German car-maker pumps money into world’s provider of electronic vehicle charging stations
The nascent electronic car market has received a significant boost with the news that BMW has invested in Coulomb Technologies, a five year old start-up that specialises in making electronic vehicle (EV) charging stations and software.
Coulomb operates around the world and has signed development deals with Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Fisker in the past. The California-based firm announced in May a round of funding that reached $47.5m, which also included support from Toyota Tsusho and Kleiner Perkins.
BMW invested through their New York based venture capital subsidiary, which last year was launched with a fund of $100m to invest in future technologies. They have also announced that in 2013 they plan to release their first electric cars, dubbed the i Series.
Until recently, the electronic car market has been relatively small, with only a few major auto firms developing their own models. Part of the reason for this is that the cars are relatively expensive, as a result of the cost of their lithium-ion batteries. Another reason is the lack of infrastructure to support the vehicles, with not enough charging stations provided to the public.
Some governments announced proposals to reduce these barriers to the market, with the US pledging $2.4bn in grants towards bringing down the cost of the vehicles, while China intends to invest $15bn to kick-start the industry in Asia.
Without these forms of government support the industry will struggle to attract customers. However, if BMW is willing to bet on companies like Coulomb, it may be a sign that private firms can see a way of profiting from the industry’s future.