RelayRides Announces National Launch

RelayRides RelayRides, a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace, today announced that it is expanding its services nationwide.  RelayRides enables car owners to rent their vehicles to members of their local communities and has received more than $13 million in venture capital funding from investors including Google Ventures and GM Ventures, August Capital, and Shasta Ventures.

RelayRides' national expansion is being made possible by its new "key-exchange" program, where car owners and renters arrange for an exchange of the vehicle's keys.  Prior to today's announcement RelayRides had operated in Boston and San Francisco and required vehicle owners to install dedicated equipment from RelayRides.  The company also announced in 2011 an exclusive relationship that will allow millions of GM vehicle owners to leverage the OnStar system to rent out their idle cars through the RelayRides marketplace, with no additional hardware installation needed.

"Since the day we first launched in Boston, we have received thousands of requests to expand into more communities," said RelayRides founder and chief community officer Shelby Clark. "Today, we are thrilled to be able to finally meet this demand. Now that RelayRides' marketplace is available across the nation, every eligible driver can participate in this green, simple and economically sensible answer to the traditional car ownership model."

Disclosure: The founder/publisher of Green VC (and author of this post) is a car owner that uses RelayRides.

SVForum Presents “Trends in Green Transportation” on August 3 (Discount Available)

SVForumOn August 3, SVForum will present the next program in its Clean and Green Evening Series entitled Trends in Green Transportation.  A summary of this program is:

This panel will feature experts who will discuss and debate the trends in green transportation, the challenges and opportunities for the traditional players as well as entrepreneurs, investors.

This program will include the following panelists:

  • Paul McGrath, RideSpring
  • Geoff Ryder, SAP
  • Brien A. Seeley M.D., CAFE Foundation
  • Ian Wright, Wrightspeed
  • Moderated by: Greg Heibel, Orrick

This program will be held from 6:00 - 8:30 pm at Orrick, 1100 Marsh Road, Menlo Park, CA.  Thanks to our friends at SVForum, readers of Green VC can receive a $5 discount from the non-member registration price for this event.  To receive the discount, please use code "GREEN05" when registering online.

SDForum Presents “Electric Vehicles – What’s Under the Hood?” on March 22 (Discount Available)

SDForumOn March 22, SDForum will present the next program in its Clean Tech Breakfast Series entitled Electric Vehicles – What's Under the Hood?  A summary of this program is:

Electric vehicles are hot, yet much of the conversation focuses on charging infrastructure and market readiness. Our panelists look under the hood of electric vehicles, to see what's happening with electric drive trains, power electronics, the user experience and of course, battery systems. Join us to hear exciting insights into the propulsion and human interface technologies that make electric vehicles go.

This program will feature the following panelists:

  • Matt Boyle, Sevcon
  • Rob Ferber, ElectronVault, Inc.
  • Gerd Goette, Siemens
  • Ryan Popple, Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers
  • Moderated by: Robert Ebe, Nixon Peabody LLP

This program will be held from 8:00 am - 10:00 am at Nixon Peabody, One Embarcadero Center, 18th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111. Thanks to our friends at SDForum, readers of Green VC can receive a $5 discount from the non-member registration price for this event.  To receive the discount, please use code "CLEAN05" when registering online.

$10 Million Progressive Automotive X PRIZE Shared by Three Teams

Progressive Automotive X PRIZEThe Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, an international competition launched in 2008 with a $10 million prize purse designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles, recently announced its winners (video at the end of this post).  They are:

$5 Million Mainstream Class Winner:
Edison2 “Very Light Car #98” (Charlottesville, VA)
Economy: 102.5 MPGe
Fuel: E85 ethanol
Boasting the lowest drag coefficient of any car with four wheels tested in the GM wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, this vehicle demonstrated over 100 MPGe on the test track, and verified in the lab, under stringent testing conditions using a highly innovative small displacement engine. Its low weight of just 830 pounds is a tribute to its use of light weight materials, reduced engine displacement and a host of other weight-saving innovations.

$2.5 Million Alternative Side-by-Side Class Winner:
Li-ion Motors Corp “Wave II” (Mooresville, NC)
Economy: 187 MPGe
Fuel: Battery Electric
This side-by-side two-seat battery electric car was built on a lightweight aluminum chassis and weighs in at only 2,176 pounds, despite the weight of its powerful lithium ion batteries. The Wave II demonstrated outstanding low mechanical and aerodynamic drag that resulted in 187 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory efficiency testing, a 14.7s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time, and over 100 miles range over a real-world driving cycle.

$2.5 Million Alternative Tandem Class Winner:
X-Tracer Team Switzerland “E-Tracer #79” (Winterthur, Switzerland)
Economy: 205.3 MPGe
Fuel: Battery Electric
This tandem two-seat vehicle combines the best of motorcycles and automobiles. This clever design has two extra outrigger wheels that deploy at low speed to stabilize the vehicle. At 1436 pounds, the E-Tracer is able to deliver over 100 miles in range, led the competition with over 200 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory fuel efficiency and achieved a zero-to- 60 mph acceleration time of just 6.6 seconds.

“We’ve seen a shift in the market since we first launched this competition, and a greater awareness by people everywhere to think more seriously about the actions we take, and how they affect our environment,” noted Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. “Gas mileage ranks as one of our top concerns when purchasing a new vehicle and I believe strongly that the innovations showcased throughout the life of this competition will continue to impact and improve our car buying options for the future.”

“Congratulations to the winners and to all the teams who competed over the course of this competition. Their innovations and hard work are truly inspirational,” said Glenn Renwick. “We’re extremely proud to support a competition that will result in more super fuel-efficient vehicle choices; choices that will make people’s lives better.”

There will now be opportunities for winners and other competitors to move forward with their inventions. Under a U.S. Department of Energy-funded technical assistance program, qualified Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competitors will obtain funding support for access to key automotive expertise and test facilities to assist them in readying their vehicles and technologies for market introduction.

A video of the awards ceremony follows below.

Battery Company Sakti3 Receives $4.2 Million from General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures

Sakti3 Sakti3, Inc., an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based developer of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, announced earlier this month that it received an investment of $4.2 million from General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures to advance the firm’s manufacturing capabilities. The companies also plan to work together to speed commercialization of Sakti3 battery cells. These two investors join previous investors Khosla Ventures and Beringea.  In April of this year Sakti3 received $7 million in Series B financing from Khosla Ventures and Beringea.

“These investments by General Motors Ventures and Itochu Technology Ventures bring us not only capital, but partnerships that will speed our commercialization efforts,” said Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3. “Our product planning in the automotive and portables sectors will be accelerated by working with these two preeminent firms. The General Motors agreement partners us with a company that is clearly a global leader in vehicle electrification. Itochu Technology Ventures has a strong focus on energy technologies, and on growth markets in Asia. We’re very pleased to have engaged investors who will help us purposefully and quickly create our target products and address key regional markets.”

"GM Ventures is making strategic investments in new technology to support our core automotive business," said Jon Lauckner, president GM Ventures, LLC. "Our objective is to identify start-up companies that offer the best future technology for our vehicles, including next generation propulsion systems. In this case, our investment in Sakti3 gives us access to an innovative battery technology that has the potential to be a mainstream solution for electrically-driven cars and trucks of the future."

The following video contains additional background on Sakti3.

Coulomb Technologies Raises $15 Million in Series C Funding

Coulomb Technologies Coulomb Technologies, a company that is developing an electric vehicle (EV) charging station infrastructure, announced earlier this month that it secured $15 million in Series C funding. Joining existing investors Rho Ventures, Voyager Capital, Siemens Venture Capital GmbH, and Hartford Ventures (a strategic investment division of The Hartford Financial Services Group) are new investors Harbor Pacific Capital, LS Cable Ltd., and LS Industrial Systems Co., Ltd.

Coulomb will use the funds to help accelerate product development of its ChargePoint Network, enhance customer support, and increase sales. The following video provides a demonstration of a ChargePoint Networked Charging Station and additional information on Coulomb's solutions:

“Coulomb sales have increased dramatically in 2010,” said Richard Lowenthal CEO of Coulomb Technologies. “This significant growth has given us an opportunity to further expand our operations and superior technology of the ChargePoint Network to meet the worldwide demand of networked infrastructure for electric vehicles. We are proud to welcome our new investors Harbor Pacific Capital and LS to our company. We are also pleased our existing investors Rho Ventures, Siemens Venture Capital, Voyager Capital and Hartford Ventures have furthered their investment in Coulomb.”

“Coulomb continues to make great strides as an emerging leader in the EV infrastructure space. They are quickly expanding their footprint and building a compelling, sustainable business,” said Mark Leschly, Managing Partner of Rho Ventures.

Coulomb Technologies' corporate headquarters are in Campbell, California and it has operations in India.

Bright Automotive Is First Company to Receive Investment from General Motors Ventures

Bright Automotive Today, Bright Automotive and General Motors (GM) announced that the companies had entered into a strategic partnership and that General Motors Ventures has provided funding to Bright Automotive.  This is the first investment made by GM Ventures, which was launched in June 2010 by GM with $100 million.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July. GM Ventures provided funding to Bright Automotive this week, and the companies intend to complete the formal agreements later this year. Upon completion of the agreements and other terms, GM Ventures would have a minority stake in Bright Automotive and Bright Automotive would receive access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems. Finacial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage," said Jon Lauckner, President of GM Ventures. "In this case, our funding of Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle market."

Bright Automotive was launched in January 2008 from the Rocky Mountain Institute.  The compny said that it will use the new funding to accelerate production of the IDEA, its plug-in hybrid vehicle for the commercial fleet market. The company is also continuing to seek a low interest loan through the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Bright Automotive states that the IDEA will be able to run in electric mode for 40 miles before switching to an estimated 36-miles per gallon (mpg) hybrid mode for an overall potential 100+ mpg.

"This relationship is an important step forward for Bright, and a strong endorsement of our highly experienced automotive team and our incredible vehicle," said Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO. "With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification."

“We talked with several leading automakers, but GM clearly had the right vision, the most capable technology, and the closest alignment with our business approach,” said Michael Brylawski, Bright Automotive Executive Vice President. “We are thrilled to work with GM to create American jobs, stimulate technology development, and build an innovative American vehicle that will help reduce oil dependence and cut costs for businesses.”

Some background on Bright Automotive is available in the following video.

EcoMotors Obtains Series B Financing from Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates

EcoMotorsEcoMotors International, a Troy, Michigan-based company that is developing and commercializing a new engine technology, announced on Monday that if has secured Series B funding from Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates. 

The company stated that this funding will be sufficient for it to complete engineering and testing of its OPOC engine. The company claims that its technology, which uses an architecture of opposed pistons and opposed cylinders, provides significant benefits compared to conventional engines, including lower cost, lighter weight, and higher efficiency. Professor Peter Hofbauer (EcoMotors Chairman and CTO) provides a brief overview of OPOC in the following video:

“opoc is precisely the kind of game-changing innovation that we at Khosla Ventures are passionate about,” said Khosla. “The only truly disruptive technologies are those that can provide not only payback in months but also economic and carbon benefits to large segments of the world’s population without the need for subsidies or massive infrastructure investments. Among next-generation propulsion systems, the opoc engine is broadly applicable and can provide lower carbon emissions than almost any other technology.”

“The opoc engine can be an important step in providing affordable, low-emission transportation for the developing world,” said Gates.  “EcoMotors has developed a promising technology that could help reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions in a low-cost, globally relevant way.”

General Motors Creates GM Ventures and Provides $100 Million in Initial Funding

General Motors (GM) announced earlier this month that it had created a venture capital subsidiary, General Motors Ventures, LLC, designed to help the company identify and develop innovative technologies in the automotive/transportation sector.

GM Ventures will be led by Jon J. Lauckner, GM Vice President and President, General Motors Ventures, reporting to Stephen J. Girsky, GM Vice Chairman Corporate Strategy and New Business Development.  Lauckner's new position is effective July 1, 2010.  He previously served as GM Vice President of Global Product Planning. 

"We are constantly looking for ways to deliver the best technology for our customers," said Mr. Girsky. "Our goal is to nurture these innovative technologies to help bring them to market, and to ensure our customers have access to the best technology available."

General Motors Ventures has been funded with an initial investment of $100 million, and is currently exploring equity investments in a number of auto-related technologies and business models.

Tesla and Toyota Announce Partnership for Electric Vehicle Development; Toyota to Invest $50 Million in Tesla; Tesla Acquires NUMMI Plant




On Thursday, May 20th in Palo Alto, California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) Akio Toyoda, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Motors Elon Musk and Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado announced a partnership between the two automotive companies.  Highlights of this partnership include:


1. Toyota investment in Tesla.  TMC will purchase $50 million of Tesla’s common stock issued in a private placement to close immediately subsequent to the closing of Tesla’s currently planned initial public offering.


2. Joint ventures between Tesla and Toyota.  The two companies announced that they intend to cooperate on the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support.


In addition, Tesla announced that it will acquire the NUMMI plant (an auto plant that closed earlier this year) in Fremont, California.  Tesla will use the NUMMI plant to begin production of its second generation vehicle, the Model S EV (a 300-mile range, seven-seat SUV). Once it reaches full production mode at the NUMMI plant, Tesla expects to produce 20,000 EVs per year.


It has been reported that the action announced on Thursday could create more than 1,000 green jobs in California.


“What we are witnessing today is an historic example of California’s transition to a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future. We challenged auto companies to innovate, and both Tesla and Toyota stepped up in a big way, not only creating vehicles that reduce emissions and appeal to consumers but also boosting economic growth,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Tesla, just a start-up company a few years ago, will soon employ Californians in green jobs on a large scale at the former NUMMI plant. In fact, Tesla’s founding and expansion in California is a direct result of our nation-leading policies that support demand for green products and the companies and people who produce them. I am thrilled with today’s announcement and can’t wait to see what this partnership brings next.”


“I’ve felt an infinite possibility about Tesla’s technology and its dedication to monozukuri (Toyota’s approach to manufacturing),” said TMC President Akio Toyoda. “Through this partnership, by working together with a venture business such as Tesla, Toyota would like to learn from the challenging spirit, quick decision-making, and flexibility that Tesla has. Decades ago, Toyota was also born as a venture business. By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business spirit,’ and take on the challenges of the future.”


“Toyota is a company founded on innovation, quality, and commitment to sustainable mobility. It is an honor and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Toyota would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla,” said Tesla CEO and cofounder Elon Musk. “We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota’s legendary engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.”