Matthew Stevens and Christopher Mendes of CrossChasm Technologies Inc.Driving used to be so simple. Now it’s complicated by fluctuating gas prices, green guilt and a lengthening list of vehicles that get at least some of their oomph from electricity.

As University of Waterloo students, Matthew Stevens and Christopher Mendes saw an entrepreneurial niche in simplifying the confusing realm of emerging automotive technologies. They created CrossChasm Technologies Inc. to help fill that niche.

In 2004, company founders Stevens and Mendes were University of Waterloo students pouring passion into a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle that went on to pile up awards in Challenge X, an American green-car competition. The leadership team today includes Waterloo grad Jennifer Bauman, director of research, who was also part of the Challenge X team.

Now automakers turn to CrossChasm for advice on making every volt count in the performance of full-electric and hybrid cars. Through some impressive computer modeling, the company is helping fleet managers and ordinary consumers look beyond the initial sticker shock to see long-term savings in electric vehicles.

“Our job is to help people identify themselves as good candidates (for electric vehicles) in terms of their drive cycles,” says Eric Mallia, business development manager for CrossChasm’s FleetCarma division. “It makes much more sense for fleet operators to be early adopters.”

Through computer modelling, CrossChasm can peer into an electric car to tell manufacturers what components are putting a drag on efficiency. And by hooking up conventional cars to a device not much larger than a match box, FleetCarma creates driving profiles to show fleet managers where the gains lie in a shift to hybrid or electric vehicles.

MyCarma, meanwhile, is a new CrossChasm product appearing in auto dealerships. It builds driving profiles to help customers determine whether a hybrid or electric vehicle would meet their needs.

The company incorporated in 2007. Last year, CrossChasm “graduated” from the Accelerator Centre, an incubator where the University of Waterloo and other partners help young businesses turn their first wobbly steps into a purposeful stride.

Today, CrossChasm houses its computer-modeling, web, business and controls teams in an industrial plaza on Northland Drive in Waterloo. Between Waterloo and an office in Montreal, CrossChasm has about 20 employees, most of them Waterloo graduates.

“We really believe we are on to something in the space we play in,” says Mallia.