One lesson from this week’s green technology funding news is that it takes a lot of money to break into the electric-vehicle space, and not as much to scale software platforms.
Last week, Chinese electric drive maker Protean Electric announced it has raised $70 million to fund manufacturing of its in-wheel motors at its newly selected site in Tianjin. The funding included previous investors Oak Investment Partners and GSR Ventures, and brought on new investors GSR GO Scale Capital, Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology Co. Ltd., and Tianjin THSG Corp.
Protean, which has previously raised $84 million, says its PD18 in-wheel motors can replace the engines and transmissions of traditional drivetrain designs to deliver energy-efficiency improvements of 15 percent. The company has targeted both passenger and light-duty commercial vehicles in China, and investor Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology is also its joint venture partner in its plans to open its new manufacturing facility.
It’s difficult to see how Protean’s in-wheel electric motors could play a role in the mass-market passenger EV market, where companies such as Nissan, GM, Tesla and BYD have garnered much of the media attention. But the market for electric utility and fleet vehicles like buses and light-duty trucks could offer more opportunities for novel redesigns like these.
Meanwhile, a set of software startups have raised small amounts of capital in the past week, aimed at the burgeoning market for energy data analytics. One is Urjanet, a startup with software that collects utility data for customers ranging from the municipal government of Washington, D.C. to energy services and analytics vendors.
The Atlanta-based startup raised $2 million in a recent round of funding, according to a regulatory filing, indicating the need for companies that can deliver utility data to customers, absent a unified set of standards for utilities to deliver it themselves.
Another is Energyworx, which announced last week that it raised a €1 million ($1.1 million) Series A funding led by venture capital firm henQ. The Dutch startup, which presented at Greentech Media’s Grid Edge World Forum 2016 conference last month, plans to use the funding to expand its European operations and open an office in San Francisco to serve the U.S. utility market. GTM Research has predicted the U.S. customer data analytics market will grow from $300 million last year to more than $1 billion by 2018.
We’ve also tracked two startups with different business models to bring distributed energy to customers that have raised money of late. The first, PosiGen, offers low-cost solar leases and energy-efficiency upgrades targeted at low-income homeowners.
According to a regulatory filing this week, the New Orleans-based company has raised $6 million in equity, adding to $20 million raised earlier this year from NewWorld Capital and Constellation Technology Ventures, as well as $40 million from Goldman Sachs in 2015.
The second, Black Bear Energy, has built a reportedly hefty client base of commercial customers using its services to procure distributed energy in its 15 months in existence, including the recent deal between behind-the-meter battery startup Stem and LBA Realty.
The company, founded by former leaders of corporate solar programs at Prologis and Wal-Mart, announced Monday that it has raised a $2.5 million Series A round from Boulder Ventures, with participation from seed investor Rocky Mountain Institute.