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Chinese sustainability powerhouse Envision raises $1 billion

Meet Envision Group, the privately-held, Shanghai-based renewable energy juggernaut that just announced $1 billion in new funding from a group of some of the best-connected investors in the country.

The investment was a sort of curtain-raiser to the international negotiations on climate change mitigation taking place this week in Scotland and a reminder that even if China’s policy goals were unimpressive, the country is the dominant force in renewable energy globally.

“This is a strategic investment to promote the construction of a new global green industrial system,” said Neil Shen, the founder and wildly successful managing partner of the Chinese investment arm of Sequoia Capital, in a statement. “Responding to the propositions of the times through innovative means has always been Sequoia China’s pursuit and is in our genes. Carbon neutrality is the key challenge facing the future of mankind. Our destiny is in our hands.”

The question surrounding this new infusion of money for Envision isn’t what the company will do with the money, it’s more a question of what Envision won’t do with it.

So far this year, Envision has announced a massive spending spree for its international battery business for electric vehicles, commercial and residential properties, and utility grids.

Back in 2018, the company bought a battery business from the multinational automaker Mitsubishi-Nissan-Renault and has since been building out a network of battery manufacturing facilities around the world.

It will spend roughly $3 billion to build out battery plants in the UK and France and has a facility under construction in Japan as well.

And for the domestic market, Envision is rolling out robotic electric vehicle chargers that should be hitting the streets of Shanghai next year.

Announced earlier this year, the robot has a capacity of 70 kWh and a 42 kW power output. It can charge an EV in just 2 hours for a cruising range up to 600km (about 372 miles).

If those electric vehicle ambitions weren’t enough, the company also fields a Formula E racing team that competes in international competition.

If those plans weren’t enough, the company’s chief executive Lei Zhang recently told Bloomberg that he expects to be actively consolidating companies in the wind turbine industry as well.

That’s important because Envision is the second-largest manufacturer of wind turbines in China, which makes it one of the largest turbine makers in the world.

Envision’s business also includes power management software for utilities and a burgeoning solar business that it has built up through a partnership with the French oil and gas and renewable energy producer, Total.

Finally, the company is part of a consortium that’s looking to bring down the cost of hydrogen production — a potentially critical zero-emission fuel source that is already being used to fuel industrial equipment, heavy trucks, boats, and planes.

“Primavera fully recognizes Envision’s technological innovation prowess, advanced manufacturing, and integrated service capabilities, said Fred Hu, the former Goldman Sachs banker who founded and helps manage Primavera Capital Group — a multi-billion dollar investment fund. “By leveraging our respective strengths in both domestic and international markets, including the strong eco-system of Primavera’s portfolio companies, we intend to support Envision’s global expansion and growth, empower many more industries to achieve the zero-carbon transition, and promote mass adoption of renewable energy and cleantech globally.”

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