Signs of a worsening climate crisis in the form of wildfires and hurricanes, and the fast-approaching COP26 conference, mean reducing carbon emissions is at the top of the news cycle .
This means a golden opportunity for sustainable and electrifying startups – so how can startups get their technology to market quickly? What are the environmental concerns when manufacturing electrical products? And what role do investors play in achieving net zero?
We asked all of this and more from our expert panel Sifted Talks, which included an opening speech from the British Ambassador to Sweden and the Swedish Ambassador to the UK, as well as views from leaders sustainable development such as:
- Jesper Wigardt, vice president of communications and public affairs at lithium-ion battery maker Northvolt
- Carl-Magnus Norden, Founder and Executive Chairman of Volta Trucks, an automotive manufacturer specializing in electric vehicles
- Angela Hultberg, Head of Road Transport for COP26 and Head of Sustainable Mobility at IKEA Retail
- Enass Abo-Hamed, CEO and Founder of H2GO, a cleantech company that stores excess grid energy as solid-state hydrogen
Here is what we learned:
1. Electrification is not always “good” for the planet
Electric batteries will support the electrification of transportation over the next decade, but the production can be harmful to the environment.
Large amounts of energy are required in the production of electric batteries, and the lithium and cobalt used pose problems of waste and recycling. Northvolt’s Wigardt says it’s crucial for growers to safeguard their sustainability credentials by finding other ways to mitigate the overall negative environmental impact.
For example, Northvolt’s main production line is based in Sweden for the ease of access and lower costs of renewables such as hydropower. The company now has a recycling process in place that allows it to recover used batteries and extract metals for reuse in other vehicles.
“How you produce these batteries matters… If you care about producing CO2, then what kind of energy do you feed into your factories?… The way you do it matters, and Europe should think about it being since we are building this industry from scratch. We have a unique opportunity to do it right. – Jesper Wigardt, Northvolt
2. Startups: get into the market quickly and bring customers with you
Norden says companies should make the most of existing technologies to bring electrical products to market as quickly as possible.
Volta Trucks’ fully electric delivery vehicle, the ‘Volta Zero’, for example, uses the same technology and charging infrastructure as small, green cars, and will be rolled out in 20 major European cities by the end of this year. ‘next year.
Norden says they will manage this rapid deployment without compromising sustainable practices with what’s known as “holistic accountability,” that is, when eco-friendly companies help customers manage their journey to the market. zero carbon.
He says Volta Trucks will take steps such as installing charging points at customer depots, both to reduce emissions and to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“We take full responsibility for the complete electrification of our customers… Our ambition is that it is also easy for someone who does not know how to manage an electric fleet, to start from what he knows very well; from the management of a diesel fleet to the management of an electric fleet. – Carl-Magnus Norden, Volta Trucks
3. Investors can help electrical products get cheaper
What role are investors playing in helping these electrical products become more viable for the average consumer?
Hultberg says investors have two roles to play. First, they should stop investing in any business involved in fossil fuels. Second, they need to invest in sustainable startups that offer carbon reduction solutions to help scale up production. This in turn will lead to lower prices.
“Don’t invest in fossil fuels. Clear and simple. Do not do it. I think that already today, if the fossil fuel industry really bears its own costs and we stop subsidizing it, the battery costs would already be much better… Invest where your money makes sense. Invest in companies that are committed to changing their operations for the long term. – Angela Hultberg, COP26 and IKEA Retail
4. Electric batteries are not the only solution
While the panel mainly focused on using electric battery-based products to combat carbon emissions, H2Go founder Abo-Hamed suggests that we should explore other technologies as well. She says new collaborations between researchers will result in exciting hybrid approaches to solving our carbon consumption.
H2Go has created a solution for storing hydrogen in a steady state, which could lead to advancements in fuel cell technology – the production of electricity by turning hydrogen and oxygen into water.
“We have to look to hybrids, or a portfolio of technologies, because we have to accelerate. We don’t have all the time in the world to rely on one technology. – Enass Abo-Hamed, H2GO
To learn more about saving the planet and whether the world is ready for mass electrification, you can watch the full Sifted Talk here: