Rising Stars

By Björn Carstens
The startup world is constantly in motion. “tomorrow” presents up-and-coming companies whose innovations in the transportation sector are already causing a sensation or have the potential to do so.
© iStock
Thor, the trucker
The Swedish start-up develops digital, electric and autonomous technologies for freight hauling© Enride

The startup: Einride (Sweden, since 2016)

The business: Digital, electric and autonomous technologies for freight hauling.

The strategy: Einride assumes full responsibility for hauling goods from A to B using AI-based freight mobility software with which the company complements its range of eco-friendly electric truck fleets and modern charging parks. The technology platform called Saga connects all the vehicles in the network and offers optimized, dynamic planning based on freight requirements, availability of loading ramps, on loading times and driver changes, et cetera. But that’s not all because Einride’s core business also includes the logistics revolution being pursued with autonomous T-pods, i.e., science fiction-like trucks without a driver’s cabin that are already operating on public roads in Sweden and the United States.

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Founder of Einride: Robert Falck and Linnéa Kornehed
© Einride

The brains behind the business: Robert Falck and Linnéa Kornehed’s professional and personal paths crossed so often that at some point in time they thought why not get married? Einride, the “baby they conceived” even before tying the knot has grown at an amazing pace and renowned corporations have invested hundreds of millions in Einride’s vision.

“What we have here is literally technology that will re-write the map how we see transport.”

Robert Falck in Forbes magazine

The vision: The company’s name sets the course. Einride is an allusion to Thor, the god of thunder, and means “lone rider.” A setting so solitary that it doesn’t even take a Nordic rider to pilot Einride’s innovation. Einride wants future drivers to leave their trucks but not their jobs and to work as remote operators in a control center instead. The reason is that when employees in a control center can handle several trucks at the same time the costs go down. The remote drivers would benefit from higher wages and job security and Einride’s customers from lower costs.


Origami solar panels to go
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Levante’s panels can be downsized to roughly 120 times 40 centimeters (47 times 16 inches) while measuring 270 times 165 centimeters (106 times 65 inches) in operation© Levante

The startup: Levante (Italy, since 2021)

The business: Mobile solar technology.

The strategy: Photovoltaics not only means green electricity supply on the roof of one’s home but is also a good energy source far away from the grid – during outdoor adventures, while camping or spending time on a boat, solar modules can recharge batteries. The founders’ brainwave: powerful solar panels with up to 500 watts that, inspired by a Japanese paper folding technique, can easily be folded into portable dimensions. Their key question: How can more space be created for solar energy when space is at a premium while people are traveling? Levante’s panels weighing 13.5 kilos (29.8 lbs.) can be downsized to roughly 120 times 40 centimeters (47 times 16 inches) while measuring 270 times 165 centimeters (106 times 65 inches) in operation.

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Founders Sara Plaga and Joar Myklebust are a married couple. Their 500-watt foldable solar panels are used on a sailboat and in other settings
© Levante

The brains behind the business: Sara Plaga from Italy and Kim-Joar Myklebust from Norway met and fell in love at a music festival in Denmark in 2009. Since then, the couple has been collecting memories around the world – mainly while traveling in a camping van and on a sailboat. Their problem: shortage of sufficient clean energy anywhere anytime. In 2021, they quit their nine-to-five jobs and started their own company. Prior to that, they had met the circumnavigating couple from “Sailing Uma” that co-developed and promotes Levante on their YouTube channel.

The vision: The company’s name, Levante, symbolizes the founding couple’s vision. It’s a synonym for their first daughter’s name, Aurora, and stands for the Sun that rises in the east, for hope, energy and new beginnings. “We wanted to contribute with our professional jobs to a positive impact on our planet,” the founders write on their website.


Sailing Olympian
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Neptech intends to make an impression with its hydrogen taxis traveling on the Seine River in Paris during the 2024 Olympic Games© Neptech

The startup: Neptech (France, since 2020)

The business: Development of zero-emission hydrogen-powered catamarans to ease the traffic burden on cities by better use of waterways.

The strategy: Diesel-powered ships and barges have a bad reputation as environmental sins. French startup Neptech realized that especially public transportation providers would like to operate more eco-friendly ships. Neptech’s engineers have developed four innovative types of vessels – both for hauling commuters and tourists and for cargo. The ships are up to 30 meters (98 feet) long and can accommodate up to 200 passengers or 20 metric tons (22 short tons) of cargo. The propulsion system is based on a fuel cell developed by Toyota. It’s important to know that a hydrogen propulsion system delivering the same output is three to four times as heavy as a diesel engine. That makes a vessel slower and reduces its range. Neptech intends to compensate for this disadvantage by designing a particularly slim hull that’s supposed to reduce energy consumption by up to 40 percent.

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Neptech’s founders (from left) Corentin Bigot, Tanguy Goetz and Clément Rousset are aiming for zero-emission vessels
© Neptech

The brains behind the business: The three founders are honest. For the trio with shipbuilding experience, its business case is clearly a bet for tomorrow, as visitors can read in large letters on the company’s website. That means that the founders aren’t sure that their product will pan out but they’ve been working hard on it for about three years. Their first major success: Having won an innovation competition, their debut could hardly attract greater public attention. Neptech’s innovation is supposed to transport passengers on the Seine River for the first time at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The vision: Neptech’s vision has a lot to do with the following fact: Worldwide maritime transportation emits nearly one billion metric tons (1.1 billion short tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s far too much for achieving the climate goals. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. Neptech wants to help reduce the carbon footprint of maritime operations.


Falco’s alive!
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This fully automated, rail-guided charging robot (CHARbO) can replace up to 20 charging columns© Alveri

The startup: Alveri (Austria, since 2019)

The business: Mobility shift toward electric vehicles.

The strategy: Full focus on the expansion of a smart charging infrastructure enabling the founders to subsequently offer an affordable electric car that’s suitable for the mass market. The startup is pursuing a three-pillar plan. Pillar 1: The Alveri app analyzes the driving patterns of its users for electric vehicle suitability and recommends a car fitting their needs. Pillar 2: In a parallel project, the company has built the prototype of a fully automated, rail-guided charging robot (CHARbO) that can replace up to 20 charging columns. The robot is supposed to solve the problem of permanently blocked charging columns and open up the extensive business segment of autonomous driving. The market launch is planned for 2024. Pillar 3: Alveri develops an electric wagon named Falco featuring a refurbishing concept. All components are supposed to be replaceable within a few hours. The benefits are lower costs, a smaller environmental footprint and new business models for garages.

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Founder Ehsan Zadmard fled from war-torn Afghanistan with his family© Johannes Jank

The brain behind the business: Founder Ehsan Zadmard, who trained himself to embrace a competitive spirit early on. “We always had to show a lot of ambition,” emphasizes the man in his mid-thirties. We, meaning his parents and his four siblings with whom he fled from war-torn Afghanistan at the age of seven and ended up in rural Upper Austria. A new beginning far from home that’s still driving him today. ­Zadmard wants to make things happen. After graduating from Austrian high school, he goes on to study global sales and management and concurrently becomes a full-time manager at Eisen Wagner – a mid-sized company belonging to ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steel corporation. The global group soon notices the ambitious employee. When Zadmard is assigned the task of exploring the future of the technical distribution department he grabs the opportunity. The man of action with a migrant background develops a business plan and buys the department with 30 employees out of the corporation. Today, the buy-out project is run by Zadmard’s younger brothers – for him, the million-euro deal with ArcelorMittal marked the entry into entrepreneurship and simultaneous beginning of an even bigger project: Alveri.

The vision: “It’s not just about developing an app, a charging robot and a car. We want to establish an all-new ecosystem for mobility of tomorrow,” says Ehsan Zadmard. An “all-in-one app solution” as a 360-degree interface between humans and machines that’s planned to become a booking and payment platform. Users are supposed to be able to move from door to door in eco-friendly style using an app. Whether they use buses and trains, e-scooters, e-bikes or the Alveri electric car to do so is of secondary importance.


An Airbnb for parking places
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Malte Wussow (left) and Christopher Gruber (right) have developed the Peuka app together with Andreas Görtzen© Peuka

“As soon as a parking space has been booked a chat function between the parties is activated.”

Malte Wussow, co-founder of Peuka

The startup: Peuka (Germany, since 2023)

The business: Guidance system for (private) parking places.

The strategy: By means of a data base-supported app private citizens offering parking place, driveway and backyard rentals and those seeking parking places are intended to find each other. Rentals are supposed to be available on hourly or daily bases. Commercial areas that are vacant at night can be managed using Peuka as well.

The brains behind the business: Three young Northern German men from Kiel were hopping mad day in day out because they had to cruise around the block for 30 minutes to find a place to park. At the same time, they’d spot empty spaces on virtually every street corner in front of offices, in driveways, etc. Now they’re bringing people offering opportunities to park together with those that want to use them – initially in the city of Eckernförde on the German Baltic Sea coast.
The vision: The goal is to provide a smart solution that eases the congestion of parking in many German cities – a kind of Airbnb for parking spaces whose owners can make a little extra cash by renting them. “Today we have more than 1.500 users. Interest exists. Now we need offerings,” says co-founder Christopher Gruber.


1,000 residents, 0 cars
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Not a 15-minute but a 5-minute city: that’s what Culdesac Tempe is designed to be. The first residents moved in this spring© Culdesac

The startup: Culdesac (USA, since 2019)

The business: Development of car-free neighborhoods.

The strategy: Yes, the vast majority of Americans still need cars to get from A to B. Yes, the vast majority of them have cars. Yet even in a proud auto nation like the United States things are changing. A startup called Culdesac believes to have identified that trend. They feel that the traditional equation of one American = one automobile is no longer valid. Owning a car is (gradually) being displaced by mobility on-demand, and sharing is the way to go for young people. The Culdesac Tempe real estate project near Phoenix praises itself as the “first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the US.” The equation here is 1,000 residents, 0 private cars. Culdesac Tempe isn’t supposed to be a 15-minute but a 5-minute city in which all residents can do all their daily errands in less than five minutes either on foot, by bicycle or by means of public transportation. Private cars are not allowed. Instead, residents can ride the train for free and receive discounts on scooter rentals.

The brain behind the business:
Ryan Johnson subjectively spent half of his childhood behind a windshield, going to school by car, to sports activities, to the ice cream parlor, practically everywhere … Johnson abhors the centers of American cities that largely consist of gray parking lot wastelands: “Phoenix is built for cars. Therefore, all people have cars. Therefore, Phoenix needs to be built for cars. At Culdesac, we see a way out of this cycle and it starts with transportation. How we move determines how we live, and how we move is changing.”

The vision: Like in other parts of the world, passenger car emissions account for a lion’s share of air pollution in the United States. Studies have revealed that three times as many people in the U.S. die of the consequences of dirty air than in car accidents. Culdesac wants to be a healthier and more eco-friendly option for people. “We’re undergoing the first major shift in transportation since the interstate highway system,” says Ryan Johnson.


STARTUP AUTOBAHN with Schaeffler
Rising Stars© Getty

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