eSpotlight: PEM Motion
Welcome to this week’s edition of eSpotlight, where we give our Partners, Members, Clients, and Preferred Service Providers (PSPs) a chance to tell their story about their work with the California Mobility Center (CMC) and what they bring to the future mobility table. This week we are featuring a post from Marc Dörfer, Chief Operating Officer at PEM Motion USA.
PEM Motion and the CMC’s Ramp-up Factory: A Partnership Dedicated to Advancing Global Future Mobility Innovation
By Marc Dörfer, COO, PEM Motion USA and Director of Technology at the CMC
The California Mobility Center (CMC) launched its commercial operations in March. Today the Ramp-up Factory, which realizes the hardware services of the CMC, is ready to welcome its first customers. For us at PEM Motion, this is the perfect time to look back at what we have achieved with the CMC and at the path that lies ahead.
From Aachen to Sacramento: How the Idea of the Ramp-up Factory Began
When we launched the original Ramp-up Factory or “Anlauffabrik” in Aachen, Germany in 2015, we knew that we had created something unique in the European future mobility space. The Ramp-up Factory became an ecosystem specifically targeted at helping early-stage companies and established players alike bridge the gap between product ideation and series production. Successfully ramping up production for innovative early-stage companies such as StreetScooter, which was later acquired by Deutsche Post DHL, and e.GO proved the utility of the concept. The Aachen Ramp-up Factory spawned an entire “Engineering Valley” campus that connected RWTH Aachen University, Germany’s leading engineering university, with an ecosystem of early-stage companies, large industry players, and suppliers.
What we didn’t anticipate was that only a few years later, the idea would already start to catch on in the Golden State. As we started serving more and more clients from the US, and especially from California, the connection grew stronger. In 2018, the first delegation from Sacramento, which included representatives from the City of Sacramento, Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC), the California Air Resources Board, Sacramento State, and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District visited our facilities in Aachen. That trip sparked the initial interest in setting up a similar facility in the Sacramento region. The idea took off in 2019, when Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) joined the group and began driving the efforts with both thought leadership and a significant financial commitment.
Leveraging our experience with the Aachen facility, SMUD’s leadership, and the support of the entire CMC team, planning for the California Mobility Center and its Ramp-up Factory was initiated in record time that same year. Two feasibility studies, one of which was conducted by us at PEM Motion, laid the initial groundwork and demonstrated the viability of the concept. EnerTech Capital joined to help design and set up the underlying business model, ensuring that the investor community would be able to support early-stage companies seeking commercialization assistance. A second delegation visit to Aachen in 2019 helped shape the final vision and communicate it to all parties involved which resulted in the formal decision to turn the idea into reality.
Launching the Ramp-up Factory in the Golden State
The fact that the CMC and Ramp-up Factory were able to open this year with little delay, despite the significant challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, is a testament to the dedication and ability of all partners involved. Considering that planning and implementation had to take place remotely, and with partners in multiple time zones around the globe, this achievement is one to be proud of for sure.
The Ramp-up Factory is now ready to accelerate innovation for developers of all kinds, from micro-mobility solutions to autonomous passenger vehicles to electrified medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles and associated charging infrastructure. It can support all phases of product development. From concept development to mockup, demonstration, prototype design, to pilot and small series production, we can do it all. The access to pilot and small series production capabilities is particularly important for the sophisticated testing and validation requirements of new mobility products. It also enables generation of real-world data from initial deployment.
The depth of capabilities provided by the Ramp-up Factory far exceed what early-stage companies are capable of on their own. It allows them to access expertise in cutting-edge technologies that will help set them apart from the competition, while commercialization experts aid in the challenging transition from idea to concept to final product.
At PEM Motion, we are especially excited to share our extensive expertise as both ongoing founders of clean mobility companies and external consultants to clean mobility early-stage companies with the Ramp-up Factory’s clients. On the one hand, we can help them avoid many of the typical pitfalls that challenge the success of hardware innovators, especially in mobility-related areas. On the other hand, our experience with technological due-diligence, i.e., assessing the feasibility of concepts from an early-stage and suggesting changes where necessary, can help attract and persuade investors who may lack hardware experience.
What is next for the CMC?
As exciting as all of this is for us and for our partners, being ready to welcome the first customers to the CMC and Ramp-up Factory infrastructure is only one milestone, albeit an important one, on the path to realizing the vision that has motivated us for the past two years. That vision is providing a single point of entry into the California ecosystem of advanced mobility industry leaders and resources, and a structured approach to developing, testing, validating, and commercializing future mobility innovations for California and around the world.
Instead of resting on our laurels, we will continue to expand the Ramp-up Factory in terms of customers, capabilities, and infrastructure. The next major milestones are a technology capability expansion at the Ramp-up Factory and the set-up of a 150,000 square foot facility on Sacramento State’s Ramona Avenue property as a green field project.
The technology expansion will allow the Ramp-up Factory to laterally extend its range of service offerings and vertically increase the depth of these services. This will allow the Ramp-up Factory to aid early-stage companies and industry from all sectors related to future mobility and clean technology, including those offering infrastructure, digitalization, and battery (re)manufacturing solutions.
For our expansion on Ramona Ave, the proposed 150,000 sq. ft facility will allow us to provide our services to a greater number of even more technologically diverse clients and attract additional ecosystem members. The inclusion of meeting-, class-, and showroom spaces for CMC Members and Clients, investors, students, and faculty will create a collaborative environment that will further enhance commercialization and workforce training efforts.