The Sustainable Energy Revolution
Back on August 2, 2006, the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, posted “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me)” on the company blog. Now back when he did that, most people probably thought it was silly, far-fetched, and probably a bit ridiculous that he was trying to plan 10 years ahead.. Tesla was a small company, and Musk even prefaces the plan by saying his day job is to run SpaceX, and Tesla is his side project. Fast forward 10 years later and the master plan is executed almost to perfection, so much so that a second 10-year “Master Plan, Part Deux” is released on July 20, 2016, which is currently being worked on.
I have been thinking a lot about the EnergyX 10 Year Master Plan. Where do we want to be in 10 years? How is EnergyX going to “Power the Future”? How are we going to contribute in the sustainable energy transition towards a solar, electric economy? Just like Musk, most people think I’m wasting my time putting this together, but the vision is very important me because how are you supposed to execute a 10 year plan, or even 5 year plan, if you don’t even have one.
We Need More Lithium!
At a high level, EnergyX is first pushing the boundaries of energy storage value chain. As you know, when it comes down to making any physical product, it starts with natural resources, basically what we take out of the earth to make things. Energy storage systems are no different. The elements that makeup batteries can differ based on the battery type, but some examples are lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel, iron, phosphate, manganese, and others. However, no matter the differing battery types, lithium is essentially in all them. As the lightest metal on the periodic table, lithium is a common denominator amongst today’s modern batteries.
EnergyX’s initial product is a lithium ion extraction membrane called LiTAS™, which stands for Lithium Ion Transport and Separation. Our view is that lithium will be the most important natural resource in the 22nd century. Bloomberg New Energy Finance in its 2019 Electric Vehicle Outlook report see the total number of EV’s by 2040 at 548 million by 2040, or about 32% of the world’s passenger vehicles. However, even bears such as the oil cartel OPEC, put that number at 300 million EV’s by 2040, and Exxon’s most recent predictions, the most pessimistic, show the global stock of EVs reaching 162 million by 2040. That’s 70% lower than BNEF’s base case.
Regardless of where you stand on this range, those are just the electric cars we are talking about. We haven’t even started talking about lithium batteries that power your home or office. Because of all this, we are going to need extremely efficient and effective ways to produce huge amounts of lithium. LiTAS™ is the way to do it, and commercializing this technology is step one, and a critical piece to our master plan.
However, EnergyX doesn’t just want to be a one trick pony. What some readers may not be aware of, is that the underlying technology behind LiTAS™ is a nanotechnology capable of much more. When computers where invented and the first thing a computer chip could process was a Microsoft Word Document, they didn’t know that Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Explorer were on the way. The nanotechnology is a new class of materials called Metal Organic Frameworks that will dramatically impact the energy sector far beyond just the production of lithium. The computer chip was a platform; metal organic frameworks are platforms too.
We are already planning extension uses for this nanotechnology for production of other important natural resources. We can clean contaminated water supplies in India, we can extract lithium from produced water in Texas, and we can extract other rare earth metals and natural resources from water streams around the world. Metal Organic Frameworks have tunable pore sizes and create electrochemical magnetic fields to induce conductivity and transport as well. We are also developing longer lasting and more efficient batteries.
Can an Electric Vehicle Battery Last 1000 Miles?
Now we hopefully have all the lithium needed to build hundreds of millions of electric vehicles (and equally as many home and commercial utility grid scale batteries). However, I would like to address the two biggest persisting arguments about the sustainable energy revolution.
- Range Anxiety – This is still the biggest objection from potential buyers of electric vehicles. They aren’t thinking about the bottleneck of lithium to make the batteries, but they are thinking about “only” 300 miles and then I need to recharge? How long does that take? What if I run out of battery in the middle of the desert? Well my first answer to that is plan your trip better, but we do need to make a better battery to eliminate the slightest doubt.
- Power Outages – The next phase of the renewable energy transition is power storage for the house and workplace. Renewable sources (i.e. wind and solar) already costs less than traditional coal and natural gas, but the problem is their intermittency. If its cloudy for a week, you need a big battery to store up all that solar. But imagine a world where your home was only powered by solar or wind energy; how awesome would that be!
Our vision is long term, hence the 10 Year Master Plan. Building a 1000 mile battery, and a battery that can power a home for a month would be the ultimate game changer. In line with Tesla’s and Amazon’s thinking, as a fast growing technology company, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. We will explore Solid State Lithium Ion Batteries, Lithium Sulphur Batteries, Lithium Air Batteries, adhesives that can turn windows into solar panels (think of all the glass on office buildings in New York!).
In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, a development that astonished the American establishment. Determined never to be surprised again President Eisenhower established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which would later add Defense before its title becoming DARPA. It’s job was to anticipate the unimagined weapons of the future. The agency ended up shaping the modern world helping to create missile defense and stealth technology, the internet, personal computer, the laser, and GPS.
At our core, EnergyX is a technology development company. We are inventors. There remains the possibility we could expand our inventions and become vertically integrated by producing our own lithium, or building millions upon millions of batteries every day, but for the next 10 years we look at ourselves as the enablers.
So in short, the master plan is this:
- Build lithium production technology
- Use that money to build longer lasting battery technology
- Use that money to open a huge R&D facility focused on the renewable energy transition
- While doing the above, start strategizing vertical integration and manufacturing optimization of batteries and battery materials.