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10 transportation and city startups you should know

LACI
LACI President Matt Petersen kicking off the California Climate Cup 2018.

While many affiliate events this week are timed around the Global Climate Action Summit, one program I participated in Monday in Los Angeles really represented everything inspiring about transportation tech, innovation and entrepreneurialism. 

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and the California Clean Energy Fund convened the inaugural California Climate Cup, which brought together 10 startups across transportation, mobility and smart cities. The companies were novel and savvy, the founders were dynamic and passionate, and some of the ideas were potentially disruptive (to use that oh-so Silicon Valley word).

The organizers asked the group of judges — GreenBiz included — to weigh in on which three companies out of the 10 should be part of the finalist group, as well as which startup should be the grand prize winner. The three finalists were flown up to San Francisco to participate in a barrage of GCAS events this week, and the grand prize winner will be announced Thursday at a GCAS event. 

But all 10 companies — chosen from more than 100 submissions — represent potentially impactful ideas that could help the deployment of electric vehicles, lower carbon emissions associated with transportation and enable cities to operate more sustainably. So here they are, the 10 startups:

1) EnZinc: Battery material startups are brave! EnZinc is a startup with funding from the Department of Energy's ARPA-E program. It makes a zinc-based battery anode that the company stated will make a battery lower-cost, safer and more energy-dense. CEO Michael Burz pitched to the audience and judges, kicking it off by saying: "It's an anode, not an app; it's a battery, not blockchain."

There are many battery startups that look promising, but this one's worth checking out. The company scored a licensing deal with the U.S. Navy (PDF).

2) Wheeli: One of the three finalists, Wheeli is a college-focused ride-sharing startup billed as "the carpooling app for college students." Like with Facebook's launch, the team uses ".edu" email addresses to provide a layer or safety and security.

Wheeli has gotten some pretty good traction after launching at the University of Vermont in January 2016 and University of Massachusetts Amherst in September 2017. Co-founder and CEO Jean-Pierre Adéchi said it has captured 25 percent of the Vermont campus, and the Amherst network is growing three times faster than the one in Vermont.

Photo Credit: Laura Rudich
Wheeli founder Jean-Pierre Adéchi pitching at the Climate Cup.

3) Evee: Evee is an Australian electric car-sharing startup. Founder and CEO Slava Kozlovskii, who delivered the pitch, said the company has over 300 customers and 45 car owners. Kozlovskii showed off a photo of his infant daughter getting excited behind the wheel of a Tesla car. 

4) EP Tender: One of the more out-of-the-box ideas came from EP Tender, a French startup building a mobile battery unit that can provide energy for an electric vehicle or for stationary grid services. An electric vehicle owner can rent the battery unit to take along with them on a long drive. Ready for an EV road trip?

5) Aclima: The most mature startup that pitched, Aclima makes a sensor and software system (as small as a shoebox) that collects granular and localized data about air pollution. The company already works with Google, which has installed the hardware on 50 of its Google Street View cars. The type of data that Aclima's technology can collect will be really helpful for programs in California looking to reduce transportation-related emissions in underserved communities.  

6) Solstice Energy Another finalist, Solstice Energy co-founder and CEO Ugwem Eneyo met her co-founder as a Stanford grad student of civil and environmental engineering. The duo created a smart transfer switch and software system that can help Nigerians in Lagos better manage energy from the grid, solar or a generator.

Because the grid is so unstable in Lagos, most residences, businesses and organizations use generators. Eneyo, a Nigerian-American, compared Solstice's hardware and app to the Nest thermostat. 

Updated: Solstice Energy is the grand prize winner of the Climate Cup, announced on stage at GCAS.

Photo Credit: Laura Rudich
Solstice Energy co-founder and CEO Ugwem Eneyo pitches at Climate Cup

7) EcomedesEcomedes is a one-stop shop for energy efficient and sustainable building tools, supplies and appliances. Ecomedes CEO and co-founder Paul Shahriari said he created the analytics and website because building suppliers and buyers "need data in one place."

8) LO3 Energy: Another of the established startups, LO3 Energy has created a blockchain-based system called Exergy that connects energy when it's bought, sold and stored. The company has projects in Brooklyn, New York; Cornwall, England; Allgau, Germany; and Texas. 

9) Ampaire: Electric aircraft! The company is building battery-powered commercial planes that could be used for short-haul cargo or even supersonic passenger transport. 

10) EVmatch The third finalist, EVmatch is building a peer-to-peer EV charging network, so that electric car drivers can access charging stations of home and small business owners. Think of it as Airbnb for EV chargers. 

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