Race of the Electric Car Charging Station Installers
The field of companies looking to establish networks of electric vehicle charging stations has become quite the horse race. And a relatively recent addition, Coulomb Technologies, has taken on reigning Silicon Valley firm Better Place with a new, grassroots business strategy targeting gas stations, government agencies and shopping centers.
Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb is in the spotlight today, having raised $3.75 million in a first round of funding from German backer Estag Capital — a round expected to close between $5 and $8 million. But even this sum is dwarfed by the $200 million that launched Better Place in 2007, not to mention the $1 billion in projects the Palo Alto, Calif. company says it has lined up in the Bay Area alone.
But despite the disparity in cash, Coulomb seems to be closer to actually commercializing its flagship device — a curbside plug-in charging machine that works when users scan a special “ChargePoint Smart Card.” Called “Smartlet Charging Stations,” the devices cost about $3,000 — not including installation fees — and are usually mounted on street light poles. Earlier this month, it launched several demonstration systems in downtown San Jose, Calif. They haven’t seen much traffic so far — probably because there are less than 300 vehicles that could use them in the U.S.
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