Welcome to the Ad Hoc Gist: A Climate Tech Newsletter

Welcome to the Ad Hoc Gist: A Climate Tech Newsletter

July 2020

Welcome to the Ad Hoc Gist, a newsletter on the business, politics and people of climate tech from me, Jim Kapsis, and the Ad Hoc Group team. Why did we decide to launch this newsletter and why are you receiving it?

Since I was a climate negotiator in the Obama Administration, I’ve believed that we will only meaningfully address climate change if corporate executives, startup entrepreneurs, investors, policy-makers and advocates – what I call the climate tech ecosystem – all do their part.

You’re receiving this note because at some point we’ve crossed paths and I thought you might be interested in our take on this planet-critical sector. We’re launching now because there is thankfully a climate tech renaissance brewing that needs to succeed where the last cleantech wave fell short. And it was 100 degrees in Siberia last month so we’ve got to move quickly.

The goal of this newsletter is humble – to provoke a broader conversation across the many stakeholders whose collective action is needed to create the new businesses, policies, and markets to save us from the worst potential climate future.

We’ll start out each time by giving you “The Gist”, or the one essential insight you need to know because we’re all too busy to absorb much more these days (with three little girls under age 8 at home I know I can’t). This edition we focus on how even a global pandemic can’t slow down the electric vehicle revolution.

I’d love to hear what you think of it. Drop me a line at jim@theadhocgroup.com. And if you know someone who might also be interested in this content, please forward this email to them (they can also sign up right here).


July 22, 2020


Concerns That the Global Pandemic Might Slow the Electric Vehicle (EV) Revolution Were Premature.

Three companies are now promising an EV truck by 2021

  • Rivian, which just raised $2.5 billion to produce an electric delivery van, a pickup truck, and SUV, is now in the race with Tesla and Nikola Motors to get to market
  • Amazon’s acquisition of autonomous vehicle company Zoox last month – Amazon is also a huge shareholder in Rivian – suggests a one-way street to an autonomous electric future in the fleet space

Legacy auto-makers are also pushing forward with big electric plans

EV investments keep on coming and coming

  • Fisker is raising $1 billion later this year through the public markets to become a totally digital software-focused EV company.
  • Xpeng Motors raised $500 million to build an electric SUV
  • Karma Automotive received $100 million to produce a sedan, a high-performance streetcar, and a delivery van

But the vehicles themselves are not enough. Transitioning vehicles, especially medium and heavy-duty fleets (think your local commuter bus or those FedEx and Amazon trucks) is going to take significant infrastructure investment and electricity expertise that most fleets and OEMs don’t have.

Startups need to accelerate the transition. New startups like Amply, eIQ, MobilyzeAI, Weavegrid, Electriphi, and many more are going to be needed to help figure out how to economically make the switch, not to mention the charging infrastructure companies themselves like Chargepoint, Greenlots, EVGo, Electrify America, and ChargeLab.

With some help from utilities. Big utilities like Exelon, National Grid, SoCalEdison, and AES that actually understand how the electric distribution system works are going to need to step up and play a role too (if regulators will allow them). NOTE: I sit on the board of the Alexandria Transit Company and we are moving the fastest in Virginia to electrify our bus fleet, but management’s biggest hurdle is understanding the new infrastructure costs and operational changes that electrification will entail.

And help from policy-makers and regulators too. Policy-makers can hasten or slow down the transition with a swing of the gavel. Some big recent decisions suggest they’re leaning more towards acceleration. The California Air Resources Board finalized a groundbreaking rule that will require at least 50% of the medium and heavy trucks operating in California to be zero-emission by 2035. Just last week, NY announced a plan that will enable utilities to invest more than $700 million in more than 50,000 thousand charging stations in the Empire State between now and 2025. And others like New Jersey have them in the works.

News from Our Network

From our clients:

Urbint recently closed their Series B round with $20 million in funding. They drew investments from National Grid, Salesforce Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, and Piva. Urbint plans to use the influx of cash to hire new team members and scale up their Field Risk Management platform.

Exelon announced its first cohort of investments from 2c2i, its climate tech effort. Happy to see that another client Radiator Labs, who is driving down emissions and energy use in old steam heat buildings, is included in that first cohort.

Devin Hampton, the CEO of UtilityAPI, penned a must-read post after the recent wave of anti-racism protests that hit me in the gut, on why the climate tech industry needs to be more inclusive – urgently.


From our friends and colleagues: 

My friend and amazing former Opower colleague Nicole Poindexter raised a large seed round for her company Energicity, which is bringing solar power to rural Africa.

Paul Bodnar, an old friend from the climate negotiation trenches, recently shared that RMI has launched a new Center for Climate Aligned Finance and a new climate tech accelerator with New Energy Nexus called Third Derivative.

Emily Reichert from Greentown Labs, the largest cleantech incubator in North America, is launching a new location in Houston in 2021; does that make her a pilgrim in an unholy land? (H/T for those who know this movie reference).

The Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) is starting a New York chapter, headed up by Madison Freeman and is looking for financial support and new members. It’s a great group building the industry’s next generation.

Reasons for Hope, Reasons for Despair

Hope....  Climate tech funding seems to be having a resurgence, with large corporations like Amazon pledging to put $2 billion towards climate, Microsoft investing their first $50 million (of $1 billion) in energy VC EIP, Prime Impact Fund raising $50 million to fund climate moonshots, generalist investors like Chamath Palihapitiya and Chris Sacca entering the space, and bringing capital with them.
Despair…  That extra investment can’t come fast enough… not only was it 100°F in Siberia last month, but this month Siberian wildfires have engulfed an area larger than Greece.

Technopolis Returns

My podcast with Molly Turner, professor of urban innovation at the Haas Business School, on how tech is disrupting, remaking, and sometimes overrunning our cities is coming back with a COVID-focused season before Labor Day. You can catch up on old episodes and subscribe here or follow us on Twitter.