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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Volvo invests in FreeWire to address electric car charging hiccups

By 2050, electric vehicles are predicted to make up 90 per cent of global car sales

Fast charging is a crucial factor in attracting customers to electric cars. Volvo
Fast charging is a crucial factor in attracting customers to electric cars. Volvo

Volvo, which aims for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of its overall sales by 2025, has acquired a stake in San Francisco-based electric car charging company FreeWire Technologies.

The Swedish carmaker is the latest major company to snap up a stake in FreeWire. In January, BP Ventures announced it was investing $5 million and FreeWire is now installing its fast charging systems at BP petrol stations across Europe.

“To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, chief executive of Volvo Cars Tech Fund, an investment arm in tech and mobility ventures run by the carmaker.

“Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

Electric vehicles are forecast to rise from 1 per cent of global car sales in 2017 to 2.5 per cent by 2020, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Thematic Investing report, which found that by 2050 electric vehicles will constitute 90 per cent of car sales.

Owned by China's Geely Holding, Volvo sold 571,577 cars in 2017, an increase of 7 per cent over 2016. Its 4x4 vehicle XC40 will be the first all-electric option as the company aims to generate half of its revenues from electric vehicles in the next seven years.

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FreeWire, a pioneer in charging technology, specialises in both stationary and mobile fast charging - allowing electric car charging to be deployed quickly and widely.

Fast charging is a crucial factor in attracting customers to electric cars. Leading auto brands including BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen have jointly pledged to open 400 ultra-fast charging stations in Europe by 2020.

Installing traditional fixed fast-charging stations is usually a labour-intensive process that requires many electrical hardware upgrades. FreeWire’s charging stations are free-standing units that use low-voltage power, allowing operators to use existing power outlets and removing the need for any set-up.

This means drivers can get powered up without charging stations needing to establish a high-voltage connection to the grid.

“This partnership will help us to develop new markets and business models around our EV fast charging technology,” said Arcady Sosinov, chief executive of FreeWire.

Volvo Cars Tech Fund, which was established earlier this year, had completed its first strategic investment by acquiring a stake in California-based startup Luminar in June this year. Luminar is developing advanced sensor technology for autonomous vehicles.