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Volta Charging raises another $20 million to expand ad-supported EV charging network

By Kirsten Korosec

Volta Charging, the San Francisco-based company that combines outdoor digital advertising with charging stations to give electric vehicle owners free power, has added another $20 million in a follow-on to its Series C round.

The company’s Series C round is now closed at $100 million. Schneider Electric Ventures, SK Innovation, Energize Ventures and a number of existing partners participated in the follow-on Series C round. Volta Charging also borrowed $44 million from Energy Impact Partners and CION.

Volta raised $35 million in 2018 in a round led by the Invenergy Future Fund, the technology investment arm of renewable energy project developer Invenergy, and Activate Capital.

Volta, which launched in 2010, partners with businesses and real estate owners to install EV chargers in high-traffic areas such as grocery stores, entertainment venues and shopping centers. Instead of charging EV owners, the power is provided for free. Volta makes money on the outdoor advertising that is a centerpiece of the charger design.

More than 45 million free electric miles have been given to EV drivers to date, the company said.

The company’s first charging stations popped up in Hawaii. Since then, Volta has expanded to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley in California as well as Chicago and its suburbs, Phoenix, and Dallas and Houston.

The funds will be used to expand the company’s network of free, advertiser sponsored charging stations. Volta is focused on adding more chargers to cities where it already has a presence as well as moving into new markets.

“As the electric vehicle industry continues to grow, Volta is well-positioned to build out an economically viable charging network needed to facilitate the shift from gas to electric,” Volta CEO and founder said Scott Mercer said in a statement. “We continue to rapidly scale our business to meet the growing demands of drivers, real estate partners and sponsors. This capital injection will accelerate our mission of mainstreaming electric vehicles.”

Shell’s first Greenlots electric vehicle fast charger lands in Singapore

By Kirsten Korosec

Royal Dutch Shell, the energy giant known for its fossil fuel production and hundreds of Shell gas stations, is creeping into the electric vehicle-power business.

The company’s first DC fast charger from its newly acquired company Greenlots launched Monday at a Shell gas station in Singapore. Greenlots, an EV charging startup acquired by Shell in January, installed the charger. This is the first of 10 DC fast chargers that Greenlots plans to bring to Shell service stations in Singapore over the next several months.

The decision to target Singapore is part of Greenlots’ broader strategy to provide EV charging solutions across all applications throughout Asia and North America, the company said. Both Shell and Greenlots have a presence in Singapore. Greenlots, which is based in Los Angeles, was founded in Singapore; and Shell is one of Singapore’s largest foreign investors.

Singapore has been promoting the use of electric vehicles, particularly for car-sharing and ride-hailing platforms. The island city-state has been building up its EV infrastructure to meet anticipated demand as ride-hailing drivers and commercial fleets switch to electric vehicles.

Greenlots was backed by Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech investment firm, before it was acquired by Shell. The company, which combines its management software with the EV charging hardware, has landed some significant customers in recent years, notably Volkswagen. Greenlots is the sole software provider to Electrify America, the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Clarification: Shell has other EV chargers. These are the first through its newly acquired company Greenlots.

Nissan and EVgo to add 200 fast chargers as more electric vehicles hit US roads

By Kirsten Korosec

Nissan and EVgo said Tuesday they will install another 200 DC fast chargers in the United States to support the growing number of consumers who are buying electric vehicles, including the new Nissan Leaf e+ that came to market earlier this year.

The 100 kilowatt DC fast-charging stations will have both CHAdeMO and CCS connectors, making them accessible to more EV drivers. The inclusion of both charger connectors is logical; it’s also notable for Nissan, once the primary advocates for CHAdeMO chargers.

The announcement builds off of the companies’ six-year partnership, which included building out a corridor of EV chargers along Interstate 95 on the East Coast, as well as between Monterey, Calif., and Lake Tahoe.

Nissan says it has installed more than 2,000 quick-charge connectors across the country since 2010.

Plans to add another 200 fast chargers follows the launch of the 2019 Nissan Leaf e+. The Nissan Leaf e+, which came to the U.S. and Canada this spring, has a range of 226 miles and fast-charging capability.

This new version of the Leaf all-electric hatchback has 40% more range than other versions thanks to a 62 kilowatt-hour battery pack. That 226-mile range puts the Leaf e+ just under the Chevy Bolt EV, which has a 238-mile range, the Kia Niro EV with 239 miles and the Tesla Model 3 standard range plus with 240 miles.

“Given the tremendous driver response to the 2019 long-range all-electric LEAF, Nissan and EVgo will accelerate fast charging by committing to a multi-year charger construction program that will continue to expand fast-charging options for EV drivers across the country,” Aditya Jairaj, director, EV Sales and Marketing, Nissan North America said in a statement.

The companies also plan to partner on a marketing campaign to sell consumers on the benefits of EVs, and for Nissan, hopefully persuade more to buy its Nissan Leaf Plus. Nissan’s July sales figures were down compared to the same month last year, a slump that has affected the Leaf, as well.

Tesla brings back free unlimited supercharging for the Model S and X

By Kirsten Korosec

Tesla is resurrecting a popular benefit that CEO Elon Musk once called “unsustainable” as it attempts to boost sales of its more expensive electric vehicles.

Tesla announced Saturday that all new Model S sedans and Model X SUVs will come with free unlimited access to its network of electric vehicle chargers known as superchargers.

The move comes on the heels of a second quarter of wider-than-expected losses of $408 million despite record deliveries of its electric vehicles.

The automaker reported in July it delivered a record 95,200 of its electric vehicles in the second quarter, a dramatic reversal from a disappointing first period. The company generated $6.3 billion in revenue in the second quarter from those sales, the bulk of which came from its lower margin and less expensive Model 3 vehicles.

Meanwhile, sales of the Model S and Model X have slowed. Of its 95,200 deliveries, just 17,650 were Model S and X vehicles. Tesla doesn’t separate delivery or production figures for the S and X.

BREAKING: All new Model S and Model X orders now come with ⚡ free ⚡ unlimited ⚡ Supercharging ⚡

— Tesla (@Tesla) August 3, 2019

In its early days, free unlimited supercharging was part of the package of buying a Tesla vehicle.

Tesla began phasing out free unlimited access to its supercharger network when it announced that customers who buy cars after January 1, 2017 will have 400 kilowatt-hours, or about 1,000 miles, of free charging every year. Once owners surpassed that amount, they would be charged a small fee.

Will see what we can do. Really need to bring this program to an end while being as fair as possible. It’s not sustainable long-term.

— E (@elonmusk) September 17, 2018

Tesla then narrowed the free unlimited access to superchargers through a referral program and only to buyers of performance versions of the Model S, Model X and Model 3. The free unlimited supercharger referral program is now set to end September 18.

Musk has brought back the perk several times since to drive sales.

It’s unclear how long this latest offer will last. The company has been tinkering with its pricing structure, vehicle configurations and rewards programs, with changes occurring monthly.

An autonomous robot EV charger is coming to San Francisco

By Kirsten Korosec

Electric-vehicle chargers today are designed for human drivers. Electrify America and San Francisco-based startup Stable are preparing for the day when humans are no longer behind the wheel.

Electrify America, the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over the diesel emissions cheating scandal, is partnering with Stable to test a system that can charge electric vehicles without human intervention.

The autonomous electric-vehicle charging system will combine Electrify America’s 150 kilowatt DC fast charger with Stable’s software and robotics. A robotic arm, which is equipped with computer vision to see the electric vehicle’s charging port, is attached to the EV charger. The two companies plan to open the autonomous charging site in San Francisco by early 2020.

Stable render 2 final

A rendering of an autonomous electric vehicle charging station.

There’s more to this system than a nifty robotic arm. Stable’s software and modeling algorithms are critical components that have applications today, not just the yet-to-be-determined era of ubiquitous robotaxis.

While streets today aren’t flooded with autonomous vehicles, they are filled with thousands of vehicles used by corporate and government fleets, as well as ride-hailing platforms like Uber and Lyft . Those commercial-focused vehicles are increasingly electric, a shift driven by economics and regulations.

“For the first time these fleets are having to think about, ‘how are we going to charge these massive fleets of electric vehicles, whether they are autonomous or not?’ ” Stable co-founder and CEO Rohan Puri told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Stable, a 10-person company with employees from Tesla, EVgo, Faraday Future, Google, Stanford and MIT universities, has developed data science algorithms to determine the best location for chargers and scheduling software for once the EV stations are deployed.

Its data science algorithms take into account installation costs, available power, real estate costs as well as travel time for the given vehicle to go to the site and then get back on the road to service customers. Stable has figured out that when it comes to commercial fleets, chargers in a distributed network within cities are used more and have a lower cost of operation than one giant centralized charging hub.

Once a site is deployed, Stable’s software directs when, how long and at what speed the electric vehicle should charge.

Stable, which launched in 2017, is backed by Trucks VC, Upside Partnership, MIT’s E14 Fund and a number of angel investors, including NerdWallet co-founder Jake Gibson and Sidecar co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul .

The pilot project in San Francisco is the start of what Puri hopes will lead to more fleet-focused sites with Electrify America, which has largely focused on consumer charging stations. Electrify America has said it will invest $2 billion over 10 years in clean energy infrastructure and education. The VW unit has more than 486 electric vehicle charging stations installed or under development. Of those, 262 charging stations have been commissioned and are now open to the public.

Meanwhile, Stable is keen to demonstrate its autonomous electric-vehicle chargers and lock in additional fleet customers.

“What we set out to do was to reinvent the gas station for this new era of transportation, which will be fleet-dominant and electric,” Puri said. “What’s clear is there just isn’t nearly enough of the right infrastructure installed in the right place.”

BMW is making it easier to charge electric vehicles near America’s national parks

By Kirsten Korosec

BMW has finished a nearly two-year project to bring 100 electric vehicle charging stations to America’s national parks.

The automaker partnered in 2017 with several U.S. agencies, including the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, and Department of Energy, to donate 100 electric vehicle charging stations in and near to national parks throughout the United States.

More than 90 of the charging stations have been installed. The remaining few will open this month, the company said.

The effort is small compared to some of the broader infrastructure campaigns in the U.S. But it has the potential to ease the EV charging desert that exists on the open road and at national parks. And as more electric vehicles come on the market, the demand for these chargers will only increase.

The charging stations, which include Level 2 and DC fast chargers, are concentrated in popular areas where there’s a strong electric vehicle market. The agencies and BMW also considered the distance from nearby charging locations.

BMW’s charging stations can be found in Everglades and Grand Canyon, two of the most visited U.S. national parks, as well Death Valley in California, Rainier and Olympic National parks in Washington and Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.

BMW worked with the National Park Service and National Park Foundation to identify sites, address technical considerations and coordinate with state and local authorities.

“The automobile has long been central to the great American vacation in national parks,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “While our treasured landscapes offer familiar vistas time after time, the automobile has changed greatly, and parks want to meet the needs of our visitors who electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.”

Lightyear One debuts as the first long-range solar-powered electric car

By Darrell Etherington

Electric cars are better for the environment than fossil fuel-burning vehicles, but they still rely on the grid, which can be variously dirty or clean depending on what sources it uses for its energy. The new Lightyear One is a prototype vehicle that would improve that by collecting the power it needs to run from the sun.

Lightyear, a startup from the Netherlands born as Stella, has come a long way since it won a Crunchie award in 2015, with a vehicle that now looks ready for the road. The Lightyear One prototype vehicle unveiled today has a sleek, driver-friendly design and also boasts a range of 450 miles on a single charge – definitely a first for a car powered by solar and intended for the actual consumer market.

© Twycer / www.twycer.nl

The startup says that it has already sold “over a hundred vehicles” even though this isn’t yet ready to hit the road, but Lightyear is aiming to begin production by 2021, with reservations available for 500 additional units for the initial release. You do have to pay €119,000 up front (around $136,000 USD) to secure a reservation, however.

Lightyear One isn’t just a plug-in electric with some solar sells on the roof: Instead it’s designed from the ground up to maximize performance from a smaller-than-typical battery that can directly grab sun from a roof and hood covered with 16 square feet of solar cells, embedded in safety glass designed with passenger wellbeing in mind. The car can also take power directly from regular outlets and existing charging stations for a quick top-up, and again because it’s optimized to be lightweight and power efficient, you can actually get around 250 miles on just one night of charging from a standard (European) 230V outlet.

[gallery ids="1848400,1848401,1848403,1848402,1848399"]

The car should supplement existing electric cars for buyers who are more conscious of range anxiety and nervous about having enough charge, the company says. It still have to actually enter production, however, and even when it does it’ll be a fairly expensive and small batch product, at least at first. But it’s an impressive feat nonetheless, and a potential new direction for EVs of the future.

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