Trio of star­tups work­ing to im­prove trans­porta­tion

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - BUSINESS - LAU­REN TONOKAWA ——— Lau­ren Tonokawa is head of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions team at the En­ergy Ex­cel­er­a­tor. She’s a grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Hawaii. Reach her at lau­

It was the trans­porta­tion sec­tor that re­ceived the most clean-tech ven­ture cap­i­tal dol­lars in the U.S. in 2015. In the first quar­ter of 2016, Lyft raised $1 bil­lion from Gen­eral Mo­tors and other in­vestors, while Uber raised $200 mil­lion from a sin­gle in­vestor. The mo­men­tum con­tin­ued into 2017

(no to­tals are avail­able yet for 2016) with elec­tric bus maker Proterra an­nounc­ing the close of a $140 mil­lion round of fund­ing to ac­cel­er­ate its pro­duc­tion process and Tesla com­peti­tor Fara­day Fu­tures de­but­ing its first pro­duc­tion elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV) equipped with self-park­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Fol­low­ing these trends, nearly a dozen stake­hold­ers from Hawaii’s pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to elec­trify Hawaii’s trans­porta­tion sec­tor. The ini­tia­tive is called the Drive Elec­tric Hawaii Ini­tia­tive. Its goal is to power our ground trans­porta­tion by 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy.

In De­cem­ber the 5,000th elec­tric ve­hi­cle was reg­is­tered in Hawaii. The state En­ergy Of­fice re­ported in Novem­ber that the fuel cost per year of driv­ing a Nis­san Leaf is half the cost of driv­ing a Nis­san Versa. The In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil on Clean Trans­porta­tion projects Hawaii sales of

EVs to ac­count for 1 in ev­ery 10 ve­hi­cles sold in


Here are three star­tups do­ing trans­porta­tion-re­lated work in Startup Par­adise, which is the Hawaii startup com­mu­nity:

>> FreeWire Tech­nolo­gies: The Cal­i­for­nia-based startup is work­ing with En­ergy Ex­cel­er­a­tor and Hawai­ian Elec­tric to in­stall two EV charg­ers at the Honolulu Air­port Trade Cen­ter. Un­like sta­tion­ary EV charg­ers, FreeWire’s charg­ers look more like a bat­tery on wheels. They can be in­stalled with­out con­struc­tion or per­mit­ting, they uti­lize se­cond-life EV bat­ter­ies and the units can be recharged when a large amount of re­new­able en­ergy is avail­able on the grid.

>> Volta: The startup founded in Hawaii by Scott Mercer has 38 EV charg­ers across Oahu and Maui, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site. You may have seen ven­ture ac­cel­er­a­tor Blue Star­tups’ charg­ing sta­tions at Ala Moana Cen­ter, Whole Foods on Oahu and Maui, and Pearl­ridge Cen­ter among a hand­ful of other lo­ca­tions.

>> Tran­sitScreen: The San Fran­cisco and Washington, D.C.-based startup in­stalled its real-time tran­sit dis­plays at Honolulu’s

Frank F. Fasi Build­ing. Tran­sitScreen’s mis­sion is to in­crease use of pub­lic tran­sit op­tions through real-time in­for­ma­tion and de­sign.

The dis­plays show­ing ex­pected ar­rival times for buses and Uber (and on the main­land ex­pected ar­rival times for trains and dis­tance to bike-share sta­tions) are typ­i­cally placed in gov­ern­ment, com­mer­cial and apart­ment build­ings. Like FreeWire, Tran­sitScreen is a part of En­ergy Ex­cel­er­a­tor’s port­fo­lio.


FreeWire CEO Ar­cady Sosi­nov op­er­ated the com­pany’s ro­botic elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ers at a launch event in Novem­ber.

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