As electric vehicles go mainstream, Tesla and new passenger car models still grab most of the headlines. But it’s been obvious to us for some time that commercial and municipal fleets would be the first segment of the vehicle market to electrify at scale. After all, high utilization rates for fleets allow them to more rapidly recoup higher upfront costs with fuel savings. Simpler powertrains also hold the promise of lower maintenance costs and longer useful lives. Of course, the environmental benefits of going electric are also increasingly attractive for corporations focused on achieving sustainability and CO2 reduction targets.
We began looking at investment opportunities around fleet electrification in early 2011, when the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S launched. At that time, several companies were building vehicle conversions of light duty trucks and vehicle-to-grid solutions to help fleets offset EV costs by capturing energy services revenue on the grid. The possibilities were exciting but the nascent market was missing key ingredients, most notably a supply of actual vehicles! Fast forward a decade and battery energy densities have improved by 50% while scaling of production has driven prices down from $400/kWh to under $150/kWh and still falling. Supported by this improvement in battery price/performance, OEMs began developing vehicles ranging from electric buses to light duty trucks which are finally entering the market.
But operating an electric fleet is entirely different than operating a gas-powered one. Without careful management, utility demand charges and variable electricity rates can quickly erode potential fuel savings. And fleets can’t risk their operational readiness if charging times impact dispatchability or range for routes. As with any transition to a new technology platform, customers are concerned with the upfront investment and the risk of transitioning to a new method of operating.
It was immediately clear to us that Muffi Ghadiali and Sanjay Dayal, the founders of Electriphi, had a deep understanding and singular focus on solving these challenges. Muffi saw an opportunity to become the software and data platform to power “one of the biggest energy transitions in history, as the global transportation fleet moves from fossil fuels to electrons”.
Muffi has a great product background from HP and Amazon, but most recently he led High-Speed DC Fast Charging at ChargePoint. He realized that fleet customer needs were quite unique and decided to build a data analytics and software product tailored specifically for that market. Sanjay previously built enterprise scale software and data systems at Tibco and Sybase. Their open architecture, standards-based approach offers customers and partners the flexibility to work with any combination of charging infrastructure and vehicle type. And their solution already extends far beyond charging management to include dynamic scheduling, route management, fault reporting, telematics integration and service tracking. Together these capabilities help customers improve fleet reliability while reducing their fueling and operations costs. For customers still early in their shift from fuel to electrons, Electriphi helps them run simulations and ROI calculations to make the right decisions based on a customized strategy. The company already has several high-profile customers, including the nation’s largest electric school bus fleet.
We are excited to lead Electriphi’s $3.5M seed round, joined by a great set of partners including Urban Innovation Fund, Blackhorn Ventures, Lemnos Labs and Acario Innovation Fund. There are roughly 20 million public and commercial fleet vehicles in North America. Having watched this market for years, we have high conviction that the hardware economics are beginning to look compelling for most fleets to take electrification seriously. And we believe Electriphi is the software catalyst to help accelerate this transition.