With new car sales falling off the cliff on the heels of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is a some concern that the electric vehicle will lose its hard-won toehold in the personal mobility world of the future. Never fear, George Soros is here. The billionaire investor/philanthropist is part of a cool $13.2 million for the new Series A funding pot of the startup AMPLY Power, which is on a mission to convert the hearts and minds of fleet managers with a bottom line pitch for seamless, hassle-free electric vehicle charging.
Saving Money The Electric Vehicle Fleet Way
AMPLY’s focus is on fleets, but as long as its business model stimulates more interest in electric vehicles, and helps build economies of scale that bring costs down, that’s a win for individual electric vehicle owners, too.
The basic idea behind AMPLY is pretty simple. While individual EV owners might not notice too much of a gap between daytime and nighttime charging on their utility bill, the difference in rates can really pile up for EV fleet owners.
AMPLY’s solution is proprietary software that manages charging times to get the best rates. The full package includes managing whatever upgrade and utility interconnection the fleet depot requires, along with financing, maintenance, technology upgrades, and management of the fleet’s utility bills.
That dovetails neatly with Siemens’s vision for seamless “eMobility” systems that eliminate guesswork, so it’s no surprise that Siemens joined Mr. Soros in the Series A round.
“Time and again, the major hurdle most electric truck and bus pilots face is the charging infrastructure,” said Siemens VP Iti Jain in a press statement. “In fact, charging fleets without incurring hefty utility bills is the key obstacle for most electric fleets to scale towards full deployment,” he added.
Investors Still Love Clean Power & Electric Vehicles
AMPLY launched just two years ago, but the global economic meltdown apparently hasn’t cramped its style. In fact, evidence is beginning to pile up that the COVID-19 recovery will take on a green tinge, with leading corporations and investors backing technologies that lead to a more sustainable future. That puts clean tech companies like AMPLY in a good position to fire up the pistons as the global economy unmelts itself.
CleanTechnica had a chance to speak with AMPLY founder and CEO Vic Shao about the company’s prospects, and he noted that the Series A round demonstrates that investors are confident in the company’s business model.
The Siemens connection is an especially ringing endorsement, considering the company’s global reach and strong focus on EV charging.
As for the economic havoc wreaked by COVID-19, Shao has been through something like it before. His energy storage company Green Charge Networks launched in 2010, close on the heels of the Great Recession. Even as the global economy floundered around in the ensuing years, the company sailed into smooth waters and was acquired by Engie in 2016.
“I started in 2010 under similar market conditions. The company grew really fast once the downturn turned positive and we were able to scale,” Shao explained. “What I learned is that its a good thing to have customers who will pay you regardless of market conditions.”
EVs Vs. Gasmobiles
That explains AMPLY’s solid focus on public sector fleet owners including hospitals, school districts, universities, transit agencies, and campus shuttles, as well as delivery companies.
School buses and other fleet operations have gone idle during the COVID-19 outbreak, but Shao foresees a rapid recovery for fleets and a strong ongoing demand after that, as fleet managers change out older models for new ones. Individual car sales, on the other hand, may be impacted for many months to come as millions of out-of-work households pick up the pieces.
“Consumers are really going to think twice before they start buying cars again. However that’s not true for fleets. Commercial or public, they are an essential service,” Shao said. “The calculus is around a total cost of ownership model for fleets. After a certain age it is cheaper to get rid of vehicles and buy new.”
As for gasmobiles, that’s a no-brainer.
“Now, what cars and trucks and buses are these fleet [owners] going to buy going forward post-COVID, when operating budgets will be trimmed and efficiencies will be more important than ever,” Shao said. “On the electric vehicle side, it will last three times as much — 300,000 miles instead of 100,000 – and maintenance is three times cheaper. My sentiment is that the choice is clear, and it’s electric.”
That maintenance angle will continue to provide leverage even if fossil fuel prices continue to slide down. In any case, the nature of fossil fuels is to slide back up again. Renewable energy, in contrast, is on a predictable trajectory. Fleet manager who electrify their vehicles can establish plans and budgets for the long term.
“On the electricity side the trend is clear. Year after year wind and solar continue to go down. There is no OPEC setting the price on solar and wind. You can create a budget and forecast around the electricity price, whereas with oil, who knows?” said Shao.
Connect The Dots: Democracy & Electric Vehicle Charging
Soros’s Series A contribution, through his firm Soros Fund Management, should spark some additional interest in AMPLY’s efforts.
The firm is not particularly known for its interest in clean tech startups, but it has been making some interesting moves in the AI and financial technology areas over the past couple of years, and Soros is well known as an advocate for inclusive democracy, so put them together and it’s, well, rather interesting.
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Image (screenshot): Courtesy of AMPLY Power.