Jul 14, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Electric vehicle companies are reeling in cash without producing a car

An illustration of a car with a lightning bolt behind it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

These are heady days for electric vehicle companies, with a lack of actual car production becoming a popular norm.

Why it matters: The capital infusion is the latest in a busy stretch of deals and market moves that suggest private investors and equity markets see big potential in technologies that now represent a tiny slice of the global vehicle fleet.

Driving the news: Fisker has reached a $2.9 billion deal to go public via a merger with an Apollo Global Management-backed special purpose acquisition company.

  • The deal unveiled Monday will bring Fisker — a member of the hasn't-built-a-car-yet club — over $1 billion in new funding, with heavyweight investors including AllianceBernstein and BlackRock-managed funds.

Catch up fast: There's a lot of private capital and, in Tesla's case, shareholder interest in electric vehicle companies lately.

  • The Fisker deal came the same day that Tesla's stock soared, at one point trading near $1,800-per-share, before cooling off to close slightly down at roughly $1,500, but still triple its value the beginning of the year.
  • On Friday, Rivian closed a $2.5 billion funding round ahead of the production launch next year of its SUV, pickup and delivery vehicles for Amazon.
  • Fisker, which hopes to launch production of its Ocean SUV in 2022, last week announced a separate $50 million fundraising round.
  • Karma Automotive, which is in the early stages of producing a plug-in hybrid sports car, has raised another $100 million.
  • Nikola Motors, which has yet to build anything but plans electric and hydrogen-powered pickups and big rigs, saw its stock price soar after going public in June via a transaction similar to Fisker's.

What they're saying: "The [electric vehicle] uprising is real, but the scale of investment into what I would view as fledgling companies is staggering," Wood Mackenzie analyst Ram Chandrasekaran tells E&E News.

  • "We are seeing a big push outside the U.S., both in Europe and China," Fisker CEO Henrik Fisker told the Axios Re:Cap podcast, citing legislative efforts in the European Union.
  • "I think coming out of COVID-19, people had a short glimpse of what the world would look like if it didn't have all these polluting gasoline cars driving around, with the blue sky showing up all over the world," Fisker added.

The intrigue: The fundraising and market success spans several business models, from SUVs to delivery fleet vehicles to heavy trucks.

  • When it comes to Rivian, their big deal with Amazon (for up to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030) could be part of the reason why investors are jazzed.
  • Big corporate climate pledges are now the coin of the realm, so giant companies could see electric vehicle procurement as a way to help reach their goals — even if electric vehicles remain a tiny slice of the consumer market for the foreseeable future.

Of note: Legacy automakers are also rolling out more and more models. This morning BMW took the wraps off of its iX3 electric SUV.

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