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Elemental Announces First Scale-Up Project Award to Transportation Startup Serving Transit Deserts

April 25, 2023

· 5 min read
The Elemental Team

Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit investor in climate technology for social change, announced its first scale-up project investment in Dollaride to unlock funding to scale its mobility technology for transit deserts in its New York market and nationally. Dollaride is the initial beneficiary of Elemental’s recently announced infusion of $30 million in catalytic project funding for 5-15 projects with significant climate and community impact. The deeper investment was announced at the nonprofit’s flagship event, Elemental Interactive and ties to Elemental’s commitment to bring more funding, more projects and more impact into the climate sector to scale technologies to more communities in an equitable way.

“Elemental has been leaning into early project deployments and working to catalyze more investment in climate technology for more than a decade,” Elemental Founder & CEO Dawn Lippert said. “Our deeper investment in Dollaride is just the start of our deeper investments into scale-up projects – we have a dozen more investments in climate technology to help ensure that underserved communities experience the benefits of technology first, not last.”

Dollaride — an app-based rideshare option for the millions of Americans who aren’t adequately served by public transit, and find taxis, Ubers and Lyfts too costly for their daily needs — will receive $500K to deploy 3-5 electric vehicles and chargers to advance the organization’s Clean Transit Access Program.

“These vans are not just an electric transport to get commuters from point A to point B. These vehicles unlock access to fresh food, clean air and quality medical care,” Dollaride CEO Su Sanni said. “The funds from Elemental will allow us to try out a handful of new electric vans before purchasing 100 in a couple months. The funds provide us the opportunity to ensure we smooth out logistics so we can quickly scale and serve more in New York and beyond by offering a cleaner ride as the way forward.”

Nearly 2 million New Yorkers live in transit deserts, which are categorized as areas with limited transportation. The majority of these communities are made up of low-income citizens. The health hazards of living in a transit desert can be severe. Dollaride’s Clean Transit Access Program will provide affordable electric shuttle buses as well as charging infrastructure to certified commuter van drivers operating in disadvantaged communities throughout New York City and was awarded under the $85 million New York Clean Transportation Prizes program in November 2022.

Dollaride’s technology powers commuter shuttle services, gathering accurate and timely transportation data for drivers and commuters to connect and transact via smartphones. By digitizing informal transit networks, Dollaride helps frontline communities access affordable and cleaner mobility options efficiently.

“The launch of this project de-risks a larger investment to electrify more than 100 shuttle buses with Dollaride over the next three years, potentially removing 5,400 metric tons of carbon emissions annually from New York City’s communities of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx,” New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Assistant Director of Clean Transportation Adam Ruder said. “The New York Clean Transportation Prizes program is proud to support the Dollaride project and we are elated to have this co-investment in one of New York State’s underserved communities as we make the transition to a clean energy future.”

“Investing in Dollaride’s innovative climate solution in historically underserved communities creates opportunities for seeding new environmentally and technologically-based businesses at the hyperlocal level, be it the drivers directly or all of the ancillary businesses that are connected to the service,” Brooklyn Level Up (BKLVLUP) Co-Founder Allyson Martinez said. “This fosters entrepreneurship as well as infrastructural and economic growth in areas that have a long history of being disproportionately affected by environmental harm. Electrifying dollar vans is an excellent way to promote both self-determination, environmental justice and community development for drivers and residents alike.”

Dollaride’s new vans and chargers will serve areas in New York with limited public transit, potentially unlocking $27M in financing and serving up to 600,000 customers. This project underscores how funding and support from Elemental can help startups like Dollaride scale, unlocking benefits for millions of customers in transit deserts in NY and across the US.

“Not only does Dollaride’s Clean Transit Access Program work to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it creates meaningful entrepreneurship opportunities in an industry where it was previously near impossible to succeed as a business owner, AND it ensures that those living in areas with little or no access to public transit can easily and affordably access all that NYC has to offer,” Perch Advisors Senior Projects Manager Theo Boguszewski said.

In addition to the Dollaride announcement, Elemental also announced seven climate technology startups will receive its Infrastructure Prize, which provides two levels of wraparound services including project development and financing support, expert introductions to corporate project developers, strategic counsel from Elemental’s Policy Lab and legal and engineering firm support, as needed. Winners of the Infrastructure Prize include Dollaride, Dimensional Energy, Energy Dome, Mast Reforestation, Origen Carbon Solutions, Vesta and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Centre (WEEE Centre). Both commitments show the nonprofit investor’s continued drive to lean into the funding gap for scale-up projects.

Since its founding, Elemental has awarded nearly $60M to its portfolio in the climate space. This unique community-driven deployment model has proven successful as evidenced by its $8B in follow-on funding. In addition to funding opportunities and commercialization support, Elemental provides wraparound support for its portfolio companies. It includes access to resources to help drive policy initiatives, connect with corporations and embed equity and access in their work.

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About Elemental Excelerator
Elemental Excelerator is a nonprofit investor focused on advancing climate solutions and social impact for communities. Elemental fills two gaps fundamental to addressing climate change: funding scale-up companies focused on climate technologies in communities and embedding equity and access into climate solutions.