VERGE

5 startups unlocking the mobility revolution

The Biki bike-sharing program accounts for more than 100,000 trips per month in cities such as Honolulu.

With the transportation sector accounting for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States (at nearly 29 percent), Elemental Excelerator is focused on technologies that can help communities ditch the internal-combustion engine habit.

Cities want to provide people with convenient, equitable, clean transportation options. Unfortunately, upgrading transit systems, redesigning streets or implementing new technologies can be prohibitively expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming. And often, no one wants to be the first to try something new and different, stifling opportunities to significantly move the needle and inhibiting the positive ripple effects that can come from their widespread adoption.

That’s where Elemental Excelerator comes in. We co-fund new mobility projects to de-risk the investment for cities and incumbents. We bring policy and startup experience to bridge the public-private divide and ensure companies’ technologies are deployed in alignment with a city’s vision and mission to make transportation systems more sustainable. And because mobility is highly correlated with economic opportunity, and the lack of reliable and efficient transportation can have a significant effect on quality of life, we work with stakeholders to ensure that innovations support equity and access for all communities.

Electric mobility and relevant, actionable data are key to making transportation cleaner, more efficient and more equitable for everyone. That’s why with this year’s cohort of mobility startups, Elemental Excelerator is doubling-down on new data infrastructure and urban design technologies and supporting low-carbon mobility options such as bikeshare and vehicle electrification.

Two of the five companies in this cohort are focused on improving mobility efficiency and equity with data:

Numina

Its mission: Providing urban ecosystems with intelligence without surveillance

Why do we love them? If our cities are to truly become "smart," they need eyes to see what’s happening on their streets, sidewalks and curbs. Numina’s smart sensors, which can be mounted on light poles, capture things that cities never before could around the complex movements and interactions between types of automobiles, pedestrians, buses, cyclists and everything else in our rapidly evolving cityscapes. And it does it all anonymously, providing cities with unprecedented data granularity to help transform urban environments into more walkable, bikeable and equitable spaces — without compromising anyone’s privacy.

Remix

Its mission: Shaping urban mobility

Why do we love them? With its goal of building "a more equitable world by expanding access within it," Remix is exactly the kind of company we had in mind when we created our Equity & Access track to bring sustainable innovations to disadvantaged communities. Remix’s software platform, which empowers cities to build the best possible transportation systems, features tools designed for transit, street design and mobility management. Together, we will focus on ways to understand the extent of communities’ inequities today, and enable them to infuse equity into urban designs and transit systems tomorrow. Take, for instance, a city that has data showing low-income areas are absorbing higher levels of GHGs and is left asking, "What do we do about it?" With Remix’s tools at hand, cities will be empowered to prioritize and design the best projects in response.

The other three companies in the latest cohort are driving the electrification of transportation. Here’s some more detail:

KIGT

Its mission: Smart vehicle-to-grid EV charging

Why do we love them? While the new mobility revolution is well under way in many places, there are many communities where it remains impossible to even find an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. KIGT’s mission is to promote EV adoption in those overlooked areas. It manufactures equipment and develops software specifically designed to incentivize the adoption and availability of low-cost smart charging stations. We believe that KIGT’s community-focused approach will help make EV driving accessible for people of all income levels, and empower them to reap all the benefits that come along with it.

AMPLY Power

Its mission: Fleet charging, simplified

Why do we love them? One of the fastest ways to kickstart the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles is to convert municipal and commercial fleets. But even if every fleet operator decided to switch to EVs tomorrow, they’d have to do it in spite of persistent barriers such as the disconnected nature of charging networks that contributes to range anxiety, the costly and cumbersome implementation of new charging infrastructure, volatile electricity prices and the difficulty of developing new operational strategies to capitalize on the cost and maintenance benefits of this new technology. That’s where AMPLY Power’s Charging-as-a-Service technology comes in. It addresses the many pain points around fleet electrification with a single turnkey solution, no matter the vehicle type. By providing fleet operators with the ability to design, operate and maintain low-cost charging services, Amply is poised to help accelerate the number of electric buses, trucks and passenger vehicles on the road.

Bikeshare Hawaii

Its mission: Honolulu’s bike share program

Why do we love them? We’ve seen firsthand that implementing a robust bikeshare program, as Bikeshare Hawaii has done over the past two years in Honolulu, can revitalize how people move about a city. Riding a "Biki" quickly became many residents’ (including our team) go-to mode for daily commutes, while tourists gained a whole new way to enjoy and explore the city. With more than 100,000 bike trips per month, the Biki service rocketed into the upper echelons of bikeshare programs after its launch in 2017, joining New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston (which all launched much earlier) as the top six programs in the nation. And we are particularly excited by the prospect of helping Biki "go electric." 

These five companies are addressing the first-order barriers to reaching an equitable, sustainable mobility future and empowering first movers to act.

Municipal innovation, particularly in mobility, has been stymied by a lack of data. That’s why Elemental Excelerator funded two companies this year that provide cities with the insights they need to improve their infrastructure and services. The organization also sees tremendous opportunity for electric mobility to improve the health and economies of communities that are largely overlooked by the new mobility revolution.