Electric vehicles have been one of the hottest topics on the stock market in 2020. Tesla rose sharply in value this year, and commercial EV charging company Blink Charging was one of the market's best performing growth stocks of 2020.
Any way you look at it, EV stocks seem to be overvalued and we don't really know who is going to win when dozens of new models hit the market in the next few years, which may mean we're in bubble territory. But even if EVs are in a bubble market, our Motley Fool contributors think NextEra Energy Partners (NEP 0.89%), Switchback Energy Acquisition (SBE), and Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE -0.65%) are equipped to thrive as electric vehicles take over the transportation market.
Providing the electricity to electric vehicles
Travis Hoium (NextEra Energy Partners): A utility stock may not seem like the kind of investment that would come out as a winner in electric vehicles, but I think NextEra Energy Partners is one of the companies that will benefit from the transportation revolution.
As EV adoption grows, customers, businesses, charging companies, and even EV manufacturers themselves will want to power those vehicles with clean, renewable energy. That will create increased demand for the assets NextEra Energy Partners builds and owns. And this is one of the biggest renewable energy companies in the world.
NextEra Energy Partners has 5,830 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy projects in operation with an average of 15 years remaining on contracts to sell electricity to utilities. To top it off, the company's dividend won't be subject to taxes for over eight years because of the tax treatment of the "return of capital" for renewable energy projects, so the dividend yield of 3.6% today is better than a comparable dividend that would be subject to taxes.
With the increased electricity demand EVs will bring, NextEra Energy Partners' position as a wind and solar leader, and a strong foundation of projects and cash flows, this is a stock that's built to keep growing in the long term.
Another way to play EVs
Howard Smith (Switchback Energy Acquisition): If you want to speculate in an emerging sector, it can be helpful to take an angle that provides a cushion. One way to do that is to invest in a "picks and shovels" play -- a company that supplies products or services to that sector.
One of those companies is ChargePoint, a manufacturer and owner of EV charging stations. ChargePoint will soon be merging with the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Switchback Energy to go public. By investing in a leader in charging station networks, investors don't need to worry about which EV company emerges as a winning vehicle producer. As long as electrification in mobility grows, ChargePoint's business will, too.
ChargePoint expects revenue of about $135 million in 2020. But it sees that growing to almost $1 billion by 2024, and $2 billion by 2026. The growth is expected to come in North America and Europe. ChargePoint also has revenue streams from its networked charging stations as well as subscriptions and support services.
ChargePoint will still have to hit its goals for investors to do well. Shares of Switchback -- which will convert to ChargePoint upon the closing of the merger -- are up about 370% already, giving it a market capitalization of about $1.8 billion.
And while ChargePoint is the current leader in North America, it has competition. Its growth in Europe will compete against EVBox, which owns Europe's largest EV charging station network, and a total of over 190,000 charging ports in more than 70 countries worldwide. In the U.S., Blink Charging is also growing out its network.
Investors who want to spread out the risk of which EV makers will be the most successful can instead invest in the success of the sector in general, with charging station operators. But that doesn't mean there isn't still risk. ChargePoint is one option, and it's worth looking into as a growing leader of the group.
The renewable fuel that EVs won't replace
Jason Hall (Clean Energy Fuels): Since its founding more than two decades ago, Clean Energy Fuels' goal has been to help commercial vehicle operators shift away from diesel to natural gas, for both the environmental and financial benefits. And the business has indeed grown, steadily increasing fuel volumes delivered every year at high single-digit rates or higher over the past decade.
More recently, the company has prioritized developing and delivering biomethane -- under its Redeem brand -- to the transportation market. Biomethane, or renewable natural gas, is produced from human-generated waste in landfills, wastewater treatment, and agricultural activities; by capturing this methane that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere where it's 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas, it can be used to replace diesel or conventional natural gas, offering enormous environmental benefits.
How enormous? So enormous that the carbon reduction benefits, depending on the source of the fuel, can actually be carbon negative. That's something that EVs, often deriving their power from the electrical grid, simply cannot offer. But maybe more importantly, natural gas vehicles are already operating reliably, performing a wide array of applications EVs are not likely to be able to accomplish, and at capital costs that are less than half of what comparable EVs are expected to cost.
Don't get me wrong: I expect EVs will play a big role in powering the future of commercial transit. But they won't replace every diesel vehicle, particularly when renewable natural gas can more cost-effectively meet many of the applications, while providing enormous environmental benefits. Clean Energy Fuels is likely to prove a big winner in this space.
Win no matter who wins the EV race
Electric vehicle sales will likely jump in the next decade as range increases, charging infrastructure expands, and new models hit the market. We don't know what models will be hottest, but these three stocks are all set to thrive no matter which EV company wins.