cleantech insights

Isolated Car to Connected Car: Transportation from the 20th to the 21st Century

Christopher Renna

In the 1950s and 1960s, cars took hold of the United States. Car use and sales, as indicated by registration, boomed from 25.8 million cars in 1945 to 52.1 million cars in 1955 and finally 75.3 million cars in 1965. Indeed, Americans bought cars to drive towards the post-war American dream, roaming free of bounds, each person having his or her own car. Gas prices certainly didn’t hold anyone back…

But if the 20th century car brought freewheeling independence, the car of the 21st century is diametrically opposed: connected to the Internet (connected car and infotainment), to other cars (V2V) and to the environment (V2E); shared transportation, tethering individuals with mobile technology that allow for car sharing, ride sharing and the like.

Indeed, innovation is running wild in the transportation sector and investors are duly taking note. CTG’s i3 data shows the value and importance companies are according to transportation-related innovation.  Equity investments over the first half of 2014 total $2.8 billion across 72 deals, with the Uber deal accounting for $1.2 billion of that. This is almost triple the investment made in the second half of last year, or roughly equivalent to the total investment made …


Wanxiang’s Purchase of Fisker Highlights Increasing Chinese Cross-Border Investment

Gannon McHenry

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Wanxiang Group’s bid for Fisker Automotive last Tuesday. The deal was a combination offer of cash and equity worth $150 million. Rather than simply incorporating the intellectual property and assets of Fisker into Wanxiang’s existing brands, the company plans to restart production of the Fisker Karma in a matter of months. Wanxiang previously bought the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, following its bankruptcy filing in October of 2012. Wanxiang believes the synergies achieved through owning both A123 and Fisker will result in stronger financial and competitive positions for both companies.

Wanxiang’s purchase of Fisker follows a positive trend among Chinese companies, who are increasingly looking outside of their border for potential acquisitions. Following years of little to no international acquisition activity, Chinese companies and investors began to acquire foreign companies at an increasing rate following an off-and-on start in 2008. Following this trend, 2013 was a landmark year in cross border acquisition by Chinese organizations, recording the largest number of deals to date. Hanergy has been a notable prolific foreign investor, scooping up distressed solar companies including MiaSoleSolibro and Global Solar Energy over the past two years. The global …

Corporate Partnerships in Drop-in Biofuels

Leo Zhang

Two weeks ago, we posted a blog post that looked at investments in electric vehicles vs. drop-in fuels which showed a comparable amount of dollars having been invested into these two technology areas. As evidenced by the current market, investment into electric vehicles has led to significant progress as Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and other electric vehicles continue to flood the showroom. Similarly, we are also seeing major partnerships from key corporate stakeholders with the goal of a wider adoption of drop-in biofuels.

Audi gb2

  • Global Bioenergies, the France-based developer of renewable drop-in fuels, has partnered with German-based manufacturer Audi for a two-year collaboration on the development of high performance biofuels for gasoline engines.
  • Boeing, the U.S.-based aerospace and defense corporation, partnered with Etihad Airways to create an aviation biofuel industry; Etihad Airways also conducted a demonstration flight using renewable aviation biofuel.

boeing etihad

Although much debate has been raised on the disadvantages of alcohol-based biofuels, the industry continues to evolve with new technologies and products that address these concerns. As an example, Global Bioenergies is developing a renewable drop-in fuel that is 100% compatible with existing gasoline engines. As a result, automobile manufacturers such as Audi can benefit from this …

Local Motion: Exploring Decentralization at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014

M Paschich

On March 11-13, Cleantech Group is hosting the largest and longest running Cleantech forum in the world, Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. This annual gathering of the global cleantech innovation community offers a comprehensive development program along with exclusive opportunities to network and make deals happen. In the lead up to the Forum, we’re chatting with leaders across the resource innovation space to discuss the changes decentralization is causing across different markets, end-users, enterprises, technologies, and business models.



John Stanfield, CEO, Local Motion


Can you describe the problems Local Motion solves for its clients?

Local Motion was founded to help vehicle fleets get rid of the keys. Our clients have a huge problem with the most basic of questions: where is the key?

We solve that problem by installing a piece of hardware into the vehicle that allows the user to access the vehicle with something they already have in their pocket. You don’t need to know where the keys are, nor do you need to keep and manage keys anymore, when access to mobility is granted by the thing you bring with you to work every day… your ID badge.

From the managers side, we give …

Corp. & VCs on Liquid Fuels Vehicles vs. Electric Vehicles

Leo Zhang

It is widely agreed upon that our existing transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul in order to reduce the current level of vehicle emissions. Nevertheless, there has been much debate on the future source of renewable energy for the transportation sector. Will all cars of the future be electric? Or will we see a series of bio-refineries being built across the globe to produce renewable fuels that can be used by existing vehicles? Depending on who you talk to, you may hear a completely different answer. Therefore, let’s examine the hard data, the Corporate and VC investments tracked by the i3 Platform in the Transportation sector:

i3 transport graph

The immediate trend we notice is the significant spike in investments in Electric Vehicles and Drop-in Fuels in 2010. Several reasons contributed to the spike, including multiple mega-round investments into infrastructure-related projects, such as the development of charging stations and the construction of large-scale bio-refineries. Nevertheless, based on this data, we have seen that the Corporate and VC community has made a comparable amount of investments into both energy types (when we combine investments in liquid fuel vehicles and drop-in fuels). Since this first wave of investments, the electric vehicles sector has definitely received relatively …

This Deal Matters: Commercialization of Wireless Charging Technology for Electric Vehicles

Leo Zhang

W277-1_logo_v1iTricity, the Massachusetts-based developer of wireless energy transmission and charging technology, announced last week that it had licensed certain patents to Toyota for the development of wireless battery charging technology for the auto major’s electric vehicles. Prior to this licensing agreement, Toyota had also made an equity investment to WiTricity in 2011, to accelerate the development of such technology. This licensing agreement marks a major commercialization milestone towards the wide-spread adoption of WiTricity’s wireless charging systems. Within the same timeframe, a BMW product development executive also announced that “electrification will be a central thread” in BMW’s future product development. In addition, Audi has unveiled its electric crossover concept vehicle at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

Electric vehicle application isn’t the only market focus for WiTricity. The company’s business strategy aims to license its wireless-power technology to as many partners as possible, including sectors such as transportation, consumer electronics and industrial applications. Consequently, WiTricity also has other corporate investors that have their eyes set on this promising technology. In October of 2013, WiTricity had closed a Growth Equity round from Intel Capital and Foxconn Technology Group, one of China’s largest electronics manufacturers. In addition, General Electric was …

#Cleanwebcity Interviews: BMW iVentures

Jill Bunting

On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City,” the first senior executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.

ulrich quay bmw iventures

Ulrich Quay, Managing Director, BMW i Ventures

Some corporates seem to be either unsure of, or even hostile towards, disruptive cleanweb applications like sharing platforms. BMW seems to have embraced the potential in this space. How do you view the opportunity in cleanweb for a company like BMW?

We’ve been studying mobility needs in the future. There’s a lot of potential, especially in urban areas, for BMW to play an important role here. We view it as, instead of customers having no BMW experience, we rather they have an experience through mobility services. For our parents and grandparents, they were saving their money for a car. Mobility behavior for people today has clearly changed, and a company like BMW has to be part of that future.

We …

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 21 – 27


StemThe i3 Platform tracked exciting news from across cleantech sectors last week. Stem, a company marketing battery energy storage systems designed to enable commercial utility customers to better manage their energy use and avoid peak rates, announced a financing partnership with Clean Fleet Investors. Through the program, which has an initial sum of $5 million to work with, Stem will begin offering its battery energy management systems at no or low up-front cost, much the way residential solar companies have spurred higher demand through lease and power purchase agreements.

AutomaticIn another interesting partnership, Automatic, a provider of vehicle monitoring solutions designed to help drivers become more fuel-efficient, got a boost from Apple, which said it would begin offering Automatic’s product in its stores.

Meridian EnergyIn New Zealand, renewable energy generation company Meridian Energy announced its intent to conduct an initial public offering worth $1.7 billion. At that size, the offering would be the New Zealand exchange’s largest ever. While the majority of the company’s generation portfolio comes from traditional hydro-electric plants, which provide more predictable baseload power, it also operates almost 400 MW of wind power.

277-1_logo_v1Several companies raised venture funding during the week. WiTricity, a company …

#Cleanwebcity Interviews: Bandwagon

Jill Bunting

On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City,” the first senior executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.

David Mahfouda, CEO, Bandwagon


What’s the challenge you’re working to solve?
We’re working to increase the passenger occupancy of vehicles by making it easy for people to share rides.


What’s different about your approach?
We’ve created a turn-by-turn routing algorithm that optimally combines itineraries. Other companies have tried to use things like message boards to help people share rides, but outsourcing to consumers doesn’t work. This makes it automatic.


What’s it like being a cleanweb company based in NYC?
Because our technology benefits so many stakeholders, it’s been very advantageous to be in NYC. With Mayor Bloomberg, everyone is aligned on the value of data and efficiency. We were funded by [public benefit corporation] NYSERDA to increase transit from LaGuardia, and we’ve had overwhelming …

The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 14 – 20


There was a great deal of news pouring out of clean technology sectors last week. From the electric transportation market, Tesla Motors announced a partnership with AT&T in which the wireless carrier’s wireless network will be accessible in Tesla’s vehicles and drive connected-car features.

Electric bus maker Proterra raised $24 million in a growth funding round led by new utility investors Edison International and Constellation Energy, and joined by existing investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GM Ventures, Mitsui and others. The round reportedly values the company at around $200 million.

Home energy management start-up EcoFactor closed on $10 million in new funding from new investor NRG Energy, as well as existing investors Claremont Creek Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, and Aster Capital. The company says the new round will be used for growing the business and launching new products.

1366 Technologies, a developer of manufacturing technology that reduces costs and increases the efficiency of silicon wafer production for solar cells, raised $15 million in its Series C round from new investor and strategic partner Tokuyama Corporation. The round was joined by existing investors VantagePoint Capital Partners, North Bridge Venture