Eleven of Southern California's Firms In The Alternative Vehicle Market

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


On the heels of the much heralded IPO of Silicon Valley electric car darling Tesla Motors today on the NASDAQ, investors are now looking to what other firms might benefit from the electric vehicle market--and what appears to be a growing appetite for IPOs. Many are looking towards Silicon Valley for ideas, however, socalTECH has identified a substantial number of Southern California companies--both public and private--that are also trying to take advantage of the nascent market for electric and other alternative vehicles and related markets, both from the side of developing their own cars, as well as powering the technology behind those vehicles.

On the automobile side, there are at least six Southern California companies also working on their own, electric or other alternative vehicles, competing against Tesla and the traditional carmakers. Those companies include Irvine-based Fisker Automotive, which has the healthy backing of such firms as A123 Systems, Ace Investments, Eco-Drive Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Palo Alto Investors, Qatar Investment Authority; Santa Monica-based CODA Automotive, with backing from Aeris Capital, Angeleno Investors, Countyline, EDB Investments, and a number of high profile angels; BYD, the Chinese alternative vehicle firm backed by Warren Buffet which just set up its North American headquarters in Los Angeles; V-Vehicle, based in San Diego and funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and T. Boone Pickens; Aptera Motors, in Carlsbad, which has funding from Google and Idealab; and Phoenix MC, based in Ontario.

Car makers are not the only firms in Southern California playing a role in the alternative vehicle market. A number of companies providing systems and infrastructure for the industry are also here. Those firms include Irvine-based Quantum Fuel Systems, making powertrains for electric cars; San Diego's Flux Power, developing battery management technology for electric cars; San Diego's Fallbrook Technologies, a developer of continuous variable transmissions, also being used in electric cars; Aerovironment, with operations in Monrovia and Simi Valley, which develops both testing equipment and charging equipment for the electric car market, and is providing home charging equipment for Nissan's LEAF; and Camarillo-based Transonic Combustion, backed by Khosla Ventures and Rustic Canyon, working on fuel injection systems.

It's unclear if or how any of Southern California's crop of alternative vehicle firms will be able to capitalize on the interest in electric vehicles, however, it's clear that Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on firms looking to address the emerging electric and alternative car market.