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Ample, which specializes in swapping batteries, talks about a push to bring more EVs into Uber's fleet. Khaled Hassounah, CEO and co-founder at Ample, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the slide to electric.
- Battery-swap startup Ample announcing a pretty big deal today-- $50 million investment from Blackstone. Now, this comes as the company expands its partnership with Uber-- playing a key role in its electrification strategy. So let's talk about what needs to happen in order for battery-swapping to be more widely adopted in this space.
And for that, we want to bring in Khaled Hassounah. He's Ample's CEO and co-founder. And Khaled, it's good to see you again. A huge investment here from Blackstone coming at a time when the US is really focusing on building out its EV infrastructure. Before we dive into battery-swapping specifically, I guess, just give us a sense of how you think the US stacks up against the rest of the world when it comes to investing in EVs and what's needed in order to increase adoption.
KHALED HASSOUNAH: Sure. Nice to see you again. I think we're hopefully waiting for good news about investing from a financial standpoint around kind of the federal government's supporting efforts around more and more of the businesses going in and starting to kind of deploy more of the infrastructure needed to get, really, a large number of cars to move to electric. I think where maybe we lag behind is in thinking ahead a little bit and really understanding what it's going to look like when you have one million, 10 million, 50 million cars running that are electric.
So if you look at what China has been doing, they have close to 20 times as many fast chargers as we have in the US, and we're determined that's not the only solution that's needed. They need battery-swapping, they need other approaches in the US. We're barely scratching the surface, and I think we're not looking ahead enough in terms of really understanding what's the impact on the grid, people's livelihoods, and, of course, of deploying that infrastructure.
- You're actually putting this to work. I know that the last time that you folk were on, we talked about what's going to happen with Uber overseas, I think in Spain. Tell us more about where you stand with that and how soon will it be that people here in the States can actively use this battery-swapping infrastructure as well as your product.
KHALED HASSOUNAH: Sure. So I mean, a lot of the money we've raised is going towards funding that expansion, right? So we talked about Madrid, we talked about Spain. And of course, back then it was a plan, now we have the partnerships, we have the equipment that we need to send, we have the team that we need to go and deploy. So after we've learned so much from running in the Bay Area, we're now thinking about the next city and the city after and the city after.
So that's kind of where we're heading next. I think if you're in the Bay Area and you're an Uber driver, you already can get your hands on an Ample-powered car and drive it just like you drive a gas car. And what we're saying now is that, once you have that working, you want to go and replicate it as fast as possible in other places. And in a way, that's kind of the big advantage, I believe, of what we're doing, which is the speed at which we'll be able to deploy infrastructure in a way that makes economic sense.
- Now, Khaled, when we talk about mainstream adoption, I guess you have to convince US automakers, more of them, to make their batteries, when we're talking about electric vehicles, compatible with this battery-swapping so they could use your business, what you're providing at Ample. I guess, how are those discussions going, and how rapidly do you expect some of these larger automakers to come on board?
KHALED HASSOUNAH: Yeah. I mean, one of the major innovations in what we do is that we pioneered this idea of modular battery-swapping. And in effect, what it means is that you can very easily integrate into vehicles without having them do a lot of work on there, and there are almost no engineering work that's needed on the OEM side. It becomes more of you either install one system or the other.
And if we open a certain big chunk of the market that today is not accessible if you're depending on charging infrastructure, then that's kind of, really, the incentive for them. So we're already working with five of the largest OEMs in the world. We're already [INAUDIBLE] for-- I mean, we can scale to thousands of cars next year, which is our goal, without having them be on board. So they've been on board with us, working with us for more than one year now, and we're actively working through the logistics and the manufacturing complexity in terms of how do we work towards delivering these what are called a [? plate ?] to them, then [? putting ?] the vehicle and selling them to the end customer.
So our goal would be-- as a fleet that wants to move 10,000 cars-- they just buy cars with Ample technology, and then they just can deploy it right away, and it works just like ours. And we can't do that without working very closely with the OEM. So we're very closely working with them. Of course, there's a lot to be figured out before we make public announcements, but hopefully we'll be making these soon.
- We're counting on it. But I'm curious, because I talked about this being cheaper. We get speed. You can do this, the Ample system in 10 minutes, whereas if you've got a car that-- you know, you're lucky if you get an 80% fast charge in 30. But why is it cheaper? Because, I mean, we're not in place yet with an extensive Ample network to really know what the costs would be. Or do we know for sure that it is cheaper?
KHALED HASSOUNAH: We do know for sure for a couple of reasons. One of them is our unit is very predictable. We have the station. We don't need digging underground. We don't need construction. We never need upgrades to the grids because we can distribute the power needed over time. So we've solved the fundamental challenges that make the unit economics for very fast charging very difficult.
It's a lot of construction. You need long-term leases of land. You need upgrades to the grids. And often, even your energy is more expensive because you demand a lot of energy and then you stop. And we've solved each one of these kind of cost drivers for a very expensive kind of 200-kilowatt-charging-plus so we can deliver the equivalent of a megawatt charging, because we get the energy in the car in a few minutes. But we do it without having to pay for any of these costs.
Our unit economics tell us that it's predictable how fast we can build, but it was predictable what the cost is going to be. And if you model that over time, which is what we're validating with actual deployments right now with Uber drivers, you can see that kind of-- we can be profitable at 20% cheaper than gas. Given where the gas prices are right now, it's sometimes 30% and 35% cheaper than gas and works just as well.
- Khaled Hassounah, always great to speak with you, CEO and co-founder of Ample.