Gregory J. Gilligan - Richmond Times-Dispatch
Evatran Group Inc., the Richmond-based maker of wireless charging stations for electric vehicles, has received another investment from a China-based automotive company.
Zhejiang VIE Science and Technology Co., a manufacturer of automotive parts based in China’s Zhejiang Province, invested $2.3 million in Evatran this week, the company said.
The latest funding is in addition to $1.6 million that Zhejiang VIE invested in Evatran in mid-2015 and the $1.6 million funding it gave in January, bringing its total investment in Evatran to $5.5 million.
“This is a fantastic thing for us,” Rebecca Hough, Evatran’s chief executive officer, said about the latest investment.
The latest round of funding, she said, helps Evatran shift from a business plan that focused on the aftermarket — in which consumers buy its Plugless product for their electric vehicles — to working with automakers to have it installed during the manufacturing process.
“What we want to do is to transition to selling and working with the auto manufacturers,” she said.
The company sells its charging system under the Plugless brand name. The system includes a pad that goes underneath an electric vehicle when it is parked and that automatically charges the vehicle through a receiver attached to the bottom of the car.
To make the transition from selling to individual customers in the after-market to selling to automakers, the company needs money for sales resources and marketing expenses. Zhejiang VIE’s investment will help with that, Hough said.
“This is the latest piece of a planned investment,” she said.
Would Zhejiang VIE make an additional investment? “That is yet to be seen,” she said. “As there is more and more opportunity in the company and we would need more investments, they are the first one we would go to.”
Evatran was founded in 2009 as a subsidiary of MTC Transformers in Wytheville. It became a separate company in 2010 and subsequently moved its headquarters to Richmond.
Hough said she and her father and their family are the company’s majority owners.
New Richmond Ventures, a local venture capital company, and Zhejiang VIE are the two largest outside investors backing Evatran. She declined to break down the ownership stakes.
Evatran also has about 20 to 30 angel investors who own a very small stake, she said.
As Evatran shifts its focus, the company is moving all its operations by the end of the third quarter to part of the HandCraft Cleaners building in Scott’s Addition.
The company signed a lease for 20,700 square feet inside the 87,000-square-foot building at 1501 Roseneath Road that takes up an entire city block from Roseneath Road to Mactavish Avenue between West Moore and West Leigh streets.
The lease will allow Evatran to relocate its corporate headquarters and manufacturing operations from different locations in leased space in Shockoe Bottom and place it under one roof. The company had relocated its manufacturing from Wytheville to temporary leased space on East Franklin Street on Jan. 1.
The company expects to triple the size of its workforce in Richmond this year, from 10 employees to about 30.
Evatran began selling its Plugless units in early 2014 for Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Cadillac ELR in the U.S. and Canada. In February, Evatran began taking reservations on the production of a new 7.2kW wireless EV charger for Tesla Model S, which began shipping in late May.