How can we Scale Today’s Innovations for True Impact Tomorrow?

Why do we keep looking for answers when we already have come to great solutions to problems?

Why is there unnecessary additional spend and effort wasted on ‘monitoring’ & ‘research’ activities aimed at trying to learn more (when we already know enough to get started), to find a new future solution?

Wouldn’t it be so much more impact-full if we expend our efforts and resources on improving that newly designed solution and making it happen, at scale?

Once a great solution has been designed, for it to be adopted, the focus should be on overcoming / alleviating the aspects holding it back → From increasing it’s commercially attractivity to cleverly freeing up capital to fund it; From ensuring it holistically satisfies the ‘need’ aptly to setting up the right partnerships to speed boat it.

In this post, I will delve into the fundamentals of two prime examples of this with a focus on the ‘so what’ and shed some light on possible paths forward.

Tesla: Gigagafactory, Powerwall & Powerpack

Tesla wants to ensure that they have a mass-market electric vehicle to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. So everything they do feeds into increasing their electric vehicle’s attractivity by making adoption easier and less expensive through the creation of an electric ecosystem on teh lines of Apple’s technology ecosystem.

The gigafactory, is the biggest lithium-ion battery factory in the world, that is completely self-sufficient and produces it’s own energy through a combination of geothermal, wind and solar. Where the gigafactory is headed to is how can we cost-effectively at scale produce electric motors, battery packs and, most important to our discussion here energy storage products needed for an electric future → the Powerwall & Powerpack.

A Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada, USA.

Powerwall

  • A device that lets you use the power from the sun at night by storing the excess solar energy captured and reducing your grid usage. With a 10 year warranty, 90% round trip efficiency, a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh per Powerwall and a scalability option up to 10 Powerwalls → ✔ This presents a great energy storage solution, functional, well-reviewed and available today.
  • Now let’s say you live in the UK, the maximum average daily consumption seen is ~10 to 25kWh, if we have the average 110 sq m home and we would like to install new solar power — It would cost us ~£7,750 to meet our energy needs and be as self-sufficient as possible.
How the Powerwall works

Powerpack

  • The Powerwall taken to the next level, to provide scalable utility and energy storage
  • A sustainable solution from demand response, peak shaving and load shifting
  • Think Micro-grids, think communities becoming prosumers!

So What?

The point I am trying to make is that today in the Gigafactory, we have a great solution for battery production that creates great sustainable products like the Powerwall & Powerpack, so why don’t we have scale with it yet? Why is there still grants and loans from Innovate UK such as the Faraday Battery Challenge worth £246m that is going to split up the money in 100 different ways and the impact of which is going to be minuscule? How can we use it wisely, so that we can take it to the next level of actually getting these problems solved? Picture this, if we spent the £246m in installing powerwalls in the UK we could make ~32,000 homes mostly self-sufficient.

PriestmanGoode: Sustainable Air Travel to reduce single-use plastic and water wastage.

PriestmanGoode in their ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.’ exhibition at the London Design Museum, raised awareness about the waste generated through air travel and presented a conceptual way forward. This example is not as mature as the previous one, however, it explores an interesting perspective of

when we have great designs and well thought through ideas; why don’t we see them manifest around us?

500 grams of single-use plastic waste is produced per person on every long-haul flight. This amounts to an estimated 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste on global passenger flights each year, from earphones and eye-masks to toiletries and food waste. Considering that 4.5 billion people will fly in 2019 and the cost of this waste per passenger is ~£1, this is something definitely worth paying attention to.

Below is how they re-designed various elements of the on-board cabin service in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by replacing elements normally discarded with edible and commercially compostable materials.

A Sustainable Meal Tray that is environmentally friendly and single-use plastic-free
  • A tray made from coffee grounds and husks mixed with a lignin binder, and the base containers that fit into the tray from wheat bran.
  • A Spork, combined spoon and fork, made from Coconut Wood
  • A cup composed of rice husk mixed with polylactic acid binder, with a cup liner made from algae.
  • Instead of the small plastic pots used to contain sauces and milk, PriestmanGoode designed capsules made from soluble seaweed, much like the edible drink pods handed out to runners at the London Marathon this year.

Another cool aspect was understanding how the changes in consumer behaviour instigated by innovative design and smart incentivisation could have a positive impact on waste reduction.

Innovative Design

  • According to Heathrow Airport, if passengers at the departures lounges refilled their bottles from water fountains instead of buying plastic bottles, the airport could reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 35 million a year
  • PriestmanGoode channelled this idea into a refillable water bottle made from cork and a commercially compostable bioplastic material.
  • The bottle; designed for repeated but short-term use, addresses “impulse buys” by travellers at airports and train stations.

Smart Incentivisation

  • To accelerate adoption, putting in place a reward scheme for those who opt for the more eco-friendly and waste-free options.

What we should really pay attention to is how this bottle actually fits into the user journey flow at an airport, right from emptying your leftover water at the start of security to that water being filtered and reused for you to refill it back once you are through, and to having a water-cooler cart installed in the galley area of the plane, which would allow passengers to refill during their flight.

Zooming out to put a higher-level perspective on this, I would like to share some truths about ‘bottled water’

If all of the tap water used each day came from bottled water, the average person’s water bill would be $44,165 per year.

Personally, it is annoying to see people constantly, time and time again buy bottled water. So some ideas for a solution for those who can’t muster tap water and who do not usually carry a recyclable bottle.

  • What if grocery stores instead of selling off the shelf bottles, had a recyclable system where people could get a bottle for a set period.come into the store, fill it up with their choice of bottled water, drink and drop it off at another store?
  • What if we could get bottled water companies to centrally store their water and then link into the pipes to provide a person bottled water of choice through a tap at home.
  • Or what if we just went down the old school route and reinvented water filtration to make it cooler and more adoptable?
  • What if we could do a Life Cycle Assessment to factor in an additional cost which reflects the sustainability of the bottled water. This in turn would make it more expensive and create loss aversion behavioural reactions.
  • What if we could in some way create a monetisation link where the value derived from moving away from bottled water is made more tangible? Something on the lines of the eden bonds that are making rewilding attractive to fund this transition away from bottled water?
  • What if we make this transition lucrative for the bottled water companies, the airports and the airlines by helping them make it a differentiator at this customer touchpoint.

Just top of the head ‘what ifs’, however, there is no clear incentive yet for the bottled water companies to do any of this, at their core again, it is not the water that is making them money, it’s funnily actually the margins on the plastic.

Another big challenge that we have to overcome is making these alternatives as cheap, malleable and durable as single use plastics. Universal Bio Pack does just this; however serious investment is still needed to reduce this gap as smart approaches like incorporating the post use / disposal cost to the product selling price and making the customer pay, will not always work.

On innovation in the post use side, Plastic Energy using their IP called Thermal Anaerobic Conversion to give waste plastic value by converting it into usable oils that could be used to make plastic and commodity fuels.

In closing, I would like to point out that I have not addressed the obvious matters, and have taken those as a given. Every improvement made to a system requires integration from the people, process and technology angle to be completely embedded into BAU for all parties involved.

If anything discussed above interests you, I would love to hear from you as this really fascinates me. Please also do share your thoughts, if something seems fundamentally incorrect. These are just my thoughts on a grey Sunday afternoon in London.

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking’’

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Karan Pinto

Karan Pinto

Entrepreneur, Technologist & Innovator | Venture Building x Innovation | Quantum Computing x Sustainability | Investing | Dance x Movement x Mindfulness

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