Getting a Look at the Green Technologies of the Future

The California Climate Cup competition seeks to identify startups that could accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and enhance resiliency.

Michael Burz admitted at the outset his is an uphill battle — making battery technology sexy.

“It’s a battery, not blockchain,” said Burz, referring to the popular technology used as the basis for BitCoin and other digital currency.

Still, the president and CEO of EnZinc Inc. thinks his Bay Area-based company could advance the development of advanced high performance green batteries that are based on zinc instead of the more common lithium ion or lead acid.

California Climate Cup
Michael Burz, CEO of EnZinc Inc., shows the nickel-sized zinc sponge anode used in his company's new battery design.

He believes the batteries, which use a unique zinc sponge design, could one day power electric vehicles and provide energy storage for the power grid with higher energy at a lower cost.

EnZinc was just one of 10 startups touting their green technology at the first California Climate Cup organized by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and the California Clean Energy Fund.

“The time to act on climate change is now and these startups are leading the way to a smarter, more resilient, and cleaner future,” said Matt Petersen, president and CEO of the nonprofit incubator, known as LACI.

Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison, provided a $50,000 grant to support the Climate Cup’s Energy/Transportation Nexus competition, during which Burz gave the EnZinc presentation.

Also competing in the category were EP Tender, a French company that has developed a mobile battery mini-trailer that can extend the range of an electric vehicle, and EVmatch, a Santa Barbara firm with a mobile app that connects EV drivers with people who have a charger available by reservation for charging.

EVmatch ended up winning the Energy/Transportation Nexus competition and will appear in San Francisco at the Global Climate Action Summit to present its plan in the finals. The two other finalists are Wheeli, a New York-based long-distance carpooling app for college students, and Solstice Energy Solutions in the Bay Area, which develops Internet of Things and software for energy management.

The competition finalists won $5,000 and the grand finalist will get $25,000. LACI will give all three startups the opportunity to talk with investors during the climate summit.

Drew Murphy, Edison International senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, said the company’s support for the competition is part of its commitment to helping the state meet its clean energy and clean air goals.

“Technological advancement is going to drive the transformation taking place in our industry now,” Murphy said. “Things like energy storage, advanced electric vehicles and artificial intelligence are going to help Edison lead the transformation of the electric power industry, so we are committed to nurturing up-and-coming companies and technologies.”