Bill Gates-Led Fund Invests in Startup That Helps Scale
WeaveGrid is bringing together data from
electric vehicles and utilities to help avoid problems the grid is
expected to face soon
By Akshat Rathi
May 20, 2021, 4:55 AM PDT
A startup that wants to help prepare city grids for a boom in electric
vehicles raised $15 million from investors including Breakthrough
Energy Ventures, a climate-tech fund led by Bill Gates, and Coatue
California-based WeaveGrid is developing software that will help
utilities better manage the surge in demand for electricity that’s
anticipated to come as EVs take off. It was founded by former Tesla
Inc. employee John Taggart and Apoorv Bhargava, who used to work for
electric utility Opower Inc. The two hope to bridge the gap between
the two industries by analyzing data about what happens when EVs
interact with the grid.
EVs currently make up less than 1% of all cars on U.S. roads, though
sales are growing fast. Some automakers such as General Motors Co.
have pledged to stop selling internal combustion engine cars as soon
as 2035. Charging a single car in a garage requires multiple
households’ worth of electricity supply, meaning grids have to get
ready to supply much more power.
“You’re adding a large amount of kilowatts at the edge of the network
that was never designed to take such loads,” said Bhargava, chief
executive officer of WeaveGrid.
Boston Consulting Group estimated in a 2019 report that utilities will
need to spend between $1,700 and $5,800 to accommodate each new EV
through 2030. WeaveGrid promises to slash that spending by as much as
Modern EVs generate a huge amount of data which is automatically
shared with the automaker. Electric utilities are also increasingly
digitizing, helping to boost information about usage patterns.
WeaveGrid brings together all that data with the goal of anticipating
future problems as the number of EVs grows rapidly. Bhargava declined
to go into more detail about the software.
“Utilities and automakers are both legacy industries trying to catch
up to 21st century software,” said Bhargava. The funds raised will
mainly be used to hire more staff, he said.
Bhargava wouldn’t reveal which automakers provide WeaveGrid access to
their data, though he confirmed that the startup is working with
Exelon Corp., the largest U.S. utility.
In a pilot project in Baltimore, WeaveGrid’s solutions helped EV users
save $150 a year in electric bills through better charging management
while also helping the grid better manage demand from the vehicles, he
(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, is one among many
investors backing Breakthrough Energy Ventures.)
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