Los Angeles startup EV Connect closed a $12 million Series B to fund its electric vehicle charging software expansion.
The company works with charging hardware vendors and builds software controls to govern them. EV Connect then reaches the market in two ways. It sets up charging stations on behalf of customers through its EV Connect Network, which manages about 1,000 customer sites and has 6,000 charging plugs under contract. The startup also offers its software as a platform for users to customize under the EV Cloud moniker.
Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsui & Co. and cleantech venture capital firm Ecosystem Integrity Fund led the round, which brings total funds raised to $25 million. EV Connect will use the new money to improve the software it's built over the last nine years and get more chargers into the world via its Network and EV Cloud, founder and CEO Jordan Ramer told Greentech Media.
The philosophy governing EV Connect is based on openness to change and consumer choice. Signing up for the software does not compel a station owner to buy any particular brand of charger or use a particular sales model. The approach also gives network operators optionality over time, letting them gradually link up different hardware into one cohesive system.
"We think it helps everybody to have transparency and openness around the whole ecosystem from a software standpoint," Ramer said.
That approach seeks to reduce the risk of stranded assets at a time when charging technology is in its infancy — and growing fast. It allows charging hosts to use the same software but upgrade their physical offering as charging technology, consumer behavior and the cars themselves evolve.
"From the beginning, what they really did was start building an open architecture that would let them work with whatever came down the line years later," said Geoff Eisenberg, principal at Ecosystem Integrity Fund.
That open architecture approach creates opportunities for new charging hardware manufacturers who want to focus on building cheaper equipment, not developing software, Eisenberg added. Now, those manufacturers can ship chargers loaded with EV Connect software that boots up when the charger is installed.
"We’re seeing the proliferation of charging stations and new entrants into the market, and prices are plummeting," Eisenberg noted, comparing the situation to that of solar modules a few years ago. By staying out of hardware, EV Connect can view these new entrants as potential customers instead of competition.
EV Connect has formed interoperability agreements with major charging companies including EVgo, ChargePoint and Greenlots, and it is in the process of implementing them, Ramer noted. Those agreements, like the one Ford and Greenlots announced last week for that carmaker's upcoming EV models, give drivers "roaming" access to other chargers, even if they haven't previously signed up with those companies.
Bringing Mitsui on as an investor opens up an avenue to international market expansion. While installing charging stations requires on-the-ground familiarity with a market, cloud software can scale internationally with less friction, as it lets companies customize their charging system to suit their own needs.