Early VC money likes electric vehicles

Adapted from IEA, with data from The Cleantech Group. Note: 2018 is through August. Investments include seed, series A and series B deals. Mobility service, internet-of-things, biochemical and AI startups are excluded unless directly energy-related; Chart: Axios Visuals

Early stage venture capital is increasingly flowing into electric vehicle companies, especially China-based firms, the International Energy Agency writes in a commentary.

By the numbers: Check out the chart above, which shows $3.45 billion of early stage VC money so far this year going into transportation-related startups.

Key quotes:

  • Venture capital investment in energy technologies is flourishing, with more money flowing in 2018 than in the first two quarters of any previous year.
  • But whereas the previous highpoint in 2008 was led by renewables — notably solar — it is now transportation that is getting all the attention, mostly electric vehicles.

Why it matters: At a time when renewables have become a mainstream electricity source, growing capital invested in the transportation space signals EVs are on their way to eventually becoming more than a niche market too.

  • The 2018 data — which IEA collected from The Cleantech Group's tracking service i3 Market Intelligence — continues a transport-focused trend evident last year and described in IEA's broader World Energy Investment report.

Yes, but: This month's IEA commentary by analyst Simon Bennett notes that the money's distribution is limited.

  • He cites the "willingness of investors — especially in Asia — to places a small number of very large bets on electric vehicle companies, which represent the hottest part of the market today."
  • This year has brought announcements of major funding rounds from companies, including Chinese-based firms Youxia Motors and Byton. Byton had announced $500 million in funding in June.