Ford backs five startups in new mobility innovation programme

02 November 2021

A rising number of carmakers are funding startups, particularly in the fields of electromobility, autonomous technology, battery development, and charging infrastructure – among them, Ford.

The carmaker is partnering with Newlab, a multi-disciplinary technology centre focused on future mobility projects, located in Brooklyn, New York. As part of that partnership, Ford has announced a project that gives five startups a chance to shine.

Ford is bringing to life a new programme, called Mobility Studio, centred on technologies, product collaborations, and business models that support cleaner transportation. It has selected five startups that will participate in the inaugural cohort of its Mobility Studio, piloting new electric tech.

These young companies could help address huge challenges faced by fleets as they transition to electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs). Their focus is on connected fleet management, supporting drivers at home, multi-using charging hubs, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications.

Electrifying the nation

Much like Europe, the US is adapting to the electrification of transport and aims to modernise its infrastructure and electricity grid to carry more renewable energy. Ford said its Mobility Studio will help the five chosen startups pilot the development of ‘transformative’ services and technologies, hoping to spur on the commercial adoption of EVs. The programme will act as a sandbox environment for entrepreneurs, experts, and investors to test new technologies.

‘Together, Ford and Newlab are building upon our nation’s goal of reducing carbon emissions and the effects of climate change by advancing commercial-fleet electrification,’ said Matt Stover, director of charging and energy services at Ford.

‘As Ford works to accelerate electric-vehicle adoption and zero-emission transportation, the Mobility Studio is meeting the moment by identifying innovative solutions to enhance fleet management through connected data, integrate our vehicles into the energy ecosystem and advance urban charging for commercial fleets and support electric-vehicle drivers at home,’ he added.

The top five

Ford looked at a global pool of applicants when picking the five startups. One company that made the list is Israel-based Autofleet. Its vehicle-as-a-service platform allows companies and municipalities to optimise vehicle-fleet management, launch mobility services, and design strategic shifts in operations, including electrification. It won over notable partners, such as Avis-Budget Group, Zipcar, Revel, and Keolis.

EVPassport is another startup that Ford has picked for its new programme. The venture-backed company is disrupting the EV-charger economy and calls itself a one-stop shop for all charging needs. The startup wants to make charging seamless and has built a distributed fleet-charging ecosystem, which incorporates multiunit dwellings through a cloud-based, application programming interface-driven hardware and software platform.

Next on the list is Fermata Energy. The company supplies and operates pioneering, patented technology that integrates EVs with buildings and the electricity grid. Its V2X system is designed to help EV owners ‘save money and the environment’ while contributing to a more renewable-based power grid.

Rhombus Energy Solutions is also focused on speeding up the adoption of EVs. The startup develops and manufactures advanced, high-efficiency power conversion and energy-management systems. The company builds bidirectional charging networks for electric passenger cars and high-power electric fleets, intended to maximise the clean-energy distribution capabilities of EVs.

The fifth startup Ford picked for its novel programme is SparkCharge, which provides a charging-as-a-service platform. The company’s goal is to create ‘the world’s first mobile and intelligent on-demand EV-charging network.’ Through its app, subscribers can have the charge delivered to their vehicle on the spot, utilising SparkCharge’s portable, modular charging unit.

Shaping the future of mobility

With Ford and Newlab actively supporting these cleantech companies, the carmaker is hoping to foster innovations that can help shape the future of transportation.

‘We are excited to welcome the Mobility Studio’s first member cohort – an incredible slate of innovative companies determined to create a clean, electrified and connected future,’ said Shaina Horowitz, vice president of product and programs at Newlab.

‘With zero-emission transportation and electrification at a tipping point nationwide, the Mobility Studio strategically sought out innovative teams that will accelerate electric-vehicle adoption and help to slash greenhouse-gas emissions through the development of cutting-edge mobility solutions,’ Horowitz added.