Electric charging gets more juice as Soros Fund Management makes a bet on Amply Power

Even as oil companies are getting crushed by the collapse of demand for energy in the wake of international shutdowns responding to the global pandemic, investors representing one of the world’s savviest financiers are placing a small bet on electric charging as the future of transportation.

Soros Fund Management, the financial investment vehicle led by famed investor George Soros, is placing a small, $13.2 million bet, alongside Siemens and a host of other investors into the Los Angeles-based electric charging startup, Amply Power.

To be quite honest I never would have thought in a million years that Soros would jump into our industry so early in its development,” said Vic Shao, Amply’s founder, chairman and chief executive.

And despite the collapse in fossil fuel energy prices, Shao said that Amply’s value proposition still makes sense.

“Raw electric energy is half the price on average as fossil fuels,” Shao said. “As economics go by, solar will continue to get cheaper and wind too. The lowest price of extracting a barrel of oil right now is $20… and then you need to add processing and distilling.”

Shao is the former chief executive of Green Charge, a distributed energy storage company acquired by the world’s largest international energy supplier, ENGIE.

Amply has more than its fair share of competitors vying to give the electric vehicle fleet management charging market a jolt. Companies like Electriphi, EVConnnect, GreenLots, and GreenFlux are all offering somewhat similar services.

The company said it would use the money to expand its team and customer deployments to compete with its market adversaries. Right now Amply is managing charging operations for customers including: East Contra Costa County’s Tri Delta Transit, and an electric school bus fleet demonstration in New York City with Logan Bus.

AMPLY is the preferred partner of BYD and a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Company, Pacific Current, the company said.

Amply makes its money by owning and operating charging infrastructure and setting up fixed price agreements with its customers. “There are a lot of vendors out there selling hardware or selling software fleet management in software product but at the end customer owns the risk. They have to implement these tools and make it work for their fleet… or vendors,” said Shao. 

Despite slowdowns, Shao said that his business is relatively recession proof, because of its availability to government funds and the status of public transportation as a vital part of a city’s infrastructure.

“It’s really really helpful for the business to have a stable subscription revenue base that will fit the people who will pay you,” said Shao. “Ridershp is down and routes are getting cut… but transit agencies and school districts are not about to go out of business… what has slowed down a bit for us are our customers in the private sector.”

Joining Siemens and Soros in the new financing are previous seed round investors, including Congruent Ventures, PeopleFund, and Obvious Ventures.  

Particle brings an LTE cellular model to market for networked devices working off of 2G and 3G

Particle, a developer of networking hardware and software for connected devices, has released an LTE-enabled module for product developers.

The new device specifically targets folks whose devices were reliant on retiring 2G and 3G networks, according to the company, and includes built-in cloud and SIM support.

Even as big telecom companies and vendors move ahead with 4G and now 5G networking equipment, those technologies aren’t necessarily the best for most networked devices, according to Particle .

LTE hardware is cheaper and has better battery life and ranges that are more appropriate for industrial devices that may need to communicate across distances or through obstacles (like walls, other machines, doors or floors).

Particularly, Particle sees demand for its devices in hard-to-reach or widely dispersed sensor networks — like industrial factory floors or in an agricultural monitoring setting for a farm or field.

“As US carriers are quickly moving to end 2G and 3G support, and global carriers plan for LTE network rollouts, the timing for an LTE strategy is more critical than ever,” according to a statement Bill Kramer, EVP of IoT Solutions at KORE, which provides managed IoT networks, application enablement, location-based services

The new LTE product is part of a suite of offerings from Particle — including a device cloud, operating system and developer toolkit, the company said.

By providing a pre-integrated solution, Particle said that its hardware represents a faster, far less complicated path to market.

“We launched our cellular development kit, the Electron, to give our developer community access to the power of cellular,” said Zach Supalla, co-founder and CEO of Particle, in a statement. “The following industrial E Series line made go-to-market with 2G/3G scalable for enterprises. Now with our LTE module, businesses will evolve alongside the quickly-changing cellular landscape without missing a beat.”

Particle’s new lineup now includes two LTE CAT-M1 models (LTE B13 and LTE B2/4/5/12) and is fully certified, low profile, surface mountable for industrial environments and powered by Qualcomm’s MDM9206 IoT Modem and u-blox’s Sara-R410-02B module.

The new LTE hardware evaluation kit ships for $89 with an evaluation board, a sample temperature sensor and accessories to build out a proof of concept, the company said. Individual modules are priced at $69.

Particle counts 8,500 customers and more than 140,000 developers among its customers building networking technologies for consumer and industrial devices. The company says its customers range from global energy provider Engie and design studio Ideo to indoor crops provider Grow Labs and coffee pioneer Keurig .