Soros, Siemens fund expansion of electric infrastructure management startup

Freightliner eCascadia charging

AMPLY Power Inc., a charging-as-a-service startup, raised $13.2 million in a Series A funding round from the Soros Fund Management and infrastructure supplier Siemens USA, a sign of growing interest in electric-powered transit and trucking.

“Institutional investors are now fully bullish on electrification to get not only AMPLY but the entire industry going because they believe this is really the trend for the future,” AMPLY founder and CEO Vic Shao told FreightWaves. “They are looking at the market from a holistic perspective and which segment is really scaling today. That, of course, is transit.”

AMPLY services include charging hardware deployment, management of depot upgrades and utility interconnections, real-time software-controlled charge optimization, debt financing of capital expenditures, and resiliency planning.

The company charges a per-mile-driven fee for its software-based management technology that assures each electric truck or bus in a fleet is charged and ready for work each day.

The new investment follows seed round money from  Congruent Ventures, PeopleFund and Obvious Ventures.

Transit advantage

Transit buses, now in use in 20 states, have reached production scale while commercial trucks have several years where they will still be in the pilot stage, Shao said.

“Really the barrier to adoption is always on the infrastructure side,” Shao said. “It can take a long time to provide power to the facility, service upgrades and the time that it takes to get all of that done. And then after it’s installed, the ongoing cost of electricity is not what [customers] are  used to.”

That was the experience Jim O’Leary at NFI Industries had in preparing the company’s site in Chico, California, for the arrival of 10 Freightliner eCascadia electric Class 8 tractors.

“I think the big thing is to leave time when you’re taking on a project like this,” the vice president of NFI Fleet Services said. “We had our first conversations with the utility last fall and we commissioned the site in late July, early August. All of it takes time.”

Transit buses have a three- to five-year head start in electrification over commercial trucking, Shao said.

“It’s going to take a couple of years of pilots before the duty cycles are proven out in trucking segments,” he said.

Early success

AMPLY points to Tri Delta Transit in East Contra Costa County, California, as an example of early success. Charging a variety of bus types with a variety of chargers saved up to 40% of electric charging costs.

AMPLY guarantees low-cost electric performance by smoothing out spikes and peaks common to electricity delivery. The cost of electricity can rise or fall 300% in a single day depending on variables like demand charges and time-of-use schedules. By contrast, the price of diesel fuel may rise or fall 20%-25% in a year.

A soon-to-be-published update to a 2019 AMPLY study equalizing the cost of a gallon of gasoline to electricity in 25 major U.S. cities will include a look at diesel vs. electricity in California based on drayage and port examples, Shao said.

“AMPLY’s role is to make infrastructure work,” Shao said. “We let the customer select whatever vehicles they think are appropriate for their operation. Our job is to make sure those vehicles are completely charged up every 24 hours in their working environment reliably and at the lowest cost.”