Blog Post

BMW backs electric car charging startup Coulomb

BMW’s venture fund, BMW i Ventures, has invested in electric car charging company Coulomb Technologies, according to a release. BMW launched its $100 million fund — its first to date — last year to focus on “mobility,” including mobile apps, in car services and auto navigation.

Five-year-old Coulomb installs and manages electric car charging stations for its customers, like businesses and government agencies. Coulomb says it operates the largest global electric car charging network in the world. Electric cars are still a small and emerging market, but companies like Coulomb are looking to get in front of the curve as more cars like Nissan’s LEAF, Tesla’s Model S and GM’s Volt make it onto the roads.

Coulomb announced a large round of $47.5 million in funding in May, but back then hadn’t yet announced BMW i Ventures as an investor. Other investors in that round included new investors Kleiner Perkins and Toyota Tsusho, and returning previous investors Braemar Energy Ventures and Rho Ventures.

BMW’s investment is interesting because it shows that the car company’s venture arm is also interested in strategically investing in electric car technology, not just mobility tools for traditional vehicles. BMW has only been modestly interested in electric cars — the company has their prototype Mini-E’s and has talked about creating its MegaCity Vehicle by 2013.

While the electric car market is only emerging, charging stations could one day be a substantial source of revenue. Other companies that are building electric car charging networks include NRG Energy, which won a controversial deal in California recently, and Ecotality, which has sued California regulators to stop the NRG Energy California deal.