ChargePoint, a company that builds electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for cities around the world, has raised $127 million to build a “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 are changing — particularly in some markets. Just 2% of new car sales in the U.S. last year were electric, but that figure 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. 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 EVs are no longer a fad.

Obstacles

One of the main obstacles to widespread EV adoption is driving range and access to charging stations. With battery technology improving all the time, with increased capacity and reduced costs, access to an expansive and reliable charging network could go some way toward convincing holdouts.

Founded in 2007, 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 and has said it plans to grow to 2.5 million by 2025. The Campbell, California-based company had previously raised around $530 million, including its gargantuan $240 million round back in 2018. And with another $127 million in the bank, the company said it will invest 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 plans, and its offering extends far beyond simple charging stations. Its 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 gas reductions, and more.

Above: ChargePoint in a bus depot

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 bypass traditional infrastructure and costly installations — though this is better suited to smaller fleets.

Clean air

While the transport industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, including airlines and ride-hailing services, ChargePoint’s latest investment suggests the global pandemic may not have stifled interest in electrification, particularly given that climate change isn’t going away anytime soon and ecommerce is driving the need for on-demand deliveries.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic has accelerated the exponential growth of ecommerce around the world. And despite brick and mortar stores reopening 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 countries went into lockdown, but they are rising again as people return to their cars. While it’s too early to make any concrete predictions, some early evidence suggests the public may be willing to transition to cleaner cars after seeing the immediate effect lockdown had on the environment. A report today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a U.K. trade association, found 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.

“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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