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Ultrafast EV charging is ‘the next evolution in electric vehicle infrastructure’: FreeWire CEO

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Arcady Sosinov, Co-Founder & CEO of FreeWire, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Alexis Christoforous to discuss ultrafast charging for electric vehicles and challenges in the EV space.

Video Transcript

KRISTEN MYERS: I want to talk now about electric vehicles and specifically about keeping them powered. We're joined now by the co-founder and CEO of the EV charging and power startup FreeWire, Arcady Sosinov. Arcady, so, how much can these ultrafast chargers for electric vehicles really change the game going forward?

ARCADY SOSINOV: Well, it really is the next evolution in electric vehicle infrastructure. We had a wave of electric vehicle startups come on the market over the last year or so. Now they've become more mainstream. The automobile EMs from the US and Germany and now Toyota a few days ago have announced that they are diving headfirst into electric vehicles.

But charging infrastructure has lagged behind, and particularly, ultrafast charging. And the problem and the reason that it's lagged behind is because of the utility infrastructure behind it. We have to think about first principles here, is to enable that 10, 15-minute charge that consumers expect, we need a huge amount of power coming into the charging infrastructure. And that, we just don't have nationally. Across the country, we don't have the utility infrastructure to support it. So from a first principles perspective, we have to focus on that grid before we focus on the adoption wide stream of electric vehicles.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Talk to us a little bit about your technology there at FreeWire. You call it a boost charger. You say that it's completely decoupled from the grid. Why is that so important?

ARCADY SOSINOV: That's right. It goes back to what I just said, which is utility infrastructure just isn't there to support the power needs. These vehicles are power hungry. In order to charge a car up in 10 to 15 minutes, you need roughly four to 10 times the amount of power that currently exists on a retail location. If you're pulling up into a 7-eleven or a Starbucks, they simply don't have the utility infrastructure there available to fast charge not just two or three vehicles, but even one vehicle.

And so what our product does is we package battery systems inside the charging infrastructure so that we can actually deploy ultrafast charging on limited or no infrastructure in some cases. The vehicles can still plug in and charge up in that 10 to 15 minutes that you expect. But the grid isn't going to see that huge spike in power consumption. And back to Gina McCarthy's comments earlier, much of the technology that we've developed, we actually manufacture in the US, in fact, including the battery pack that sits inside of our product. We are one of the only companies in the US that's buying batteries nationally and building them in California for the deployment of charging infrastructure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: When you say, you know, super fast charging, what are you talking about? Is it that 10 to 15 minute window? And when do you see that perhaps being sped up a little bit? Because I'm just thinking, I don't know a lot of folks who are going to have the patience to even deal with 10 or 15 minutes to charge up their EV.

ARCADY SOSINOV: Yeah, I mean, it's a good point. I mean, the hard reality is that it won't speed up much faster than that. But what's going to happen is that consumer behavior will change with electric vehicles. Instead of relying on that gas station to go in and fill up and wait there for four or five minutes, you're going to be able to charge anywhere you go on a daily basis.

When you go and you pick up groceries, when you pick up your coffee in the morning, when you pick up your kids from school, and when you go to the doctor's office, you're going to have charging infrastructure available in the places that you want to be anyways. So that 10, 15, even 20 minutes is going to feel like no time at all because you're just plugging in and then going about your day. And it actually becomes significantly more convenient for drivers. And we see studies about this all the time. They prefer that, rather than having to go out of the way to a gas station, where, frankly, they just don't want to go today.

KRISTEN MYERS: Arcady, as you were talking, I was just thinking so much about the range anxiety that we hear from a lot of drivers of electric vehicles, and even truck drivers rejecting these battery-powered trucks because they were afraid that they would be on the road somewhere and they would lose electricity. They would lose charge in that battery and that they wouldn't be able to charge it. So then where do you see us going in terms of those very public charging stations in multitudes? How fast do you think that we can get that infrastructure built in the United States, especially when we have technology like FreeWire has?

ARCADY SOSINOV: Right, well, we make this significantly easier because remember, the challenge thus far and the reason that charging infrastructure has lagged behind is not the actual box itself that you connect to. It's the utility infrastructure that sits behind it. We don't have the grid and the available power in the places where we want charging to deploy ultra fast charging at scale. So our product or our technology, that battery integrated solution really solves that. We can speed up deployments in a matter of weeks rather than months at a much lower cost than any other technology out there.

But really, that range anxiety question that you asked, it's a bit of a red herring at this point. We have electric vehicles, passenger vehicles that can go over 300 miles. And some of the semi trucks and large heavy duty and medium duty vehicles coming out, what's really going to happen is it's not going to be the driver's choice. It's going be the choice of the fleets that see that the operational cost of those vehicles is 20% to 30% of that of combustion vehicles today.

So even though charging infrastructure may be a little bit more challenging to solve than the fueling infrastructure that we have deployed across the country and across the world today, those operational costs of those fleet vehicles are so much lower that it really is pushing the industry in that direction. And you see it with the announcements of Amazon buying 100,000 electric trucks. You'll see announcements similar to that from pretty much every fleet across the country within the next 12 months.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now I know you announced a $50 million Series C funding round back in January. Curious what you're going to use that money for, and are you eyeing the public markets at this point in the company's journey?

ARCADY SOSINOV: That's right. We announced the $50 million Series rounds back in January. And that was led by RiverStone, one of the biggest private equity funds in the energy space, BP, who is one of our biggest customers and partners, and BlueBear Capital. And that money is really going to help us scale up both our local contract-- local manufacturing facilities. Like I said, we buy batteries in the US. We make our own battery systems. We make our own technology. And we're vertically integrated. And we do it all in California, which I think is unique to this industry. And that's really helping us scale up.

We've also started to deploy the product internationally. We've actually shipped product out to the UK to deploy in that market. So that capital is going to help us scale there. And obviously, public markets are really where a lot of the electric vehicle and charging infrastructure companies are looking at in the future because this is such an expensive business to run and to pursue. Obviously, the Biden infrastructure bill is putting down about $175 billion towards charging infrastructure. That money is being allocated to companies over the next couple of years.

We're going need to spend billions, and in some cases, trillions, as an industry to scale up utility infrastructure, which is that problem that we're trying to solve. And it's no secret that capital is the way to get there. So we're going to keep our eyes open. We're looking at the market. We're really excited about what's happening. But that venture round that we disclosed is really going to help us scale in the short-term.

KRISTEN MYERS: All right, exciting stuff. Arcady Soskinov, co-founder and CEO of FreeWire, thanks so much for joining us.