TEL AVIV, Israel — When General Motors opened its Israeli R&D center in 2008, it was a lonely outpost on the automotive landscape.
Today, more than 30 automakers and major suppliers have permanent offices and major tech centers in the country, and they are just a part of the auto-tech realm that includes hundreds of companies.
According to organizers of EcoMotion, an annual mobility event that marked its 10th anniversary last week, there are 670 transportation companies active in Israel, 27 of which have raised approximately $5.5 billion in initial public offerings over the past decade.
EcoMotion, a joint venture of the Israel Innovation Institute and government agencies, returned to its in-person roots last week after a COVID-19-related hiatus. More than 100 companies exhibited their technologies for about 3,000 people from 40 countries.
Topics ranged from electric vehicles to cybersecurity, in-cabin sensing and software. As it has been from the start, General Motors was at the forefront.
One of the most important tasks for the automaker’s Israel Technical Center has been working on the Ultifi software platform, which is expected to offer over-the-air services and features to vehicle owners, such as insurance or urban logistics.
At EcoMotion, GM unveiled a collaboration with IBM-owned Red Hat, a leading global provider of open-source, cloud-based enterprise solutions.
The partnership ushers in a Linux-based open-source system for vehicle operating systems. Like GM, Red Hat has been active in Israel since 2008.
Many of GM’s 850 employees at the technical center, located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, are focused on the project, which constitutes a substantial undertaking.
“This company has never undergone as significant a revolution as it is going through now,” said Gil Golan, executive director of GM’s Israel Technical Center.
“The tools and resources we get for the Israeli center are unprecedented. GM today is a different company of anything I have known in 20 years — different priorities different products, different executive mindsets.”
Batteries were a central theme for startups at EcoMotion. Israeli battery startup StoreDot made headlines just a few weeks ago after earning investment from Volvo Cars Tech Fund. But it is not the only battery-minded Israeli startup. Three others were particularly intriguing.
3D Battery, established four years ago, appeared at the show for the first time, touting lithium ion technology ready for production that can improve energy density by 25 percent from market averages. The company says its batteries, at 950 watts per liter, can support fast charging that adds 62 miles of range in five minutes of charging.
Erez Schreiber, founder and CEO of 3DBattery, says the company is working to develop future generations of batteries, including solid-state batteries. Within a year, he expects the company will introduce a prototype of a sodium battery that will be dramatically less expensive than lithium ion-based batteries.
Another startup, Addionics, focuses on what company executives describe as a “three-dimensional electrode architecture,” which works with any type of battery chemistry. Addionics claims to have a cost-effective manufacturing process and artificial intelligence-based optimization software that improves battery performance, doubles accessible capacity, halves charging time and significantly increases battery life.
As long as lithium ion batteries are around and thermal runaway remains an industrywide concern, Israeli startup Carrar will remain intriguing.
Established in 2019, Carrar spun off from another company that developed a gas-liquid cooling technology for the computer industry.
Avinoam Rubinstain, Carrar’s CEO, says the company has built a closed-loop system in which heat is transferred from gas to liquid, which dissipates heat at three times the rate of conventional systems. Gentherm is an investor.