Your Next Taco Bell Order Could Come with a Side of Electricity

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him

​Concept of a Taco Bell with an electric car charging station in its parking lot.
Rendering courtesy of ChargeNet

Electric vehicle charging startup ChargeNet raised a $6.2 million seed round from local investors including the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, as it looks to expand its network of charging hubs at fast food restaurants across California.

Aligned Climate Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm with offices in Burbank, led the funding. Arts District-based Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which incubates startups focused on renewable energy technology, invested through its venture arm, the LACI Impact Fund. Nonprofit early-stage investor Tech Coast Angels also backed ChargeNet’s seed round, as did its San Diego chapter, San Diego Angels.


The funding will aid San Diego-based ChargeNet’s strategy of deploying solar-powered EV charging stations at fast food restaurant parking lots, starting with six charging ports at a Taco Bell in South San Francisco later this month. The company plans to add similar locations in and around Los Angeles as part of its goal of expanding to more than 80 fast food restaurants by the end of the year, ChargeNet CEO Tosh Dutt told dot.LA.

"We expect to expand into Los Angeles, as well as surrounding counties, in 2022 and are finalizing the specifics now,” Dutt said. “This is just the beginning for ChargeNet Stations in and around Southern California, and today's investment is fueling the growth.”

The fast food restaurants partnering with ChargeNet are able to use extra energy stored in the charging stations to power their own facilities, and may also qualify for green energy incentives offered by local and state governments.

A row of concept electric car charging stations in a fast food parking lot.A row of concept electric car charging stations in a fast food parking lot.Rendering courtesy of ChargeNet

“More than five million people eat at Taco Bell restaurants across the country every day,” Aligned Climate Capital COO Brendan Bell said in a statement. “ChargeNet brings fast charging to these drivers, and clean energy to the restaurants.”

The LACI Impact Fund backed ChargeNet in part because the company was among its Spring 2021 group of companies joining the incubator. ChargeNet also was a finalist in a February 2021 pitch competition for funding led by the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business.

Dutt said the chargers are designed for quick use, and can give customers a 100-mile charge in 15 minutes at a cost of around $10. That’s cheap compared to L.A. County gas prices, which currently average $4.68 per gallon, according to AAA.

Dutt is an alumni of USC and has worked with companies focused on renewable energy for the majority of his career, including as a technical sales engineer at Honeywell. He founded ChargeNet in 2019 with chief operating officer Venus Jenkins and chief technical officer Rebecca Wolkoff, who previously worked at Tesla.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through the House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1. The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2. The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3. Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out. The most comprehensive (but unofficial!) list I’ve seen has come from Reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in.

“I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems to be shared across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!

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