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Q&A: Stanford alum Annie Baldwin talks tech startup’s work with electric vehicles

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The Daily sat down with Stanford grad Annie Baldwin M.S. ’19 M.B.A. ’19 to discuss her work with eIQ, a company working to help corporations switch to electric vehicles. Baldwin’s work with eIQ landed her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 list in December. 

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: Your Forbes 30 Under 30 profile discusses the important work you are doing, such as helping corporate vehicle fleets analyze the driving patterns of thousands of vehicles in order to determine which cars could be readily swapped out. Could you talk a little bit about the work you’ve been doing and what implications this work could have with the current pandemic?

Annie Baldwin [AB]: At eIQ the problem we were solving was that a lot of corporations have commercial vehicles that are internal combustion engine vehicles. In fact, transportation makes up something like 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So if we want a cleaner environment, and if we want to solve climate change, we really have to figure out a way to make our transportation clean. The way you do that is by using electric vehicles instead of internal combustion engine vehicles. But the specific problem for a lot of commercial companies is figuring out which electric vehicles really work for their specific operations. This is an enormously complex problem, and because the problem is so complex they just don’t buy EV. So at eIQ we built a software that made that whole process really easy for them. I worked as a consultant and worked directly with about 30 fleets nationwide to help them figure out and start building their plans. The way this relates to COVID is that there’s a strong correlation of COVID risk with asthma and other health problems that result from emissions, often transportation emissions. So it’s a fascinating two-pronged approach but, if you can, you should electrify to make our transportation system cleaner. You can not only solve climate change, which is a big existential problem, but also make our population healthier and resistant towards Coronavirus-like diseases.

TSD: What were your day-to-day responsibilities at eIQ mobility?

AB: I was the Director of Strategy and Operations. So I was responsible for managing all of our strategic partners, and these included large electric vehicle Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). The U.S. wanted to sell more vehicles to their fleets, and I worked directly with electric utilities, who wanted to have fleets that were their own customers also buy more electric vehicles because that way they could sell more electricity. My role was to engage directly with these partners, so that OEMs and utilities could help them build a program that directly engaged with their customers.  I also led all of the analysis and engagement with these fleets to help them identify what the electric vehicle opportunity there was. We analyzed something close to 80,000 vehicles in the U.S. and found massive near-term opportunities to help these customers figure out which of these works for them.

TSD: What excites you the most about the work you did at eIQ mobility?

AB: I think it was working directly with fleets that wouldn’t normally have the money to pay for our services because they were paid for by the utilities or by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and the fleets were able to actually take action from our recommendations. I worked directly with a city that was trying to plan what its electric vehicle (EV) goal should be in the next three to five years. And we were able to give them the data and the proof, as well as the analysis, to show that they could get to pretty much 100% electrification or 95% electrification in three years, so they could achieve some really aggressive electrification goals if they wanted to. 

TSD: How did you first become interested in this line of work?

AB: I organized with some of my classmates at Stanford Business School’s first climate business and innovation conference. And the goal here was to show how much opportunity there was near-term — in terms of technology, innovation and business opportunity — to solve climate change. This wasn’t just something for people who were sustainability-only folks. There was real financial opportunity there. So we organized a conference at Stanford. We had about 250 attendees. For one of the panels I organized, I invited Sila Kiliccote — she’s the CEO of eIQ — and we just came to bear. She got me really passionate about the opportunity to electrify fleets. Fleets make up about 20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by estimate, and she had a great startup, eIQ. It had only five people at the time. I was excited by the magnitude of the problem and by the fact that Sila was really early to market. There just aren’t a lot of other fleet electrification software startups, and she was a pioneer in that, which was really cool.

TSD: Do you think your education at Stanford and Harvard [where she earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and physics] propelled you to be in this career?

AB: Oh, definitely. At Stanford I was in a business school program that included both the business school and the EIV program. So I got both an M.B.A. and an M.S. in Environment and Resources with a focus on energy. And that allowed me to play both sides of the coin, so I was able to build out my technical skills in terms of understanding how our energy systems work, while also leveraging a lot of my business school experience, whether it’s on the strategy side or on the operational side to work at a startup. So I started to wear many hats.

TSD: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be in your line of work one day?

AB: There’s so much interest and momentum in climate tech across the spectrum. The thing I would keep in mind is something that I learned in grad school. Which is, I had thought there was one technology that would solve it all. There should be one solution to climate change, and if we just make this thing then all of the other problems would go away. But now I’ve come to see that what’s fascinating and really cool about climate change, and also really hard, is that there isn’t actually one solution — because emissions come from so many different sources in our system and in our economic sectors, that there isn’t just one. There’s no one-stop-shop. So if you have a passion, whatever it is, you can almost always find an intersection of that interest with climate change. 

TSD: What did eIQ mobility do to create long-term change in this field?

AB: The company eIQ made it possible for any kind of commercial organization that has thousands of vehicles to make this decision. There are obviously a lot of barriers to trying out new technologies like electric vehicles, but we made it easy for fleets to make that decision and to prove to themselves from a data-based approach that EV’s can really work for their operations. But no one had done that yet, nor has anyone really done that, still. 

TSD: What does being a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 list mean to you?

AB: It’s certainly an honor. We were chatting with some other folks in my class about whether it’s an advantage or a disadvantage to be younger than 30 in our field, and traditionally, we’re very traditional industries where most folks are engineers, having worked in energy or utilities for 30 plus years, and it’s kind of funny for young folks like ourselves to come up with these new technologies. To me, that’s really challenging, because it means that there’s gonna be a long time before we can really solve climate change.

TSD: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t mentioned yet?

AB: I’m just so grateful for the team at eIQ here. It’s hard. It’s really hard to do things that nobody else has done before, and it’s a great entrepreneurial, really brilliant team that made that happen.

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Contact Katrina Machetta at [email protected]

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Katrina Machetta is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Winter Journalism Workshop.