Inspiration wants to help commercial fleets go electric, and it has already started by financing electric mobility company Revel's ride-hail fleet of blue Teslas. The startup, which finances electric vehicles and has plans to build, own and operate the corresponding charging infrastructure, came out of stealth on Wednesday with an initial $200 million in capital commitment.
The funding comes from ArcLight Capital Partners, a venture fund that invests in energy infrastructure. Josh Green, founder and CEO of Inspiration, described the funding as a platform company investment, one that allows Inspiration to use that money to invest in infrastructure assets, like vehicles and charging solutions, as well as for general corporate purposes. In other words, it's balance sheet capital, and Inspiration is only getting started.
The company, which has been operating on the down low since the end of Q1 this year, is in discussions with several other investors to raise more money needed to continue financing vehicles and other infrastructure-related assets, like energy systems like solar that power charging infrastructures, energy storage systems and real estate, according to Green.
"We're a finance company, so we will always be raising money from the right sources to lower the cost of capital and be able to offer EVs to wider segments of the population," Green told TechCrunch. "Our near term goals are to expand into all light and medium-duty segments and use cases and build the leading EV solutions company in North America. As we do that, we want to be thought of as the go-to partner for fleet companies that want a custom, turnkey EV solution from an aligned partner wholly focused on the same end goal: Delivering maximum economic value from EV fleets while achieving meaningful GHG reductions."
Inspiration aims to cater to three types of customers. The first is what the startup refers to as emerging EV fleet operators, venture-backed companies that were born based on an EV fleet. Brooklyn-based Revel, the company that started with dockless e-mopeds and has since expanded to a questionable ride-hail fleet of Teslas and an EV charging superhub, falls under this category. Earlier this year, Inspiration helped Revel get 49 EVs for its limited service before New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) got wind of it and made it clear that a for-hire vehicle, even an electric one, would need a TLC license plate.
"We act as their heavy asset capital partner so that they can use their venture dollars to scale their technology platform customer acquisition and partner with us for the vehicles, charging infrastructure, energy infrastructure, real estate -- all the other hard asset components that are quite expensive but necessary for successfully deploying and scaling an EV fleet," said Green.
The second customer segment is traditional fleet operators, like a NYC Yellow Cab company, that needs help transitioning their otherwise ICE-based fleet to electric.
"Basically our goal with those guys is to make deploying an EV fleet as easy and simple as buying another Toyota Camry and throwing the key to the driver," said Green. "For those customers we help them understand which vehicles are the right ones to meet their needs, depending on their daily driving cycle and range and how long the vehicles are stationary. Then we design and implement the charging infrastructure as a system serving those vehicles to ensure business continuity."
Corporate fleets are the final category of customer, and these are typical Fortune 500 companies that give company cars to sales and operations employees. Usually, these types of companies are looking for easy ways to reach corporate emissions goals.
Inspiration aims to provide a bespoke service to customers in all categories. It can provide a full-stack solution, says Green, from financing the vehicles to supplying and running charging infrastructure to working with energy companies to ensure electricity is being used efficiently. Or customers can pick and choose a la carte what services they need.
Green thinks charging infrastructure is an integral part of the business, particularly because installing it at a fleet level can be quite expensive and robust.
"Because fleet charging requires much more power in one location, understanding energy pricing and utility rate structures and how they charge, the right time to both serve the fleet's needs but also not get killed on your demand charges, is really important," said Green. "In addition, the calculation on the charging side varies dramatically by location. In New York City, for example, the incentives and rate structures are very different than if you were doing it in New Orleans. So the economic benefit of the EV fleet has to take into account a lot of factors, which change by location, and we do that analysis for our customers."
Green, who had been working in climate and clean energy since 2003, founded the startup after a 14-month honeymoon around the world, a trip that began with ClimateTech burnout and ended with a renewed motivation to contribute to the fight against climate change. After retracing steps he had taken in Patagonia some 20 years ago only to see firsthand how climate change had morphed the once-familiar landscapes, Green came back recommitted to the movement.
"I started thinking about where I could really put my shoulder against the wheel again, and EVs kept coming up as this area that has huge potential," said Green. "Transportation is the largest source of U.S. emissions. EVs are now an area where the technology is ready, there are no technology barriers. The state of battery technology means that all these vehicles now have a base range that's able to satisfy pretty much every application on the commercial side. So it's become really a finance and deployment issue to solve, and those are things that I have a decent idea of how to attack."