Irvine’s Tech Focus Draws EV Makers

Rivian’s super-charged entrance to the EV auto scene in 2021 drew focus on Irvine’s success as an EV hub. The company quickly located to Irvine, bringing hundreds of high-paying jobs with them. But they’re not the only game in town.

In recent years, more than a half-dozen EV startups – designers and builders of new cars, trucks, batteries and charging stations – have spread their wings in Irvine.

It’s due in large part to the tech-focused office campuses in Irvine that couple perfectly with a highly educated workforce.

Innovation cluster

Among the companies are Lordstown Motors, which makes and services electric trucks, Noodoe EV, which makes EV charging stations, Neuron EV, which makes electric trucks, Karma Automotive, which makes luxury electric cars, and Enevate, which makes high-end EV batteries.

Another Irvine-based firm, the Alpha Motor Corp., unveiled its two electric utility vehicles, the ACE and JAX adventure models.

Electrify Expo, a trade show featuring cutting-edge e-cars, bikes, scooters and motorcycles, chose Irvine’s Great Park last September for its California show.

“We used to say, ‘Shanghai or die.’ Now, it’s pretty much, ‘Irvine or cry.’ ”

– David Hilton, Karma Automotive, on Irvine’s EV dominance

Advanced research

At UCI, Huolin Xin has recently begun courting investors for a project he calls “the holy grail of lithium-ion batteries,” the most problematic EV component.

Xin and others predict the EV industry will keep booming in coming years.

“Even five years ago, if I’d have said I wanted to work on manufacturing of new battery technology, people would suggest I start in China and build a factory there,” Xin says. “Today everything is different.”

David Hilton, the senior design director at Karma, put it more succinctly in a recent interview with the Orange County Register. “We used to say, ‘Shanghai or die,’ ” Hilton said. “Now, it’s pretty much, ‘Irvine or cry.’ ”