Investors not tapping brakes on Damon Motors as e-motorcycle firm raises US$30m

EV company set to begin manufacturing motorbikes at new Surrey plant next year

Damon Motors CEO Jay Giraud | submitted

For the second time this year Damon Motors Inc. is drawing US$30 million from investors as the West Coast electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer preps for its commercial launch in 2022.

The Vancouver company broke ground in October on a new headquarters and manufacturing plant in neighbouring Surrey, which will be capable of producing up to 40,000 electric motorbikes annually once it’s up and running.

More than US$45 million in pre-orders have been made for Damon Motors’ flagship HyperSport model, according to the company.

The Series B funding round, announced Wednesday, was led by investment firm House of Lithium Ltd. 

The firm is incorporated in Toronto and was formed after SOL Global Investments Corp. (CSE:SOL) divested its portfolio of EV and green-tech companies back in September. 

The latest raise comes nine months after Damon Motors brought in US$30 million through a bridge round in which SOL also participated.

This month’s fresh capital will go towards the launch of the 110,000-square-foot R&D centre and production facility in Surrey, which is expected to start delivering e-motorbikes next year.

Prices for the Damon bikes range from US$17,000 to US$40,000, depending on the model, and CEO Jay Giraud told BIV in October revenue is expected to hit nearly $1 billion annually by 2025 when another manufacturing plant in Latin America is also expected to be up and running.

By then, the company will be able to produce 100,000 electric motorbikes annually, he added.

In the meantime, Giraud said it was important that manufacturing takes place close to the company’s new headquarters.

“When you go to places like China or India, you give up so much control,” he said.

“The cachet of where it's been manufactured, that matters a lot.”

Damon also revealed this week it would be expanding beyond North America and into European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. A soft launch is set for Italy next year and the company will develop country-specific marketing for the other European markets it's targeting.

Damon got its start in 2017 developing collision safety technology for motorcycles that tap into the depreciating cost of high-end sensors and cameras.

Among the first buyers was the West Vancouver Police Department, which had its own fleet of motorbikes retrofitted with Damon’s technology.

If, for example, a rider has to turn their head to check a blind spot when changing lanes, the sensors will send vibrations to the handlebars to alert them if there’s any danger.

Small cameras in the back of the bike provide the rear-view-mirror angle riders previously didn’t have access to.

Damon Motors upcoming e-motorbikes will come equipped with these AI-powered collision systems.

Greater Vancouver is not exactly Motor City – even for Canada, where Ontario serves as the centre of the country’s auto industry. But Giraud said the region’s clean-technology know-how can’t be matched in other locations, owing to Ballard Power Systems Inc.’s (TSX:BLDP) knack for spinning off so much talent since the early 1980s.

“I don’t know if it’s rivalled really anywhere else other than maybe Silicon Valley,” he said.

Another practical consideration is a plan to continue developing new iterations of the motorbikes.

“Aside from the cleantech manufacturing know-how that exists in Vancouver, which does not exist nearly to the extent in Ontario, for example, is we get a lot less snow over here, and we’ve got vehicles with two wheels and not four,” Giraud said.

“That’s a big one – being able to ride and test and develop year-round. And at this early, early stage of the business’ trajectory we need manufacturing and R&D to be shoulder to shoulder.”

Other local EV manufacturers have charted other paths during their own commercialization efforts.

Vancouver’s GreenPower Motor Co. Inc. (Nasdaq:GP) assembles its electric buses in California. Fellow B.C.-based EV company ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. (Nasdaq:SOLO) has a manufacturing hub in China, and announced earlier this year a 225,00-square-foot plant would open in Arizona in 2022.