Bill Gates-Led Fund Invests in Startup That Helps Scale EV Charging

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A startup that wants to help prepare city grids for a boom in electric vehicles raised $15 million from investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate-tech fund led by Bill Gates, and Coatue Management LLC.

California-based WeaveGrid is developing software that will help utilities better manage the surge in demand for electricity that’s anticipated to come as EVs take off. It was founded by former Tesla Inc. employee John Taggart and Apoorv Bhargava, who used to work for electric utility Opower Inc. The two hope to bridge the gap between the two industries by analyzing data about what happens when EVs interact with the grid.

EVs currently make up less than 1% of all cars on U.S. roads, though sales are growing fast. Some automakers such as General Motors Co. have pledged to stop selling internal combustion engine cars as soon as 2035. Charging a single car in a garage requires multiple households’ worth of electricity supply, meaning grids have to get ready to supply much more power.

“You’re adding a large amount of kilowatts at the edge of the network that was never designed to take such loads,” said Bhargava, chief executive officer of WeaveGrid.

Boston Consulting Group estimated in a 2019 report that utilities will need to spend between $1,700 and $5,800 to accommodate each new EV through 2030. WeaveGrid promises to slash that spending by as much as 80%.

Modern EVs generate a huge amount of data which is automatically shared with the automaker. Electric utilities are also increasingly digitizing, helping to boost information about usage patterns. WeaveGrid brings together all that data with the goal of anticipating future problems as the number of EVs grows rapidly. Bhargava declined to go into more detail about the software.

“Utilities and automakers are both legacy industries trying to catch up to 21st century software,” said Bhargava. The funds raised will mainly be used to hire more staff, he said.

Bhargava wouldn’t reveal which automakers provide WeaveGrid access to their data, though he confirmed that the startup is working with Exelon Corp., the largest U.S. utility. In a pilot project in Baltimore, WeaveGrid’s solutions helped EV users save $150 a year in electric bills through better charging management while also helping the grid better manage demand from the vehicles, he said. 

(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, is one among many investors backing Breakthrough Energy Ventures.)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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