The transition from fossil fuel-reliant vehicles won’t happen overnight, but one thing is becoming clear: The future of transport is very much electric.
Against that backdrop, a fledgling electric car-charging company called Ample today announced that it has raised a fairly chunky $31 million series A round of funding led by Shell Ventures, the investment arm of multinational oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell (“Shell”). Other participants include Moore Strategic Ventures, Repsol Energy Ventures, Hemi Ventures, and TriRec.
Among the big obstacles facing EV uptake is the range available from a typical charge, the time it takes for vehicles to charge, and the availability of charging stations outside of busy cities. Not a great deal is known about Ample — its website is still pretty much a holding page for what’s to come. But according to a statement issued by the startup earlier today, it has invented an “economical, rapidly deployable, and widely accessible platform that delivers a full charge to any electric car in minutes.” To do so, Ample said it uses autonomous robotics and smart battery technology.
The San Francisco-based startup was established in 2014, and its two founders — Khaled Hassounah and John de Souza — have sold previous startups to some big buyers, including Microsoft, Symantec, and Merck.
“Building a scalable solution for charging electric vehicles requires a new approach to infrastructure and partners who are committed to developing electrification as the new energy downstream,” said Hassounah, who serves as Ample’s CEO.
EV on the up
While the electric vehicle (EV) market share remains modest compared to those for petrol and diesel, it is growing fast. Last year was the biggest yet for EV sales in the U.S., up 25 percent on 2016. Globally, reports suggest that 2017 was the first year EV sales hit more than 1 million units, with China leading the way. As car companies gradually commit to ditching petrol- or diesel-only vehicles and electric-first manufacturers such as Byton build on the foundation set by the likes of Tesla, it’s clear that this trajectory will only grow steeper.
This shift is also evident when it comes to where venture capitalists are putting their money. EV charging network ChargePoint closed a $125 million funding round last year, taking its total raised to nearly $300 million, while a few weeks back San Francisco-based Volta raised $35 million to fuel expansion of its electric vehicle-charging network.
“EVs in the light- and medium-duty sectors are steadily gaining market share,” added Shell Ventures investment director Steve McGrath. “Combining Ample’s technology with Shell’s existing retail network for re-fueling and our growing position in power could help us achieve our aspirations to grow a large new business in EV energy solutions.”
For now, we’ll have to wait and see what exactly Ample has in store, but the company said it plans to deploy its technology in “multiple locations” in the coming months.