings, energy consumption, greenhouse gases avoided, and more.
ChargePoint attracted a number of returning investors for its latest round, including American Electric Power, Braemar Energy Ventures, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Chevron Technology Ventures, Clearvision, GIC, Linse Capital, and Quantum Energy Partners.
Today’s announcement comes a few months after San Leandro-based FreeWire locked down $25 million in funding for mobile EV charging stations that don’t rely on traditional infrastructure, bypassing costly installations — though this is more suited to smaller fleets.
While the transport industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, including airlines and ride-hail services, ChargePoint’s latest investment suggests that the global pandemic may not have stifled interest in electrification, particularly given that climate change isn’t going away any time soon and ecommerce is driving the need for on-demand deliveries.
“It’s no secret that the pandemic has accelerated the exponential growth of e-commerce around the world, and despite brick and mortar stores re-opening worldwide, the demand for online shopping is showing no signs of slowing,” ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano told VentureBeat. “As demand increases for online deliveries, so does the demand for delivery fleets. As a result, businesses and fleets are intensifying their efforts to transition to electric drive, as governments double down on climate change commitments. Businesses are establishing aggressive sustainability targets as well as seeking to reduce cost and improve efficiency through fleets. EV charging is helping to make a difference.”
Another knock-on effect of the pandemic could be that consumers are more prepared to adopt electric or hybrid-electric vehicles. Pollution levels across the world dropped markedly as society went into lockdown, and they are subsequently rising again as people return to their cars. While it’s too early to make any concrete predictions, there is some early evidence that the public is willing to transition to cleaner cars after seeing the immediate effect that lockdown has had on the environment. A report today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a U.K. trade association, found that there had been a 260% year-on-year (YoY) increase in EV sales in July.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently noted that COVID-19 had brought about two years of digital transformation in just two months, and a similar trend could happen in the EV sphere — it’s less about launching a movement than expediting something that was already happening.
“COVID-19 has accelerated societal shifts that were already underway before the pandemic,” Romano said. “As the world sheltered in place, communities enjoyed cleaner air and now that the transition back to a more ‘normal’ reality is returning, consumers are increasingly asking how to achieve cleaner air permanently. And mobility will play a significant role.”
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