Startups, automakers, and other companies have been slowly building chargers for years, mostly in California and other coastal states, where most electric cars are sold. These companies use different strategies to make money and auto experts say it is not clear which one will be successful. The most station company, ChargePoint, sells chargers to individuals, workplaces, businesses, condominiums and apartment buildings, and companies with electric vehicle fleets. It charges subscription fees for software that manages the chargers. Tesla offers charging mainly to get people to buy their cars. And others make money selling electricity to drivers.

The switch to electric cars

Once the poor cousin of the hip business of building sleek electric cars, the charging industry has been swept away by its own gold rush. According to PitchBook, venture capital firms poured nearly $ 1 billion in fees last year, more than in the previous five years combined. In 2021, venture capital investments will total more than $ 550 million so far.

On Wall Street, according to Dealogic, a research firm, publicly traded-purpose businesses or SPACs have closed deals to buy eight charging companies out of 26 deals in electric vehicles and related businesses. The deals typically involve an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars from large investors like BlackRock.

“It’s early days and people are trying to figure out what the potential is,” said Gabe Daoud Jr., managing director and analyst at Cowen, an investment bank.

These companies could benefit from the infrastructure bill, but it’s not clear how the Biden administration will distribute money for charging stations.

Another unanswered question is who will be the Exxon Mobil of the electric car age. It could be automakers.

Tesla, which makes about two-thirds of the electric cars sold in the US, has built thousands of chargers that it made available to early customers for free. The company could open its network to vehicles from other automakers by the end of the year, its CEO Elon Musk said in July.