Bloom Energy CEO: We Can Be the Gas Station for Transportation

A year ago, venture capitalists at the firm Kleiner Perkins let slip a few juicy details about their first cleantech investment: quiet fuel cell maker Bloom Energy. Now in an interesting and rare interview with Alison van Diggelen, who produces Fresh Dialogues, Bloom Energy chief executive KR Sridhar has shared a few more tidbits, including the fact that Bloom is targeting the transportation industry in the company’s grand vision.

No the fuel cell won’t be making its way into the vehicles themselves but Sridhar tells van Diggelen that “the ultimate vision” is to have refrigerator-sized Bloom devices powering transportation within a decade. As Sridhar explains: “Our device can either produce the electricity that will charge the car or provide you hydrogen if the transportation becomes a hydrogen based. So we’ve sort of become the gas station for the transportation industry.” That sounds like the devices could provide an off-the-grid form of electric vehicle charging.

It’s yet another massive industry that the 7-year-old company, which is really just getting started on its commercial shipments according to documents associated with its $150 million Series F financing round, is hoping to tackle. The 5-kilowatt Bloom box, which has been in testing for the last few years, involves a fuel cell system that can generate electricity using a range of liquid fuels, such as natural gas or ethanol.

Other interesting points of van Diggelen’s interview include Sridhar’s reality check on how long large scale energy tech projects really take:

This is not a microchip. These are huge devices, they need to be build in very large quantities, and if you take automotive, if you take anything else, its penetration and how long it takes to build the factories, the machines for factories. These things don’t happen over night…It’s going to be slower than what the bits and bites people in Silicon Valley think because it’s not like software that you’re just going to write and then copy 800 times, or a million times over instantly, and distribute.

So if you thought Bloom was taking a long time to deliver its product to market, get ready to wait a whole lot longer for the company to execute on its vision. And on the point of Bloom’s reported pre-money valuation, van Diggelen writes, “Sridhar advised reported figures were not accurate.” To read or listen to the interview (which is just the first part), click here.


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