Innovation in the mobility space is advancing at an unprecedented rate to match the urgency for a cleaner, smarter, and more efficient world. Growing inventions to become a flourishing business with market scale products is very challenging and often faced with many hurdles. The industry landscape is hard to navigate. It requires a solid business plan, funding, a skilled workforce, understanding of regulations, and the equipment and space to build and test the products.

A relatively newly established organization, the California Mobility Center (CMC) provides the services to grow mobility innovations into products at scale. I recently had the opportunity and the privilege to sit down with some of the key figures behind the CMC and tour its Ramp-up Factory (RUF). Meeting me at the CMC office was Mark Rawson, Chief Operating Officer at the CMC, and Marc Dörfer, Senior Partner Officer and Jeff Fletcher, Sr. Consultant, both with PEM Motion USA. The CMC is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2019 and officially started full commercial operations in the first quarter of 2021. The CMC offers a range of services for early-stage companies in the emerging technology and future mobility space to help them reduce friction as the companies commercialize their products. Going beyond what startup incubators do, the CMC offers their clients a holistic approach to elevate and accelerate their business, enabling early-stage companies to meet and work with large corporate partners.

The Ramp-up Factory

The concept was originally established by PEM Motion in Aachen, Germany. Inspired by the work and success of PEM Motion, the founders of the CMC implement the same concept customized to the needs of the market in California and the U.S. PEM Motion has been a close partner of the CMC since its inception and continues to be, offering guidance and expertise for the CMC to grow as a mobility initiatives consultant in California and the nation.

The CMC offers the space and equipment for early-stage innovation companies in the mobility space to manufacture product prototypes and testing. They also review business and marketing plans, connect them with investors, help inventors navigate policy regulations, and access funding and partnerships, all to create a mobility ecosystem that rests on pillars of collaboration, customization, and commercialization. Their mobility ecosystem consists of a mix of industry incumbent Members, Clients, Preferred Service Providers, and the broader mobility ecosystem that exists nationally and internationally. The CMC currently has more than 40 Members and about 24 Clients. One of their successful projects is with their client Zeus Electric Chassis that formed an important partnership with SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District).

The CMC is not only committed to creating a collaborative environment to accelerate mobility initiatives, but is also committed to workforce development and empowering low-income and underserved communities to build careers in the industry through the CMC Career Pathways Program. CMC partners and collaborates with community colleges to offer their students training opportunities with CMC clients. By the time those students graduate they already have about three years of experience that qualifies them to seamlessly enter the workforce. They also work with community organizations to help underserved and disadvantaged populations around Sacramento develop valuable skills that can build their careers.

CleanTech Connect trailer.

Mechanical workshop


A Ztractor prototype of an autonomous electric agricultural tractor.

The RUF is currently 25,000 square feet and at any given point of the working day there would be about 10 people working there. I was very impressed with the magnitude of the work that is produced from a relatively small space with a relatively small team. It was especially impressive to see all the accomplishments they’ve made during an exceptionally challenging time of a global pandemic.