The Pulse @ 1 Market

A company trying to jump-start the electric car market

Electric vehicle charger in San Francisco
Getty Images
The electric vehicle market

Some say that electric vehicles are the transportation of the future, so it stands to reason that their charging networks wouldn't rely on yesterday's business models. And it also makes sense that in the industry's early days, there's more than one charging business model trying to gain a foothold.

Elon Musk's Tesla Motors has its approach, combining a long-distance corridor EV charging network with home stations for its own car models. But there's another model that started with the around-the-town charging concept that's now reached 28,000 locations, more than doubling its range in the past two years.

ChargePoint, which describes itself as the world's "largest and most open" electric vehicle charging network, now has more than 28,000 total charging spots, and its CEO, Pasquale Romano, likens his company's approach not to Tesla but to another disruptive company: Airbnb.

"Airbnb is the largest hotel chain in the world, and they don't own a hotel. We're the largest electric vehicle charging network in the world, and we don't own a charging station," he told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Monday.

Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint CEO
Source: ChargePoint

ChargePoint, which raised $50 million in new funding earlier this month, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, helps existing businesses set up charging stations in their parking lots, "and then we make all those individual groups of chargers, that are owned by those individual businesses, look like one network to the driver to make it easy," Romano said.

Even though an electric vehicle driver may pay ChargePoint through their mobile application, that money is remitted back to the charging-station owners. The company offers its mobile application for free to help build up its network of drivers.

"What's interesting about our model is [that] our customer, technically, is that site owner," Romano said. "However, we view the driver as important, even though the driver doesn't pay us directly, because that is the overall underpinning of the entire market."

That owner could be a Whole Foods or a commercial real estate operator that has puchased an EV unit for a corporate campus.

Steve Case
Steve Case: This is what keeps tech from fixing the world's biggest problems
Electric vehicles: California leads the charge

Demand for ChargePoint's offerings tracks electric vehicle ownership "fairly directly," according to Romano.

While Tesla's charging business is designed for its own cars, Chargepoint is agnostic on EV car model, and Romano hopes the industry will ultimately adopt a common charging standard. Similar to where Tesla has placed its charging focus, ChargePoint has also expanded into the single-family home charger market and is working on a "fast charger" for longer-distance travel, the latter in partnership with automakers new to the EV market, including BMW.

In 2015, electric vehicles sales slumped amid low gas prices, but the November 2015 through April 2016 six-month period saw consecutive monthly records for EV sales, according to, led by the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S. Roughly 10,586 plug-ins were sold in April, a 16 percent gain over a year ago, reported. Tesla has already taken orders for more than 7,000 Model S cars, but it does not break out monthly sales figures, which are estimated by Inside EVs. Tesla has also taken 373,000 reservations for the Model 3 electric car due late next year, according to a recent regulatory filing.

With some existing pent-up demand and new electric cars coming on the road every year, Romano said he expects his company is "going to be chasing a tremendous growth trajectory."