Mercedes owner Daimler drives electric truck push with multi-million dollar investment in StoreDot

Key Points
  • Daimler led a $60 million funding round for an Israeli start-up that produces fast charging batteries
  • StoreDot claims its FlashBattery technology can charge electric vehicles in five minutes
  • The start-up also said its batteries allow an electric vehicle to travel for more than 300 miles once fully charged
  • It is also developing its own battery storage factory called OneGiga
StoreDot claims its battery charging technology can charge an electric car in five minutes.

Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler has invested millions in an Israeli start-up whose battery technology can charge electric vehicles in a matter of minutes.

Tel-Aviv-based StoreDot announced Thursday that the trucking arm of the German automotive giant had led a $60 million funding round, and would partner with the firm to adopt its FlashBattery technology.

The company claims these lithium-ion batteries are able to charge smartphones and electric vehicles in just five minutes. Its batteries are powered by organic (carbon-based) compounds and nanomaterials (substances made up of tiny particles).

"StoreDot's solution combines proprietary organic compounds and nanomaterials that are developed in our labs," StoreDot's chief executive Doron Myersdorf told CNBC via email Wednesday, ahead of the announcement.

"We focus on fast charging technology as opposed to the rest of industry which is focused on energy density."

The business claims the batteries are eco-friendly, and can allow an electric vehicle to travel for more than 300 miles after a full charge.

StoreDot claims its battery charging technology can charge an electric car in five minutes.

Samsung Ventures, Norma Investments, Lucion Venture Capital, and a handful of other Israeli and Chinese financial institutions also participated in the investment round, according to StoreDot.

StoreDot: "We do not compete with Tesla"

Daimler's latest investment follows Tesla CEO Elon Musk's announcement that the premium electric vehicle manufacturer's semi truck will be unveiled in October.

Tesla is currently one of the biggest market players when it comes to producing lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. But StoreDot's CEO said his company was not trying to compete with Tesla.

"StoreDot focuses on developing next-generation Li-ion (lithium-ion) batteries. We do not compete with Tesla. We are very synergetic to Tesla in the sense that the major problem for the driver is the charging speed," Myersdorf said.

"We totally share Elon's vision and with our fast charging technology we enhance the ability of car companies to offer exceptional driver experience."

Myersdorf added that StoreDot would be setting up its own battery storage project similar to Musk's Gigafactory, called OneGiga.

He said: "The goal is to be able to ramp quickly new technologies and bring them to mass production as fast as possible. This OneGiga facility would enable us to be at the forefront of the fast charging technology in future generations as well."

BMW board member: People more comfortable with electric car tech

StoreDot's OneGiga factory would span 15,900 square meters and have an initial manufacturing capacity of 1 Gigawatt hour (GWh) – scalable to 10 GWh. This is significantly smaller scale than Tesla's 35 GWH Gigafactory 1.

Martin Daum, the Daimler board member responsible for the firm's truck and bus business, said that progression towards an electric truck fleet was a "top priority" for the motoring giant.

"Electrification of trucks is of top priority at Daimler," Daum said in a press statement Thursday.

Daimler began production on its own electric light-duty truck called the Fuso eCanter earlier this year. Daum said this proved the firm's strive towards producing electric vehicles for "everyday use" in the market.

"Fast charging is an important topic especially for fleet owners of all Daimler Trucks brands. Together with StoreDot we will now jointly work on a holistic approach to fast charging," he added.

Dieselgate still haunts industry

The investment move follows comments from the Mercedes-Benz parent company which suggested electric vehicles could hamper its profit margin goal.

Frank Lindenberg, vice president of finance and controlling at Mercedes-Benz Cars, said the company had to be "prepared for a kind of transition" once it rolls out electric cars.

Meanwhile, Mike Ramsey, car analyst at Gartner, said that the decision to invest in StoreDot could push Daimler and other German carmakers closer towards an electric future.

"Long recharging times and a lack of infrastructure are two of the key barriers to widespread adoption of electric cars. A large battery that could be recharged in as little as 5 minute could dramatically change the efficacy of the technology," Ramsey said.

"For Daimler – and the German car industry more broadly – making a push into electric gets them ahead of the effects of diesel slowly being pushed out of the fleet."

Last month Daimler was one of four big German automakers to agree to retrofit millions of diesel cars.

Germany's car manufacturing industry remains haunted by allegations of using software to cheat diesel emissions tests. Shares in country's top three carmakers - Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler - fell sharply after reports that European Union antitrust officials were invetigating them over allegations of a "cartel"-style collusion.

Several large European industry players said they were prioritizing battery-powered electric cars over combustion engines earlier this week, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

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