BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $A9 trillion in assets, has announced it is injecting $100 million in funding into Jolt, an electric car charging startup that wants to make EV ownership more affordable.
The funds will help bank-roll the rollout of 5,000 electric vehicle charge points around Australia, which would put Jolt on par with charging network provider Chargefox, which aims to have 5,000 plugs installed by 2025.
In return, BlackRock’s real estate and infrastructure arm has acquired an equity stake in Jolt and made a first foray into the Asia Pacific EV market.
This is not BlackRock’s first investment in the electric vehicle industry, however, having already backed UK EV startup Arrival and also participated in Amazon and T.Rowe Price funding rounds for Rivian, the US-based startup that has big plans for electric utes and SUVs (and which may appear locally after a European expansion in 2022).
It is, however, BlackRock’s largest EV charging-related investment, yet – and the sheer size of the funds indicates a shifting of gears in Australia’s EV market, which has been lagging behind overseas markets but with the recent introduction of supportive state EV policies is now poised to take off.
“We have a climate infrastructure fund of $5 billion and historically our funds have invested in more conventional renewables projects, such as wind and solar,” said Charlie Reid, managing director of BlackRock’s Renewables fund in the Asia Pacific region.
“We have found growing opportunities in enabling climate infrastructure – battery storage and EV infrastructure and so on. We’ve been looking for opportunities to meet return parameters and Jolt presents the opportunity to deploy capital at scale.”
More than 8,600 EVs, mostly of the battery-electric variety, were sold in Australia in the first half of 2021 which is more than the entire market in 2020 according to the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) State of EVs report on Monday. This brings Australia’s EV market share to 1.57% so far in 2021 up from 0.78% in 2020 compared with a global average of 4.2%.
But there are still barriers to the uptake of electric vehicles, which have the potential to make a substantial impact on Australia’s transport-related emissions which account for around 20% of the nation’s entire emissions. Price and range anxiety account for two of the three main barriers, both of which Jolt aims to tackle.
“Addressing infrastructure is one of three barriers to ownership, if we can take one off the table we think that’s a really good thing,” Jolt CEO and founder Doug McNamee told The Driven.
“Range anxiety is directly related to that, and by addressing cost of charging we save drivers $1,000 a year.”
But with Blackrock funding under its belt it now has plans to become the largest network in Australia, with funding to be executed in accordance with designated business milestones.
“It’s a great signal for the industry as a whole,” said McNamee.
“The transition from a nascent industry to one that can attract global capital is a journey that has been happening for the last few years.”
“We have aspirations to have a large public charging network, to participate in the transition to EVs. We make our chargers free so it reduces the cost of EV ownership.”
Jolt’s offer of free charging is enabled by the charge-points’ proximity to advertising stands. Under its current model, the first 15 minutes worth of charging is free adding around 45km driving range – more than the average Australian daily commute.
There are currently around 3,000 public chargers at 1,650 locations including 470 fast charges at 250 locations according to the EVC.
NSW has the highest ratio of chargers with an average of 7.21 EVs per charger owned, which is high compared to overseas markets. But as EV ownership continues to grow this will change.
“Having more of those chargers is a good thing,” said McNamee. “From what you see in Norway, one DC fast charger to every 100 EVs is the gold standard.
“We see the market in Australi has been lagging behind but it will absolutely catch up and catch up quickly,” said Reid.
“It gives us the opportunity to invest as an early mover in the sector and ride the growth of the market.
“It’s exciting for me personally because when we invest in wind and solar projects, they are predominantly a long way away and out of sight. This is bringing things into the community, we will all see Jolt infrastructure around us.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.