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RAEV focused on cost-effective and efficient commuting options for city residents

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of five articles spotlighting the entrepreneurs participating in the inaugural “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” hosted by the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park. . The entrepreneurs behind each start-up will pitch their companies during a “Demo Day” event the morning of August 31 in Knoxville. The public is invited. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

David Castley is focused on fixing a challenging problem for city residents. It’s the lack of cost-effective and efficient commuting options for residents, whether for work or personal travel.

“The average wait time for public transit in a big city is 40 minutes,” the current resident of Philadelphia, PA says. Add to that crime that can be a problem, and Castley says that “most people rate their public transit as poor or, at best, fair.”

Other options, such as Uber or taxis can easily be expensive, and cost upwards of $30 for a two-mile trip.

The 2018 Purdue University graduate (B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering) has developed a solution that combines what he learned as an undergraduate with the M.S. in Analytics that he is pursuing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. And, for good measure, it follows a model that has already been proven in the airline industry.

Castley (pictured here) founded his start-up named RAEV around the idea of sharing low-speed, low-cost electric vehicles and using an algorithm that he developed to minimize vehicle downtime, just like Southwest Airlines has successfully done to maximize its fleet’s time flying in the air rather than parked on the ground.

Today, the young entrepreneur is advancing his business plan as a member of the inaugural cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” operated by the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park (UTRP). The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, City of Knoxville, Launch Tennessee, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and UT Research Foundation, and is further supported by the Energy Mentor Network, a program managed by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

The accelerator is also a partner in the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, a collaboration of start-up programs across the Greater Midwest Region including Evergreen Climate Innovations and mHUB, both based in Chicago, and Centrepolis Accelerator which is based in Detroit.

“I came-up with the idea last November and December,” Castley told us. Then in March, his sister – Danielle Castley, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Becq – recommended that he apply for the newly announced “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.” Becq, radiation shielding materials start-up, is a member of Cohort 4 of the “Innovation Crossroads” lab embedded entrepreneurship program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

When David Castley interviewed with Tom Rogers, President and Chief Executive Officer of UTRP, and Spark Innovation Center Director John Bruck, he was impressed with “how quickly they understood the need and vision,” including the opportunity to pilot test the concept in the region. “John and Tom also seemed like they would be great mentors as we navigate the process of deploying RAEV fleets in East Tennessee.”

The budding entrepreneur quit his full-time job on June 1 to entirely focus his work efforts on RAEV. Castley is also making plans to relocate to the region as he advances the business.

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