Coulomb powers up with $47.5M for electric car charging

Electric car charging network owner Coulomb Technologies has lined up $47.5 million to expand its reach during a year when more new electric vehicle models are showing up in dealerships. In the round, the company brought on new investors Kleiner Perkins and Toyota Tsusho.

The Campbell, Calif.-based startup installs and networks charging stations for customers, such as businesses and government agencies, and it also makes money from providing charging services. Coulomb installs equipment from its own branded charging units or from other makers.

The Series D round included investors Braemar Energy Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Toyota Tsusho and Rho Ventures. Kleiner has also invested in electric car makers Fisker Automotive, which makes an extended range plug-in sports car, and Proterra, an electric bus maker.

The electric car market is only emerging, but if it takes off, then charging station services will be among the substantial sources of revenues in the market. Though electric car sales are tiny, the battle over service stations already has intensified, particularly with the recently announced plan by NRG Energy to install and own hundreds of charging stations as part of its $100 million legal settlement with California. NRG released details of its settlement last month and is waiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Entering the market early gives companies a first-mover advantage to woo consumers and build loyalty. But it also sets up those same charging equipment and service companies to failure if the electric car market doesn’t grow as quickly as anticipated. Success will hinge on these charging station companies figuring where the growth is and avoiding installing too many charging stations in one region.

Coulomb’s previous fundraising efforts included raising $15 million and another $14 million, both in 2010, and $3.8 million in 2009. The company also obtained a $15 million grant from the federal government to install charging stations. Last year, it teamed up with navigation equipment company TomTom to provide charging locator, reservation and information services for plug-in car drivers.

Photo courtesy of Coulomb Technologies