2021 Grants Challenge

The ubiquitious white van; the road to clean air

Maxwell Vehicles has figured out how to get cleaner air in LA, while benefiting community organizations and small businesses with reduced transportation costs. Now we need help getting it out there and connecting with organizations to give them more equitable access to clean air transportation.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Of the million commercial vehicles registered in LA county, many are the ubiquitous white van. Unfortunately, they emit high levels of pollution, especially highly toxic PM2.5 particles. Each day, LA experiences transportation-related pollution that is 60% higher than the CA state average. In addition, low income communities are exposed to 25% more than those with higher incomes and LA’s POC are exposed to average levels between 21- 43% higher than white residents. There has been no viable option to replace these vans and there is a misconception that the problem can be solved by replacing them with new electric ones, but often old vehicles stay on the road and there is a high climate and energy cost to produce the new van. A more sustainable manufacturing process is needed and the cost of entry needs to be reduced so that small local organizations, and large fleet operators can eliminate emissions and reduce operating costs while serving their communities.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Maxwell Vehicles has spent 2 years developing a robust electric van solution that will achieve a marked reduction in operating cost, be more reliable with lower maintenance, and as a side benefit will not emit any local pollution. The Maxwell ePro system takes a customer’s existing van and replaces the engine and fuel tank with an ultra-reliable Tesla powertrain and battery making it a zero emissions vehicle with minimal maintenance (tires and windshield washer fluid). Maxwell is invested in helping nonprofits and community serving organizations gain access to this state of the art electric vehicle technology which can preserve their existing capital investment by not requiring them to invest in a new vehicle. The demand is there, now we just need help expanding our production capacity to deliver as many vans as possible. Ramping up production requires large investment in people, facilities, and tools, but once we have this production can scale rapidly, and the shortened delivery times means we improve cash flow and can put more money back into growing our capacity sooner.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 40

Indirect Impact: 4,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

With the success of this project, the streets of LA will become much cleaner and quieter. Gone will be hundreds of vans that mainly spend time noisily idling away their engines. Small businesses and community organizations will enjoy lower operation costs of their transportation operations, and their clean renewed vehicles will stay on the road many more years with an electric powertrain engineered to last a million miles, each van taking an internal combustion engine off the road. Without Maxwell’s system, there is nothing else available or even in the planning stages that will truly be affordable. In addition, no other electric vehicle program will actually remove a polluting vehicle from the road.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We have had customer owned vans on the road for over a year, and our telematics system allows us to collect aggregate data from the fleet so we can quantitatively calculate how many total miles of operation, how many gallons of petroleum have been saved, and how many tons of carbon and particulate matter emissions have never been created. Since we also have the total electrical energy logged, we can even demonstrate the actual savings just from fuel costs alone. We can furnish this data to anyone interested.

Which of the LIVE metrics will you impact?​

Air quality

Renewable energy use