Startup FreeWire Technologies raised another $25 million to commercialize its electric car chargers, which are designed to reduce the infrastructural costs of installation.
The Bay Area company finished development of its Boost Charger, which delivers fast charging (up to 120-kilowatt output) while minimizing stress on the local power grid with the help of a built-in 160-kilowatt-hour battery. That storage capacity allows fast charging while lowering the instantaneous pull from the grid to resemble a Level 2 charger (roughly 10 kilowatts), which in turn reduces costly grid upgrades required to install the system in the first place.
These permitting and infrastructure upgrade savings can drive total system installation costs 25 to 40 percent lower than an equivalent fast charger, despite the extra cost of the batteries, CEO Arcady Sosinov said.
"Consumers want faster and faster charging, and it's harder and harder to keep up with it from the infrastructure perspective," he said. "We are doubling down on the infrastructure-light charging."
The Series B money will go to deploying these systems around the U.S., and eventually Europe, Sosinov said. BP Ventures led the round, which attracted new investors Energy Innovation Capital and ABB Technology Ventures.
FreeWire went to market with a car-charging battery on wheels called the Mobi. By the time it raised a $15 million Series A in 2018, the company had turned to the problem of the grid infrastructure investments necessary for fast electric vehicle charging.
Since then, FreeWire developed, tested and certified its "infrastructure-light" product. It set up manufacturing in a former Dodge Chrysler factory in the city of San Leandro, Calif., south of Oakland, with help from a California Energy Commission grant. Now it's about to ship the first commercial units to customers in Northern California, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
"They’re real, and you’re going to start seeing them in the ground by the end of this quarter," Sosinov said.
FreeWire is not in the business of operating charging stations; it's a technology vendor. The company will supply its chargers to utilities, charging operators and retail stores that want to offer the service to their customers. For the time being, it's focused on public charging, not fleet charging, which requires a different set of sales channels and tactics.
The roster of investors hints at future growth opportunities. Energy supermajor BP has been seeding investments in future mobility concepts. Sosinov hopes to install his chargers at BP gas stations in the near future. ABB is one of the largest manufacturers of electric car chargers on the market; it could turn to FreeWire to supply customers with fast charging in locations where grid upgrade costs would make traditional fast-charging equipment prohibitively expensive.
The coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on electric-vehicle purchases for the time being; Wood Mackenzie predicts global EV sales will fall 43 percent in 2019 compared to 2020. But Sosinov does not see that near-term outlook as a threat to his business.
"I do not see any significant long-term decrease in electrification — I just don't," he said.