California’s clean technology ecosystem is continuing to expand, which is welcomed news to Fremont, home to one of the largest cleantech industry clusters. Many of these organizations are our longtime partners and have provided a wealth of resources to the companies that reside here. Prospect Silicon Valley (PSV), a cleantech innovation hub based nearby in San Jose, is one such organization whose prominence is on the rise. At their recent Impact & Innovation Symposium, PSV convened key leaders in advanced mobility and energy to provide a glimpse at where these industries are heading.

To set the stage, PSV CEO Ruth Cox interviewed Cal EPA’s Secretary for Environmental Protection, Jared Blumenfeld, to discuss Blumenfeld’s perspectives and priorities as California’s new administration gets underway. He emphasized that the Governor values innovation, business, and equity, which provide a strong foundation for implementing an environmental sustainability agenda. Issues that Secretary Blumenfeld is particularly focused on include water quality in the Central Valley, innovating the safety of agricultural pesticides and chemicals in manufacturing, and a push for increased uniformity in building codes and regulations across cities, without diluting the environmental causes they support. While California is certainly an environmental leader by many measures, he did express interest in addressing the issue of recycling, since many other parts of the world have developed recycling systems far better than ours. He concluded his remarks by reflecting on his time hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail alone. The experience taught him that nature is non-judgmental, human superiority is a myth, and that we must question the role we play with respect to nature.

Two separate breakout sessions followed: one dedicated to grid modernization and the other focused on advanced mobility. Given Fremont’s growing advanced automotive cluster, you can guess which track we followed. Mark Platshon of Icebreaker Ventures kicked off the mobility track with an insightful keynote about the state of the market. He cited quick facts to illustrate the speed at which mobility is evolving:

  • Bird is fastest company to reach $1 billion valuation in history.
  • Batteries used to cost $2000 per kilowatt hour. Today, they cost approximately $150, which indicates that they followed a similar cost curve as solar. (This is great news for consumers, but a dilemma for investors.)
  • Today, there are 42 all-electric EV models coming to fruition by mainstream manufacturers. Platshon considers this the beginning of a tipping point for EVs.
  • The opportunity for EVs extends far beyond passenger vehicles; it includes buses, trucks, mining equipment, agricultural equipment, and shuttles. (Mobility focuses just as much on moving goods as it does on moving people.)
  • As it turns out, GDP is almost exactly correlated with Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT). This indicates that the more goods we move, the more growth our economy experiences. Think about the possible outcomes we could achieve if this travel could be done without congestion, danger, and pollution.
  • Advanced mobility will disrupt many other industries, in addition to the automotive space:
    • Insurance – Today we spend $200 billion per year on auto insurance!
    • Real Estate – The future of parking garages, and the revenue they generate for cities, is still a big question. (Airports make half their money from parking!)
    • Safety/Emergency Services – Studies show a 25% decrease in San Francisco’s drunk driving rates since the advent of Uber.

Finally, advanced mobility has the potential to significantly impact issues of equity when we think about the opportunities it may present to the disabled, blind, seniors, and children.