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Raises substantial $160 million on battery swap promise

Battery swaps have long been a dream solution to the infrastructure problem standing in the way of widespread electric vehicle adoption. Tesla famously tried but then abandoned the idea half a decade ago. But now a startup called Ample has raised $160 million to put it to work -- first for commercial vehicles, then perhaps for passenger cars and SUVs.

Given the approach that Enough founders John D'Souza and Khaled Hasnah are taking, they'll need a dollar each, and then some.

The goal with Ample is to persuade automakers to make versions of their electric vehicles that have an adapter plate instead of a full battery pack, while everything else remains the same. Then Ample plugs a bunch of battery modules into that adapter. The modules can then be easily replaced at automatic battery swap stations, allowing for much faster "filling" which saves time and money.

Ample then turns around and provides these vehicles (and battery swap infrastructure) to fleets that want to go electric. Shorter charging times, as well as less cumbersome on-site infrastructure – a swap station versus multiple high-capacity chargers – are among the points of sale. Uber already uses a few key stations in the Bay Area and supports a handful of vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and Kia Niro EV.

Beyond that, Ample is also going all out and sourcing cells in modular packs, which means it will have to forge its way into an extremely competitive market for batteries when the world's largest vehicles. Manufacturers are literally worth billions. Trying to throw away dollars. Bring more battery capacity online.

However, D'Souza and Hashanah are not coming this winter. They've been building Ample for years, and some of its original investors -- including Moore Strategic Ventures, which is run by hedge fund King and Fisher Inc. backer Louis Bacon, as well as Shell Ventures -- have contributed. Series C. funding round. Ample has also brought in some new outside investors, such as the venture arm of Singapore's public transport operator, as well as PTT, the major state-owned gas and oil company in Thailand.

And while the battery swap may still seem unfamiliar and possibly unforgivable in the US, it is taking off in China, where startups like Nio have prompted the government there to start demanding a national standard. . As part of the Biden administration's push to clean up billions of dollars in infrastructure transportation emissions, the electric vehicle sector has been flooded with investments and mergers, with Ample taking its shot. There can't be a better time than this.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Let's start with funding because that's what the news is about. It sounds like you're bringing together some people who are already invested in the company, which I imagine a private round is something you'll want to pursue and probably end up going the other way. be a little easier But obviously these days there is a huge menu of options for funding for companies in the electric vehicle sector, the automotive space in general, etc. Why did you decide to go down this route that you are about to announce?

John de Souza: I think the question at the highest level is whether [we] want to remain private or whether [we want to be] going public. I think there's a lot to be done at this point in time for us... in terms of what we want to do in terms of bringing electric vehicles to market, and we don't want to deviate from that. This is a time where we are focused on expansion and growth, and we are fortunate to have a lot of investors who see this and are willing to work with us on this. That's why we've just decided that being in a private company makes a lot of sense, it allows us to focus on exactly what we're going to do.

I see that some well-known names are involved in this round. Do you see any opposition to raising so much money in the private market? Or was the conversation easy enough? Do you feel like investors are moving faster now than in the past few years as far as this technology is concerned?

John de Souza: There's an opportunity to raise a lot of money. I think we selected an amount with our investors that made sense. I think, if we want to go and raise more there is an opportunity in the market to raise more. So I think investors certainly see opportunity.

If you look back a few years, in the beginning it was like, "Will there ever be electric cars?" Or, "Is this electromagnet, is it hydrogen?" I think the game has been played where now [people] see it as electric. The question then became: "Is there going to be electricity in the next 10 years?" He's gone. And so I think, it's real. People see tremendous speed towards it. And they look at different problems... there's a bunch of people trying to solve the vehicle problem, you know, all the OEMs, but there's not a lot of people who have a really good solution for infrastructure. . So I think it helped us. We have a solution that solves a problem and can be profitable. And so it was easy to go back to find investors who saw it, understood it, and wanted to invest in it.

Khalid Hasouna: This round is led by existing investors who have already been backing Ample for some time, as well as outside investors. So external validation [shows] more people to understand and see the value you're creating. But it was a very positive thing for us that our existing investors actually saw the business grow and doubled from what it is, and said, "Okay, we want to grow that." For us, it was the final sign that it [investors] is not coming and getting dog and pony shows, going "oh, that's great" - they really understand this very deeply, and over the years We have been there ever since, and are just working with us to take it to the next level.

This idea has a somewhat long history, and I'm interested in what it's like to try to build this company now, when there's more money in the space and very different circumstances such as widespread adoption of EVs.

Khaled Hasouna: I think when you're talking about technologies that are fundamentally changing the way we work, they're often not second and third attempts, right? So Google was not the first search engine, Tesla was not the first electric car. So to a large extent, it's very little about coming up with an idea that's completely new and no one has ever thought of, because most likely, if no one has ever thought about it, Maybe it doesn't have any merit, right? John has a slide that shows batteries being swapped out in a 1944 car, so the idea of ​​physically transferring energy has a lot of merit.

I think where innovation comes in is understanding how you create an idea from scratch, but it's the hard work of figuring out how you adjust your way of thinking about that idea so that it's viable. Go. So that it is affordable, easy to deploy.

I think innovation comes more in that form. I mean we had to radically change one of the main aspects of it, which is the idea of ​​making it modular, because if you change your mindset and say "well, it's not a big bulk battery that I I'm going to move." Going forward, I'm going to break it down into smaller pieces, "makes a lot of things a lot easier. But it requires a lot of innovation in technology."

Beyond that, it's usually just thinking a lot about how you make it practically economically viable, easy to deploy. And that's where a lot of innovation came from.

John De Souza: There are a lot of people who have said "let's standardize to OEM," which sounds great and you're pushing all the work to OEM. We said, let's not ask them to standardize, let's do all the work ourselves. And as Khalid mentioned, modularity helped us solve it. But we said we would do the heavy lifting. The solution is not to say that OEMs should standardize their solutions.

One thing I want to ask you before you get into the way things work is that when you were raising this money, China put a lot of emphasis on this idea as well, and they are in some ways following the broader battery swap standard. are. are doing. can bear. Did that make it easier for you guys to raise money, and did it technically change your thinking about how you wanted to look at it, given what those companies were doing?

John de Souza: I think in America, we don't have enough to see what's happening around the world. So, I think a lot of people are surprised that there is such a huge battery swap happening in China.

I guess what's even more telling is that China has 16 times faster chargers than the US - why are they swapping batteries? And I think that's when people realize, "Hmm, there must be something that isn't working with these fast chargers."

So I think it really helped, they invested a lot in charging, and now they're doing that... It's an opportunity for us to learn what they've done.

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