technology

BP Makes First Foray Into Israel With Battery Startup Deal

Updated on
  • Technology aims to charge car battery in just five minutes
  • Israel emerging as power in autonomous driving, smart mobility

BP Plc made its first foray into Israel this week with a $20 million investment in quick-charging battery firm StoreDot Ltd., and is on the hunt for more opportunities there, a senior executive at the energy giant’s venture-capital arm said.

With global energy demand surging, the StoreDot move is part of BP’s push into cleaner sources, even as it continues developing its traditional oil and gas businesses, David Gilmour, vice president of BP Ventures Llc, said Wednesday.

“We need to understand how we can move into alternatives to hydrocarbons where they exist,” Gilmour said on the sidelines of the Ecomotion smart-mobility summit in Tel Aviv. “We’re in this phase of really understanding what the future will look like, what it can look like."

Battery technology has become a key battleground as major car manufacturers race to develop electric vehicles. StoreDot, which is developing a battery with Samsung Electronics Ltd. to charge cellphones in 60 seconds, thinks BP can help it adapt that technology for a car battery that charges in five minutes. Other StoreDot partners include auto maker Daimler AG, which joined a previous funding round last September, and TDK Corp., a major battery manufacturer.

“Ultra-fast charging is at the heart of BP’s electrification strategy,” Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive officer of the British energy firm’s downstream division, said in a statement this week announcing the deal. “StoreDot’s technology shows real potential for car batteries that can charge in the same time it takes to fill a gas tank.”

Clean Fuel

BP is among a host of energy giants hunting for clean fuel as the industry pivots away from oil. The StoreDot investment is the firm’s latest foray into electric vehicles, after BP staked $5 million in January in FreeWire, an American manufacturer of mobile rapid-charging systems.

BP can contribute expertise in infrastructure such as charging stations and connections to the electric grid, StoreDot CEO and co-founder Doron Myersdorf said, adding that the deal values StoreDot at about $500 million. BP’s investment will give it a seat on the Israeli company’s board.

StoreDot has raised a total of $146 million, according to Start-up Nation Central, which tracks Israel’s technology sector. Myersdorf said the company is only scratching the surface of what ultra-fast charging can do.

“It’s only a matter of time until everything” -- cars, phones, power tools, drones -- “will charge fast,” he said. “Our children won’t believe that we used to have to charge things overnight.”

Emerging Technologies

After investing $400 million in more than 40 companies, StoreDot is BP Ventures’s first bet in Israel, an emerging power in the fields of autonomous driving and smart mobility.

Israel “has extremely talented, well-educated professional scientists and technologists and business people, increasingly with a track record of successful startups around the world,” Gilmour said. "We’ve taken a really good bet I think to accelerate fast-charging."

(A previous version of this story corrected a reference to the board seat.)

(Adds new quote in third paragraph.)
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