Chip startups are a rarity. But Greenvity Communications, which is coming out of stealth today, believes it has found a defensible niche in tiny, energy efficient radios.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company is launching a hybrid chip for energy-monitoring devices that can transmit data wirelessly over short distances. The company’s Hybrii chips have two alternative ways of transferring data. They integrate a HomePlug Green Phy, which can transfer data over a power socket and electrical wires in a home, together with a ZigBee radio that transfers data from an appliance to a home network. Hybrii chips are aimed at so-called smart meters that monitor a home or electric vehicle’s energy usage. The goal is to accelerate the adoption of smart energy products and save companies money.

The chips are built for rugged, high-temperature conditions, like inside a car. They’re also aimed at smart grid, smart home energy management, and industrial applications. The single-chip combination of powerline data transfer and ZigBee radio reduces costs and power consumption, since they can get rid of multiple chips and circuit boards. Hybrii chips will automatically decide which way to transmit energy-related data, either wireless or over a power line.

“This is a way to save energy costs,” said Hung Nguyen, the president and CEO of Greenvity Communications, in an interview with VentureBeat.”We believe that smart meters will be a good market in the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan.”

The chip can transfer data at a rate of up to 9.8 megabits per second over a powerline and 250 kilobits per second over a ZigBee wireless network. The chip has its own microcontroller for smart energy management. Samples of the two versions of the Hybrii chips — one for electric cars and one for homes — are available now.

Nguyen, a 25-year veteran of the chip business, founded Greenvity in 2010 with money from DFJ VinaCapital, Micro Lamda Wireless (a smart grid app maker), and MegaChips. Chip companies are rare because they take a lot of money to get off the ground. But Nguyen said the company was formed with an eye on low-cost design at the outset. Greenvity has raised $7 million. Rivals include Texas Instruments, Ember and Qualcomm. Greenvity has 30 employees with employees in India, Vietnam, Korea, and the U.S.

Nguyen said that his firm is being very frugal with its money now and hopes to innovate faster than larger rivals in the business.