As the transportation industry slowly moves toward widespread adoption of electric vehicles, appropriate infrastructure — like charging stations in place of gas stations — will be essential. That’s why California-based startup FreeWire Technologies, which builds charging products for electric vehicles (EVs), has secured $25 million in a series B round of equity and debt funding led by BP Ventures.
While EVs are still a small percentage of overall car sales — around 2% of new car sales last year in the U.S. — electrification seems to be trending upward in many parts of the world. In Norway, for example, 56% of all new car sales last year were either plug-in or plug-in hybrids. Elsewhere, Volvo has committed to only making vehicles with electric motors, while Ford recently lifted the lid on its first long-range electric car. Throw into the mix the fact that all autonomous vehicles will be electric, and it seems clear electric vehicles will become the norm at some point in the future — though how long that transition will take remains to be seen.
Founded out of San Leandro in 2014, FreeWire offers a mobile EV charging station that doesn’t rely on traditional infrastructure. Traditional EV charging stations usually involve costly installations, whereas FreeWire’s can be charged from a normal wall outlet and then deployed anywhere to power multiple vehicles in a day. This could be useful for businesses that run small fleets delivering parcels, for example. Separately, FreeWire also offers an electric mobile generator that can be used to power just about anything in a remote location.
Last year, FreeWire launched a new ultrafast EV charger called Boost that can be deployed with existing infrastructure to provide 160kWh of battery capacity and 120Kw output. This equates to an up to 480-mile range on a one-hour charge. But FreeWire says the main selling point compared to other fast chargers is that it promises a 40% lower installation cost. Moreover, FreeWire said the Boost Charger alleviates excess strain on the electrical grid by powering itself during off-peak hours at a lower voltage.
FreeWire had previously raised around $30 million, including its $15 million series A back in 2018, and with its latest cash injection the company said it will double down on efforts to get its Boost Charger to market in Q2 2020.
Numerous players are working on EV charging infrastructure, including San Francisco-based Volta, which closed a $20 million funding tranche last year, and ChargePoint, which has raised north of $500 million. BP’s decision to invest more money in FreeWire after having led its previous funding round fits into a broader trend of traditional “fossil fuel” companies future-proofing their businesses by exploring “green” alternatives. Last year, for example, oil and gas giant Shell acquired LA-based Greenlots, which produces EV charging stations and software.
David Gilmour, global managing director of BP Ventures, said this latest investment fits into the firm’s strategy of “diversifying our energy portfolio” to meet anticipated future demand.