Coulomb Technologies has raised $3.75 million in Series A to deploy its electric-car charging device and payment network.

The Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb harbors a similar ambition as the highly publicized Better Place, which wants to set up a network of car-charging and battery-swapping stations. The two, though, are taking slightly different directions. Better Place is inking highly publicized deals with nations (like Denmark) and regions to craft deals to deploy its charging stations. Coulomb is taking more of a bottom-up approach.

Better Place, a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., recently announced a series of projects, including a $1 billion plan to do just that in the San Francisco Bay Area (see Better Place to Charge Up California, Better Place and Ontario Launch Project and Better Place Goes to Hawaii).

Coulomb appears to be further along in commercializing its technology, however. The company has lined up distributors and customers and expects to install up to 40 charging devices around major California highways during the first quarter of 2009, Coulomb CEO Richard Lowenthal said last November.

Lowenthal said back then that the charging station market would not grow fast in 2009 because major carmakers have yet to start selling plug-in hybrid electric cars. Toyota plans to start selling its plug-in hybrids in tiny quantities and only to commercial customers later this year and General Motors expects to launch its Volt next year (see Toyota to Build All-Electric Car by 2012).

Coulomb is targeting gas station owners, government agencies and businesses, including shopping centers. Each charging device costs around $3,000, and installation costs can vary depending on how much wiring work and the distance between the charging stations and the source of electricity, said Coulomb's West Coast distributor Enid Joffe, president of Zero Emission Solutions (formerly Clean Fuel Connections).

Coulomb also aims to make money from selling consumers subscription services for using these stations. Each charging station is a compact device that can be mounted onto street light poles.

Coulomb is not pursuing a battery swapping strategy. Battery swapping, according to some, is a handy way around the chronic issue of the lengthy time it takes to charge batteries. Critics, though, say getting car makers to agree on standards is a logistical nightmare without end.

Last year, the company announced a partnership with V2Green, which is developing the software for managing electricity flow between the grid and the cars (see Move to Greener Cars Accelerates).

Estag Capital in Berlin led the funding for Coulomb, which had set out to raise between $5 million and $8 million (see Coulomb to Install 40 Stations, Seeks $5M to $8M).

Better Place, meanwhile, is working with Macquarie Capital to raise private equity for its projects in various countries (see Green Light post).