Category: Portfolio Companies

LACI startup ChargeNet Stations to install EV chargers at San Francisco Taco Bell

A company that runs 216 Taco Bell restaurants is installing an electric-vehicle charging station at one of its San Francisco locations, and could install more across the US. The chargers are managed by software from ChargeNet and built by Tritium, and they’re being installed in the restaurant’s parking lot.

LACI Startup Chargeway selected by NADA to get car dealers educated so they can help shoppers buy EVs

Today, the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) announced it has chosen Chargeway to help its member dealerships explain EV charging, showing how shoppers can travel in electric vehicles by using charging stations along their routes. NADA and Chargeway previewed the news exclusively for Car and Driver.

LACI startup Chargeway selected by National Auto Dealers Association to simplify EV sales for dealers

  • By partnering with Chargeway, NADA is showing genuine leadership by solving many of the problems EV dealers face with better tools and training, which will enable EV buyers to get clear, correct answers to their charging questions.
  • Because the 16,000+ NADA member dealers represent nearly all the major automotive brands, their adoption of Chargeway will create a de facto “standard dictionary” of EV charging terms. “Green” plugs, “Level 6” chargers, etc., that will make it easier for EV dealers and buyers to communicate, regardless of brand.
  • “When it comes to EVs, this is the language we’ll be using from now on.”
  • “Dealers who want to get this right will want to get Chargeway.”

Portland, OR (Oct 15, 2021) – Chargeway, the Oregon-based software startup best known for developing a simple, intuitive color-coded visual language for charging EVs with “electric fuel,” has been chosen by the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) as an Affinity Partner, allowing NADA member dealers to capitalize on Chargeway’s straightforward, universal language for explaining EV charging and give prospective EV buyers the ability to visualize how a vehicle can fit seamlessly into their lives, today.

“Almost every major automaker has announced plans to go ‘all electric’ or ‘mostly electric’ within the next decade,” explains Chargeway Founder, Matt Teske. “But auto dealers still don’t have all the tools they need to sell cars that run on electricity to buyers unfamiliar with thinking of electricity as a fuel. That’s why we’ve focused our efforts at Chargeway towards developing tools to not only educate the auto dealers themselves, but to help them inspire ‘Range Confidence’ in their customers and, ultimately, sell more vehicles. In that way, our interests are totally aligned with the NADA and its members.”

“America’s franchised auto dealers are all-in on EVs. In fact, dealers are essential to widespread EV adoption, particularly among mass-market buyers,” says Mike Stanton, NADA President and CEO. “Closing the consumer education gap between early EV adopters and the next generation of mainstream EV buyers is critical to achieving our shared goal of getting millions more EVs on the road. We looked at a number of different training tools and consumer apps and found that Chargeway best answered the questions that our dealers were asking about EV charging, such as how long it takes, how home charging works, what incentives are available, and even how temperature and speed can affect an EV road trip. Chargeway pulls all that information in one place, so dealers using Chargeway will have a fantastic tool to properly educate those consumers who are ready to make the switch to electric.”

The first of Chargeway’s dealer-focused tools was the Chargeway Showroom Beacon – a six-foot tall, interactive touchscreen kiosk that launched as part of a pilot program in Portland, Oregon. Together with the Oregon Auto Dealers Association (OADA), Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power, Chargeway placed seven Chargeway Showroom Beacons in key auto dealerships throughout Oregon in order to prove out the concept. The results were impressive: fourteen months later, EV sales in dealerships with a Chargeway beacon had increased by 200 to 1000% compared to comparable Portland area dealers with similar inventories of EVs but no Beacon.

“The pilot showed us what we already knew, intuitively: that EV customers were more than happy to buy their vehicles from their local dealers, as long as those dealers could confidently and correctly answer their questions,” explains Teske. “You could say the same thing about a pickup truck buyer who has questions about towing. They don’t want guessing or generalization, just straightforward, correct answers tailored to their specific needs. Chargeway is the tool that provides those answers for EVs.”

That initial pilot program showed that the Showroom Beacon was a great tool for salespeople to answer questions about EVs in the physical dealership, but it was the company’s Web Beacon that attracted the attention of the NADA.

“Giving EV shoppers a clear, up-to-date image of what the electric infrastructure looks like in their area right now in a format that’s easy to visualize is absolutely critical to instilling confidence in a customer who is purchasing his or her first EV,” Stanton added. “The prospect of having Chargeway, and its universal language for explaining how charging really works, widely available in tens of thousands of retail locations across the country should be incredibly exciting to anyone who wants to see more EVs on the road as soon as possible.”

“We update the station data every twenty-four hours,” adds Teske. “That goes along with the concept of ‘Range Confidence’, too. We’re showing people– and the dealership is showing people exactly where they can find electric fuel for their electric cars.”

The Chargeway Web Beacon plugin for dealers is available now for the most common dealership web platforms (Dealer.com, Dealer On, Dealer Inspire, DealerFire and Sincro). The Chargeway mobile app for EV drivers is currently available for download on both the App Store and Google Play for iOS and Android mobile devices, respectively.

About Chargeway

Chargeway is a communication and software tool that unites all the stakeholders in the electric vehicle industry on a common platform. Designed to improve the “electric fuel” experience using colors and numbers to identify plug options and charging speeds, Chargeway creates a simple, visual identity for electric car charging options that offers auto dealers and public utilities, as well as consumers, an easier way to visualize how electric cars can meet and exceed everyone’s transportation needs. For more information on Chargeway’s platform, visit www.chargeway.net or download the Chargeway EV driver app on iOS or Android.

About NADA

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), founded in 1917, represents more than 16,000 light-vehicle and commercial-truck dealerships with 32,500 domestic and international franchises. New vehicle franchised dealers are directly responsible for more than one million U.S. jobs.

LACI Welcomes Next Cohort of Cleantech Startups Into Incubation Program

Today, 13 startups join Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator’s (LACI) second cohort of its flagship Incubation Program, which helps founders grow their company and impact in Greater Los Angeles and beyond. From utilizing software analytics to reduce traffic congestion to diverting over 5 tons of waste from landfills using a rental clothing membership model, Incubation Cohort 2 founders are showing up with passion, grit, and inspiring leadership to enhance LACI’s commitment to building an inclusive green economy.

“LACI is committed to helping our startups improve their environmental, social, and economic impact—that’s why we are excited to welcome our new cohort of companies,” said Matt Petersen, LACI President and CEO. “Our startup Impact Framework measures and financially rewards founder diversity, hiring employees from disadvantaged communities, and reducing GHG emissions.”

In line with LACI’s mission to create an inclusive green economy, Incubation Cohort 2 represents 38 percent female founders, 38 percent underrepresented founders, and 8 percent veteran founders, a general increase from Incubation Cohort 1 metrics. 

Startups applied to LACI’s program following a recruitment push that articulated LACI’s specific technical priorities for the year.  Sector-wise 46 percent are focused on zero emissions mobility, 23 percent on clean energy, and 31 percent on circular economy.

LACI companies are stepping up to create an inclusive green economy for the people of Los Angeles. For example, as the city and the rest of the state move towards 100 percent clean energy, there is much needed work to be done to decrease costs of solar and battery energy storage and advance data processing capabilities to create greater grid resilience. Widespread deployment of smart microgrids are the way of the future and LACI Incubation Cohort 2 startups have already begun the work. IQHi, Inc. incorporates data analytics tools to gain operational data thus improving battery technology development time and OpenEGrid applies emerging technologies to legacy Energy Systems to create ‘Smart Grids.’

By progressing the work of IQHi Inc. and OpenEGrid for example, LACI will provide a stepping stone for one of the solutions in addressing current complications in distributed energy resources (DERs) and addressing the ambitious climate and energy goals California has in place already. 

For the next two years, Cohort 2 startups will engage in an intensive 6 months of curriculum covering essential topics to prepare founders and teams for operational growth, product development, investor preparedness, pilot readiness, and strategies for going to market. Additionally, each startup team is matched with an Executive in Residence (EIR) who will support in setting a roadmap and holding teams accountable for achieving those milestones. Cohort 2 startups will build a network not only with their fellow Cohort members, but also with the greater LACI community to enable a collaborative and supportive environment for achieving growth towards a greener planet. 

Throughout the first year of our revamped Incubation Program, we’re proud to say that Cohort 1 startups are paving the way for what LACI can do to support cleantech founders, empower impact, deploy these innovative technologies all across the world. Since joining LACI, collectively Cohort 1 startups have raised over $7.5 million including Sparkcharge’s $1 million deal from SharkTank’s Mark Cuban. LACI’s workforce development program helped initiate ChargerHelp!’s pilot by training their first 10 hires and providing maintenance to 46 electric vehicle stations in Southern California and the company just raised $2.75 million from investors. In addition, Maxwell Vehicles is one of many partners and startups helping to excel deployment of the nation’s first-ever Zero Emission Delivery Zone, furthering LACI’s mission by lowering emissions and decreasing traffic.

We’re thrilled to support another Cohort of 13 innovative startups for the next two years. Read more about Cohort 2 startups below. 

ChargeNet Stations: LACI’s Innovators Cohort 5 startup, ChargeNet is a SaaS company helping fast food restaurants and property owners track consumer data and renewable energy to charge electric vehicles quicker and cheaper. 

Chargeway: Chargeway created a software platform, mobile app, and communication tool to help consumers understand how electric vehicles are charged, as well as helping the automotive industry sell EVs for easier adoption. 

ElectricFish:  ElectricFish builds, deploys, and operates distributed energy resources integrated with 350kW Electric Vehicle chargers to bring clean, and robust sources of power to communities.

Gemini Electric Mobility Co.: Gemini Electric Mobility Co. is a sustainable mobility platform that provides affordable Electric Vehicles and convenient access to charging, for all, today. By starting with those who drive the most and have the biggest impact, we’re accelerating electric mobility adoption and getting closer to a pollution-free skyline!

GreenTek Packaging: LACI’s Innovator Cohort 5 startup, GreenTek Packaging creates compostable plasticware made from industrial hemp and corn byproducts.

IQHi, Inc.: IQHi builds advanced data analytics tool sets to help gaining in-depth insights from energy storage system operational data for better products and shorter developing time for their clients.

LAMAR, IoT: LACI’s Innovator Cohort 5 startup, LAMAR, IoT is developing new sustainable supply chain solutions to reduce costs, inefficiencies, and mitigate waste towards a zero emissions planet. 

OpenEGrid: Analytics platform to apply the emerging technologies in Big Data, Analytics, and Cloud Computing to legacy Energy Systems in order to significantly improve interoperability across Distributed Energy Resources in what is now emerging as the ‘Smart Grid’.

PLUS: Portable zero emission electric vehicles for round trips under 12 miles.

Rent-a-Romper: A rental clothing company for babies and toddlers because kids (out)grow so fast. Rent-a-Romper set out to build a community-shared closet, filled with great baby and children’s clothing, so that you don’t have to spend time shopping and looking for deals.  

Sensagrate: Sensagrate (which stands for sensor integrated technology) is developing an industry-defining, infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) communication platform that provides data to support intelligent decision making for both human-driven and autonomous vehicles to foster safer interaction as they navigate our roadways. 

Verity Packaging, Inc.: Verity is on a mission to eliminate waste from the beauty and personal care industry by making a circular economy approachable and affordable for retailers, brands, and consumers. We make reusable containers and offer a turnkey take-back service to collect, sanitize, and put containers back to use.

LACI Announces First Year of Investments from $5 Million Early Stage Impact Investment Fund

Exactly one year ago, LACI announced the LACI Impact Fund (LIF) for early-stage cleantech startups, as part of a relaunch of its cohort-based startup program. The $5 million LIF considers investment in LACI portfolio companies that are in good standing, have an active round of investment with a lead investor, and have demonstrated strong commitment to impact. The LIF provides our startups with an opportunity to have access to capital that aligns with LACI’s social impact priorities. In 2020, LACI invested in 6 companies, with a number of companies in its pipeline for future investments.

LACI-incubated startups are eligible to apply to the LIF if they: A) have an open and active round with a specified lead; B) secure a sufficient score based on their commitment to environmental, social and economic impact. Startups selected for this year’s incubation cohort will be eligible for investments as well. The application deadline is this Friday, January 15. Startups selected for LACI’s incubation program and for the LACI Impact Fund must focus on one of LACI’s Technological Priorities: Zero Emissions Transportation, Clean Energy and Circular Economy.

“Through the LACI Impact Fund, we are delighted to invest in our startup companies that are working day in and out to create an inclusive green economy,” said Matt Petersen, Managing Director of the Fund and CEO of LACI, reflecting on the investments to date.

The launch of the LIF included investments in Seatrec and FreeWire. Subsequently, 6 companies received funding from the Impact Fund in 2020, and continue to scale their products into markets across the country and world. All LACI Impact Fund companies are listed below:

  • Ampaire
    Founders: Kevin Noertker & Cory Combs
    Company Mission: Ampaire is designing and developing high performance zero-emission aircraft to help improve efficiency and reduce aviation’s impact on climate change.
  • Envoy
    Founders: Aric Ohana & Ori Sagie
    Company Mission: Envoy is committed to providing affordable, convenient and sustainable shared mobility to communities by offering Mobility as an Amenity™ where you live, work, or stay.
  • FreeWire
    Founder: Arcady Sosinov
    Company Mission: FreeWire Technologies provides clean, quiet mobile power and fast charging that’s easy to deploy, wherever and whenever you need it.
  • Nature Coatings
    Founder: Jane Palmer
    Company Mission: Nature Coatings transforms wood waste into high performing black pigments.
  • Pick My Solar
    Founders: Max Aram & Chris Blevins
    Company Mission: Pick My Solar is the first managed marketplace for the residential solar and energy storage market.
  • Repurpose
    Founder:
    Lauren Gropper
    Company Mission: Repurpose is a line of sustainable tableware that looks out for the health of you, your family, and the planet.
  • Seatrec
    Founder: Yi Chao
    Company Mission: Seatrec designs and manufactures energy harvesting solutions that generate electricity from naturally occurring temperature differences in ocean waters.
  • Xeal
    Founders: Xander Isaacson & Nikhil Bhardwaj
    Company Mission: Xeal accelerates electric vehicle adoption by making charging stations work anywhere for anyone.

The LACI Impact Fund will continue investing in new cleantech innovation throughout 2021. To find out more about the LACI Incubation Program or the Impact Fund, please visit LACI’s Incubation Program. Applications for the 2nd Incubation Cohort program are open until January 15th, 2021. 

Circuit Provides New Rochelle’s ‘Drive’ To a Smart & Sustainable City

The City of New Rochelle is in the middle of a remarkable once-in-a-generation redevelopment of its Downtown Corridor across 12 million square feet to build thousands of new units of housing and create an environment where New Rochelle can lead on culture, community, and innovation.  But like any new building, our redevelopment is also prioritizing the amenities and quality-of-life that come along with it, including doubling down on our transportation and technology strategy that New Rochelle is integrating into the very fabric of our transformation into a smart city, a key component to encourage and promote future growth. And one of the city’s “smartest” investments to date has been its new free, on-demand, electric shuttle service Circuit New Rochelle (NR).

Accelerating a Reliable, Clean Energy Future

This past summer California experienced extreme heat due to the climate crisis, exacerbating and challenging the electric grid to maintain reliable electric service. The result of raging wildfires and prolonged heat waves combined with other grid planning factors led to power outages and rotating blackouts that had not occurred since the 2001 energy crisis.  Severe weather conditions, like the summer heat wave, create new challenges in keeping the lights on, exacerbating grid weaknesses, and disproportionately putting vulnerable communities at risk. 

In response to the climate crisis which is impacting California at a pace ahead of scientific models, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced his commitment to explore accelerating the state’s decarbonization goals, including the goal of a clean energy grid by 2045. At a press conference in fire-stricken Butte County, Newsom stated, “I think 2045 is too late” to get to a clean energy grid. 

These distressing conditions can serve as a catalyst to develop an electric system that can better withstand the consequences of climate change, while accelerating our move to clean energy as well as transportation electrification. As such, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) supports the Governor’s commitment to accelerate the transition to a clean energy grid that was established by groundbreaking legislation in SB 100 and his recent Executive Order to accelerate the deployment of electric transportation. 

These market signals from California policy makers, along with a Biden Administration that is supportive of an ambitious and equitable clean energy revolution, call for innovation from our state’s entrepreneurs. At LACI, we are demonstrating how these clean technologies will enable this improved, resilient grid through startups, partnerships, and pilots.

Exactly one month before California experienced its first of two rotating blackouts, LACI launched a small-scale electric vehicle (EV) community car-share pilot that is illustrating resiliency on the electric grid. LACI, in partnership with community partner Pacoima Beautiful, Envoy – a LACI startup – and Nissan deployed EVs to a community center in the San Fernando Gardens housing development, while keeping the needs of the community front and center. At the core, the pilot provides affordable and accessible clean transportation options, which are critical to the low-income community that is also burdened by poor air quality and can lack access to transportation. 

To ensure resiliency, we incorporated an off-grid, solar-powered electric vehicle supply equipment with battery backup that can serve as an emergency source of power for portable devices in the event of a power outage.  As the public and private sectors work together to create a clean, reliable electricity grid, we need to think creatively about how we can incorporate these types of solutions across every neighborhood.

Along with off-grid and local clean energy solutions, a modern, reliable grid will also need to solve for utility scale technologies. California has done an incredible job of accelerating the adoption of solar energy with approximately 28,000 megawatts installed since 2005. As Governor Newsom moves to accelerate solar and clean energy ahead of 2045, the fast deployment of various forms of storage is necessary. Alumina Energy, another LACI startup, provides distributed and utility energy storage solutions that turn renewables into 24-hour dispatchable resources that are cost-competitive or lower than fossil fuels. Alumina’s technology is a packed bed thermal energy storage that has a 30+ years life cycle – making it cost-effective and a long-term solution. This type of distributed and utility-scale technology becomes even more critical when we think about the diverse set of solutions we’ll need to properly respond to the disruptive and different types of extreme weather events. 


(Pictured: the launch of Pacoima Electro-Share with
Pacoima Beautiful and Envoy in the early summer of 2020)

Lastly, when we think of grid resiliency, we also need to consider the energy-transportation nexus. California is a leader when it comes to clean transportation. The state has a goal for there to be 5 million EVs on California roads by 2030 and recently, the Governor signed an executive order to phase out the sale of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035 and a transition to 100% zero-emission heavy duty short-haul drayage trucks by 2035 and other heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. 

LACI and the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP) are working towards a target of 30% of all passenger cars in LA County to be electric by the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As we work with our partners to advance progress towards these goals, we are supporting the discovery of new technologies that are needed to enable greater use of EVs and the efficient dispatch of energy, as needed, to support the grid. AMPLY Power and NeoCharge are two LACI startups that demonstrate this insight. AMPLY Power offers customized charging solutions to commercial fleet operators that optimize grid conditions to maximize savings. NeoCharge optimizes EV charging solutions in a manner that makes charging more cost-competitive for apartments and condos, while also supporting the needs of the grid. Additional work is needed to ensure these types of vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-building technologies are incentivized to come online to support grid resiliency. 

As California establishes new climate goals, we need to keep in mind that we need to move aggressively and inclusively to meet the needs of a clean and reliable energy grid. These recent heat waves, combined with massive wildfires throughout the state, demonstrate that we need to act now. LACI will continue to drive forth solutions and innovations with the public and private sectors to ensure an equitable, clean, and reliable energy future.

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator reboots its incubation program with 16-member cohort

The Los Angeles Cleantch Incubator is rebooting its incubator program and moving from rolling applications to a cohort model beginning with 16 new startups. 

Los Angeles’ not-for-profit incubator exchanges sweat equity in the form of services and office space, and the promise of $20,000 in funding for local pilot projects, for a 1.5% to 3% stake in a company.