How Los Angeles Ports Are Decarbonizing Shipping with Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Battery Electric Tech

How Los Angeles Ports Are Decarbonizing Shipping with Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Battery Electric Tech
Evan Xie

Back in 2017, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced plans to go zero emissions. The pledge, which built on the ports’ 2006 clean air goals, was an ambitious one, and officials estimated the cost of eliminating air pollution could reach $14 billion. Still, the plan, which involves transitioning to zero-emission terminal equipment by 2030 and zero-emission trucks by 2035, represented a critical step in the fight against climate change.


Six years later, there’s been progress.

The ports recently established a clean truck fund, which introduces a fee for cargo owners operating internal combustion drayage vehicles at the ports. In 2021, Los Angeles city council adopted a resolution asking major importers to transition to zero-emission vehicles by the end of the decade. The ports have also agreed to collaborate with ports in Asia on a Green Shipping Corridor, which pushes for the use of low and zero-emission fuels along major trade routes. The nearly a hundred shoreside cranes at the Port of LA are powered by electricity.

But one of the primary decarbonization strategies the ports have pursued is incubating new technologies. The ports have essentially turned themselves into development platforms for new shipping tech—devoting time, space, and money toward companies and projects that focus on zero-emission vehicles and port infrastructure. The idea is to play a role in developing the tools that could eventually help the port complex reach its environmental goals.

“Our view is: the sooner you deploy it, obviously, the sooner you get emissions reductions,” says Chris Cannon, the chief sustainability officer at the Port of Los Angeles. “The sooner we get that stuff deployed and out there, the sooner you learn those lessons, and the sooner you get the next generation”

The stakes are high. These hurdles are a reminder of how hard, but incredibly important, going zero-emissions at the ports truly is. Together, the Ports of LA and Long Beach represent the largest port complex in the United States, and take in around 29 percent of the goods that travel to and from the country via water every year. All this activity means that the ports represent a significant chunk of the US economy, but a significant source of carbon emissions, too.

There is already a wide range of technology under investigation.

Fenix Marine Services is currently conducting a nearly $12 million test to understand the efficacy of a battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-powered top handler — a port vehicle that’s used to load shipping containers. There’s also AtlaSea, a nonprofit accelerator that supports blue economy startups based at the Port of Los Angeles, which recently installed thousands of solar panels to power its facilities and hundreds of homes nearby.

This strategy has some real caveats. While the port has taken a range of steps to test emergent technologies, these systems still need to work — and then be deployed on a wide scale. And while the ports can take action to encourage companies to use new green technologies, those companies aren’t necessarily eager to invest in infrastructure that’s better for the environment.

“Some of the biggest contributors are actually the ships that are calling at the port, and then what we would call harbor craft, like ferries and tugs that are spending a lot of their time in the port,” explains Bryan Comer, the marine program lead at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit that produces transportation-focused environmental analyses. “You end up having, on the land side, these pollution hotspots and hot corridors where you have older trucks that have higher emissions.”

Right now, one possible way to cut down on the emissions created by ports is to deploy battery electric technology, explains Comer, in part because it’s already been deployed. The Southern California ports have reached some milestones on this front. Cannon says there are already about 80 electric trucks registered to do business within the port, and the Port of Los Angeles has agreed to invest $6 million toward 22 more electric trucks for the port. With the help of federal and state funding and other incentives — like the new fee for internal combustion engines — the hope is to get 4,000 electric trucks over the next five to six years.

But in some cases, replacing these vehicles with battery electric cars isn’t the right solution.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are also looking at hydrogen fuel cell technology. Hydrogen fuel technology works somewhat like a battery, but emits water, and could be particularly helpful for vehicles that need to carry heavier cargo or cargo that needs to travel longer distances. For this reason, the port doesn’t want to limit itself to battery-electric technology, and instead wants to focus on the broader idea of reducing carbon emissions.

“We always say, ‘going zero-emissions and not ‘electrify,’” says Cannon. “We're completely fuel neutral [...] There may be another technology or two that somebody figures out over the years here that also allows you to have zero emissions.”

An $82.5 million program called Shore to Store, which involves demonstrating two hydrogen fueling stations and 10 hydrogen trucks, finished up last month. The container terminal operator TraPac tested two yard tractors powered by hydrogen fuel cells last year — final results of the test are pending. With more than $17 million from the Japanese government, the terminal operator YTI is testing several types of hydrogen-powered equipment at the port, including a yard tractor, a crane, and a top handler. Initial deployment is expected in 2024.

Overall, the port has about 16 technology demonstrations in process, which collectively reflect about 200 pieces of equipment. More funding could come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Law, as part of California’s bid to become a clean hydrogen hub.

Other incubators are also active at the ports.

Pacific Environment, the environmental advocacy organization, announced that it would partner with the venture advisory Braid Theory, on a zero-emissions shipping accelerator that will be based at the Port of LA. AltaSea also focuses, in part, on green maritime technology.

This past February, for example, ACUA Ocean — a company developing an uncrewed, hydrogen-powered vessel — announced a memorandum of understanding with AltaSea, as well as plans to demonstrate its tech at the port.

A company called Ecowave is developing technology to generate electricity from waves, which could eventually be used to power port infrastructure. The company is currently using AltaSea to demonstrate its technology and working on the permits and licensing necessary to expand further.

“Ports require a tremendous amount of electricity for their operations,” explains Inna Braverman, the co-founder and CEO of EcoWave. “By being able to power ports with ocean energy, that will help lower port operations footprint.”

Of course, these efforts face real headwinds.

Some of the ports’ demonstrations haven’t run on time or produced promising results. More broadly, logistical problems and supply chain woes at the ports have undermined some of the improvements on air quality thus far.

One estimate from the California Air Resources Board, the state agency that focuses on protecting air quality, found that the surge in container ships triggered by pandemic-era supp;y chain issues created severe air quality issues, including increases in particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen.

And while tech might be part of the solution, it won’t be enough on its own. For example, the National Resources Defense Council has continued to criticize the ports’ approach to air quality, an issue that disproportionately impacts the neighborhoods nearby and disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities. Three years ago, the organization, along with others, successfully sued the Port of Los Angeles for failing to follow environmental laws when negotiating a leasing agreement with China Ocean Shipping Company.

“To demonstrate the ports’ commitments to these goals, the ports must commit to ending all new, renewed or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure on port property,” said says Allyson Browne, Climate Campaign Director for Ports, Pacific Environment, an environmental organization pushing for zero-emissions at the ports. “The math is crystal clear – we simply don’t have the carbon budget for any new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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