By Paul Lienert
DETROIT (Reuters) – Korea’s SK Inc has invested $100 million in North Carolina startup Atom Power, which aims to upgrade the electric vehicle (EV) charging experience in the United States with new hardware and software, the companies said Thursday.
Based in Huntersville, North Carolina, eight-year-old Atom Power has developed a digital circuit breaker that provides more control, flexibility and reliability to EV charging, especially for commercial fleet operators and managers of multi-family dwellings, according to Chief Executive Ryan Kennedy.
Atom Power’s EV pedestal and wall chargers include an Internet-connected digital panel that houses the company’s solid-state circuit breakers. The devices enable safer charging, the company says, because high voltage is eliminated at the pedestal or wall box while vehicles are not charging.
The EV market is “desperate for a new way to scale, drive revenue and accelerate adoption,” Kennedy said, adding that Atom Power’s device can be used in other industries to shift from analog to digital power delivery.
SK said Atom Power’s core technology was “the primary driver” behind its decision to invest.
The SK group, Korea’s second-largest conglomerate after Samsung, also acquired an additional $50 million stake in Atom Power from earlier investors, making SK the largest outside shareholder.
SK said it intends to expand Atom Power’s business across the U.S. “and ultimately globally.”
Atom Power previously had raised funds from the corporate investment arms of Siemens and ABB, according to investor website PitchBook. The two European industrial giants are key players in EV charging technology and systems.
SK has a multibillion-dollar joint venture with Ford Motor to build EV batteries in Kentucky and Tennessee, and supplies batteries to Volkswagen’s U.S. operation from its Georgia plant.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by David Holmes)