As the dawn of the information age transformed innovation efforts a century ago, the underlying processes for driving innovation changed dramatically. With the power of large centralized R&D departments eroding and many organizations embracing a philosophy based on open innovation, startup incubators and accelerators emerged as crucial connective tissue between large and often slow-moving industry and nimble startups. As slow-moving automotive giants grapple with embracing fundamental changes in their products – in terms of both what provides power to the vehicle (electric vehicles) and what controls the vehicle (autonomous driving) – pitch days like those hosted by Lux Partner Greentown Labs can serve as valuable events to access the development of new technologies.
The afternoon began with a keynote from Joanna Moody, who gave an overview of MIT's Insights into the Future of Mobility study. Joanna's perspective was a welcome one, as unlike all other speakers and audience members, she focused on human behaviors and how people's attitudes toward modes of transportation impact travel behavior. This is particularly relevant for shared mobility services and the rise of autonomous vehicle. She stressed that the social status and personal image that come with car ownership, referred to as "car pride," remains high, especially in emerging economies, suggesting that forecasts on car ownership may be underpredicting the number of cars on the road in the future. Even if selling a car and leveraging mobility services is cheaper, consumers with a high degree of car pride will continue to own cars. The work in the study also extended to the expected use case of robotaxis, stressing that, left unregulated, they would pull riders from public transportation and cripple public transit agencies.
Greentown Labs CEO, Emily Reichert, kicking off Transportation Pitch Day. Startups, corporates, investors, and academics
attended for a deep dive into the future of transportation & mobility. (Source: Greentown Labs Twitter)
Lux's technology-focused keynote discussed the policies and technologies that have the most potential to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Acknowledging that effective policy remains incredibly impactful to adoption of low-emissions vehicles, and reviewing data from the countries with the largest rate of adoption of plug-in vehicles, the presentation then focused on opportunities for innovative technologies. While, of course, battery innovations that reduce costs and improve energy density are highly valued, we stressed the numerous opportunities in less competitive fields.
Improving efficiency in electric vehicles will become crucial, as automakers are under pressure to make profitable electric vehicles and battery costs begin to plateau, underscoring a need to maximize the range from a given battery pack. Startups have taken a wide variety of approaches to improving efficiency. C-Motive and Blackburn Energy focus on the literal interpretation of consuming less energy to perform a given task, while Titan AES's solution allows automakers to better utilize the full state of charge of an EV battery and maximize range from a given battery pack.
Consumers often also cite infrastructure as a limitation, with concerns about the availability and speed of current charging technology – creating long-term opportunities in battery swapping and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as fast charging infrastructure creates more congested electrical grids. Battery swapping is a proven concept for micromobility, and SomEV looked to build on concepts proven by companies like Gogoro with a solution more tailored for North America. In another attempt to decouple power generation from consumption in BEV charging, SparkCharge outlined its service for providing on-demand fast charging with mobile charging units.
With automakers collectively investing hundreds of billion of dollars to secure a supply chain for and build electric vehicles, keeping an eye on innovative solutions from startups and other partners is crucial. Tapping into innovation ecosystems like Greentown Labs and its peers can aid corporate innovation teams in driving down emissions and creating new growth in their own businesses.
- Press Release: Lux Research Joins Greentown Labs as Gigawatt Partner
- Executive Summary: Sharing is Scaring: New Business Models Disrupting Mobility
- On-Demand Webinar: Avoiding Extinction in an Era of Shared Mobility