The French start-up Electra, specialist in fast electric charging stations, is setting up on the Belgian market. To do this, it is joining forces with the Brussels scale-up BePark via a joint venture full of ambition: to become the leader in Belgium and Luxembourg, under the nose and beard of the energy giants.
The main obstacle to buying an electric car among most reluctant Belgians? The lack of battery charging solutions, which requires either the placement of an individual terminal at home or a change in habit in the use of the vehicle. It must be said that today, Belgium has fallen behind in terms of charging infrastructure. However, everything indicates that the transition to electric vehicles is inevitable: both the authorities and the manufacturers are pushing for this transition, banishing more and more heat engines. A change that offers many opportunities to those who know how to seize them: energy and oil companies of course, but also other players from other sectors.
The main obstacle to buying an electric car among most reluctant Belgians? The lack of battery charging solutions, which requires either the placement of an individual terminal at home or a change in habit in the use of the vehicle. It must be said that today, Belgium has fallen behind in terms of charging infrastructure. However, everything indicates that the transition to electric vehicles is inevitable: both the authorities and the manufacturers are pushing for this transition, banishing more and more heat engines. A change that offers many opportunities to those who know how to seize them: energy and oil companies of course, but also other players from other sectors. Among them, tech start-ups which also intend to do well. This is the case of the French company Electra, which is working to link France with a network of fast charging stations. His particuliarity? “We have a product and software DNA that is fundamental, pleads Aurélien de Meaux, CEO and co-founder of Electra. We want to change the value proposition of fast charging of electric vehicles and improve the customer experience thanks to digital bricks .” They said it, these young founders come from software, especially from the world of photo apps. Results? They promise connected terminals and above all a privileged link with the user through a mobile app. With top-notch services such as the automatic recommendation of a nearby charging station based on real-time vehicle analysis, the possibility of reserving a place to charge the battery, etc. This promise seems to appeal to investors: already employing 55 people, the start-up has raised 15 million, then recently 160 million euros to ensure its development. With the ambition of reaching 8,000 charging points in France by 2030. But it does not want to be satisfied with this market. Belgium is now also part of his plans, since the meeting with the boss of the Brussels scale-up BePark, Julien Vandeleene. Indeed, BePark, a digital parking operator, has developed a much broader vision of parking than that of a simple parking space. At the start, the idea was of course just to optimize the occupancy of car parks for property owners by operating them and making them available to businesses and individuals. But this ambition has evolved in recent years. BePark now considers private parking spaces as mobility hubs capable of relieving congestion on public roads. BePark also offers services such as parking for bicycles and cargo bikes, but also solutions for recharging electric cars… And it is obviously in this last context that the two companies met. “We quickly saw that we were very close both in terms of vision and values and the size of the company, underline in chorus Aurelien de Meaux and Julien Vandeleene. We both approach a business that combines the and infrastructure. And we have the same passion, the same audacity and the same ambition.” Since then, a real professional “honeymoon” has started. The two companies could indeed have considered a commercial partnership that would have allowed BePark to put its real estate customers in contact with Electra while earning a commission. They preferred to join forces in a joint venture: Electra Belux, a company in the process of being set up. In other words, the creation of a joint venture in which the two start-ups are shareholders, with however a majority in the hands of Electra. This joint venture will aim to deploy a network of fast charging stations in Belgium and Luxembourg. Mainly in cities, in destination locations (retail, hospitals, etc.) and on strategic axes. Not in underground car parks but outdoors, for example in supermarket or shopping center car parks, etc. And the Franco-Belgian duo has a very big ambition: to install 200 charging sites by the end of 2030, which will make it possible to total no less than 1,500 charging points throughout the Belux territory. “This should represent investments of between 100 and 150 million euros”, details Aurélien de Meaux. As we have said, Electra raised 160 million euros last June, a sum to which must be added various sources of third-party financing: co-investors in project companies, debt/leasing and subsidies. To finance the development of its network, it would therefore now have an investment area of approximately 500 million euros. Electra Belux will initially employ five people before doubling its workforce in the coming months. The joint venture will obviously be able to rely on the technology and support of the Electra and BePark teams, the latter also continuing to grow: it now generates 9.2 million euros in turnover in Belgium, France and Luxembourg. Still, the major challenges of the joint venture probably do not lie in the evolution of the electric car market, which should experience big growth anyway, or in the competition. The real challenges lie in “operational development, foresees the boss of Electra. We must ensure that we have the right partners, and realize the promise of being better than the market. We will have to have a big requirement operational, find the right land, etc.”. And therefore be convincing.