Thirteen years ago, Shai Agassi, a software executive committed to the position of CEO of SAP, one of the most powerful software companies in the world, left the company as he dedicated most of his professional life and started a business called Better Place. This startup promised to revolutionize the newborn electric vehicle market and widespread concern as outdated Company pitch. Automated Battery a network of replacement stations that will replace used batteries with freshly charged ones.
Agassi’s firm would return about $1 billion (when that considered a huge amount of money) from the world’s top venture capital and growth equity firms. It will go bankrupt by 2013 and is one of the first casualties of the first wave of cleantech investments. Now serial entrepreneurs John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah are reclaiming the battery swapping business model with a startup called Ample and they say it solves some of the problems that Better Place can never deal with when adopting electric vehicles creating a situation in a much larger address market.
In 2013, there were 220,000 vehicles on the road, according to data from Statista, which increased to 4.6 million in 2019. Ample has actually raised nearly $70 million from investors including Shell Ventures, Spanish power company Repsol, and Moore Strategic Ventures, co-founder of investment firm Louis M. Bacon, founder of Million-Billion Hedge Fund, Moore Capital Management.
This includes a $34 million investment first reported in 2018 and the next round from investors, including Eneos Holdings, a Japanese power and metals company, which recently closed. “We had a lot of people who either said I was somehow involved and suffering from PTSD,” De Souza said of the similarities between his business and Better Place. “People who weren’t involved read about them and then they fled.”
In the case of ampoules, the difference lies in the modulation of the battery pack, how it changes the relationship with the technology that automakers will use. “The method we took … is to fix the battery and then we have an adapter plate that is the structural element of the battery that has the same size of the battery, the same bolt pattern and the same software interface.
Although we provide the same battery system… it is the same as a tire replacement, “said Hassounah, co-founder and CEO of Ampoule.” Effectively we are giving those plates large battery plates. We have been able to work with OEMS where you can make the batteries swappable to use where it makes a lot of money not really changing the same vehicle.”