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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up May 21, 2021

Lux Research
May 21, 2021

Every day our researchers read through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert opinions on important developments and industry news. Our analysts then evaluate news based on potential importance ranking the developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

On Fridays we highlight our Lux Take on the top news for the week. Check out our thoughts on the latest emerging technology and innovation news for the past week.

Ford's F-150 Lightning marks a turning point in North America's electrification roadmap

Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson, Research Director
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"Ford's F-150 pickup truck has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for an astonishing 40 years, and this week, the brand revived the "Lightning" moniker to launch an electric version of the vehicle. It includes some novel features, such as 11 electrical outlets, the ability to use the vehicle to provide backup power to a home (much like VW's MEB vehicles), and optional Blue Cruise hands-free highway driving. The most notable feature: a base price under $40,000. The biggest markets for pickup trucks in the U.S. are California, which has aggressive electrification targets, and Texas, where the vehicle's backup power would've been useful in this winter's near-gridwide blackout, indicating a large potential demand for this vehicle."

Allbirds publicly shares its LCA calculator and tools, defying the unspoken secrecy practices of companies in all industries

drishti masandDrishti Masand, Analyst | @DrishtiMasand Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"Allbirds has released an open-source tool to calculate the carbon footprint of companies across all industries; the company has partnered with SCS Global Services for industry data with specific guidance on how to factor in emissions from materials, manufacturing, transportation, consumer use, and end of life for thorough analysis. No company has ever been so transparent with its sustainability; more importantly, through this strategic move, Allbirds has forced accountability, especially as it called out other apparel brands in its announcement. All companies should follow suit and aim to strengthen their sustainability measures so much that they are comfortable sharing them publicly."

Femtech period tracking app Flo publishes study that expands on PCOS criteria, opening doors for companies to provide solutions

13261-thumb-squareDanielle Bradnan, Analyst @DBradnan Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Flo's study has identified a much broader range of symptoms to diagnose PCOS beyond the traditional Rotterdam criteria of hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries. Symptoms like hirstutism, hyperpigmentation, balding, and bloat may be much stronger key indicators that can be easier to detect than symptoms that require a series of hormone panels and potentially surgery. Discovered regional (U.K. vs. APAC) differences in disease presentation, coupled with new symptoms to address, can open up opportunities for CPG companies looking to approach this market with nutrition and grooming solutions to reduce the impact on patient's lives. Those interested should take note of this research and plan product strategies accordingly."

Strength in numbers: RWDC and Cove lean on each other to bring PHA bottles to market

Kristin Marshall, Analyst at Lux Research

Kristin Marshall, Analyst | @KMarsh4Bio Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"Under the agreement, Cove will obtain 350 million pounds (nearly 160,000 metric tons) of PHA, supplied by RWDC, over five years. On an annual basis, this amount is close to what all PHA producers combined are producing today. While RWDC is setting itself an ambitious goal to scale, it has the resources after its $133 million Series B last year. However, rather than working with a well-known brand for off-take, RWDC is turning to Cove – a company that started out on its journey to bring a biodegradable water bottle to market two years ago. Despite its inexperience, Cove has come a long way. Still, it is unclear how successful the bottles will be with consumers. Those interested should monitor Cove, as it plans to release its first bottles this year."

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Nio expands battery swapping network to Europe

Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson, Research Director
Lux Take: Very Important


"
The company's European battery swapping network expansion currently only includes plans for Norway, as it is aiming to complete four stations near Oslo in 2021 and expanding to other cities in 2022. With one of Europe's largest electric vehicle markets, Chinese companies Xpeng and Nio have both focused on Norway as their beachhead market in Europe. Companies should expect Nio to expand aggressively to other countries in Europe within the next year to capitalize on its first-mover advantage, as other OEMs – most recently Renault – have made favorable comments on battery swapping."

Bright Machines microfactories boosted by $435 million SPAC combination

Michael SullivanMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Bright Machines continues the trend of startups following the novel funding route of merging with a public special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The company is among the first to bring an industrial automation platform to the SPAC market, following 3DP companies Velo3D and Desktop Metal. Bright Machines will merge with SCVX, a shell company whose mission until now was to take cybersecurity companies public. While the merger gives Bright Machines cash flow far exceeding its $34 million 2020 sales, those interested should proceed with caution. The investment does not solve the company's problem of strong competition from other startups and large suppliers, such as Siemens, ABB, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle, which offer similar platforms."

Allbirds and Adidas partner to develop shoes with one-fifth the carbon footprint of regular sneakers

drishti masand

Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate at Lux ResearchDrishti Masand, Analyst | @DrishtiMasand Ico twitter
Tiff Hua, Senior Research Associate | @tiff_hua Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"This announcement highlights the benefits of collaboration to improve sustainability as well as the multitude of technologies required to develop sustainable solutions. The shoe, which has a footprint of 2.94 kg of CO2 per pair, utilizes four different natural and recycled materials, does not involve dyeing, and has implemented design methods like smart multifunctional stitching to reduce shoe components. Most surprisingly, the companies claim the shoes will cost about as much as regular Allbirds or Adidas running shoes. Allbirds and Adidas have moved the goal post by incorporating life cycle assessments in product design and normalizing carbon price tags on consumer products without the green tax."

Harvard scientists develop solid-state batteries with high current density that can prevent dendrite formation

Shishir JairamShishir Jairam, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"Scientists at Harvard University have developed a design for a solid-state battery (SSB) that uses a hierarchy of interface stabilities to achieve an ultrahigh current density with no lithium dendrite penetration. The researchers claimed that the multilayer battery, where the less stable electrolyte is sandwiched between more stable solid electrolytes, prevents the penetration of lithium dendrites by controlling and containing them. The team also reported achieving 82% capacity retention after 10,000 cycles at a 20C rate and 81.3% capacity retention after 2,000 cycles at a 1.5C rate. Those interested are encouraged to monitor this development and view the lithium dendrite prevention in the design as progress in the SSB space."

Mainspring Energy raises $95 million Series D to accelerate development of its low-carbon linear generator

Seoane da Silva, PatriciaPatricia Seoane da Silva, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Mainspring Energy, formerly EtaGen, will use this amount to accelerate deployments in applications with rising demand for energy security, such as commercial and industrial facilities. The company is also approaching integration in microgrids and utility-scale renewable assets, for which it signed a $150 million deal with NextEra Energy Resources. This value proposition centered around resiliency and on-site power generation is more defined than EtaGen's strategy in 2018 (which included applications like automotive engines), yet those interested should monitor the company's ongoing project with NextEra to verify the cost and performance capabilities of its generator, including its potential to integrate renewable energy and cut carbon emissions."

Lux Research - Newsletter Research

The two key issues of cognitive nutrition startup TruBrain are common to many functional nutrition developers

Jerrold WangJerrold Wang, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"TruBrain announced a crowdfunding campaign to serve consumers for personalized health. With neuroscience expertise and patent-pending formulas, TruBrain claims its personalized products can improve users' cognition. However, the claim is questionable due to two issues applicable to many functional nutrition developers. First, it's unclear how TruBrain assesses users' cognitive performance and validates the product effect. Second, the personalization feature is suspicious, as there is no guidance (like input volume and timing) tailored for individual users. As many cognitive nutrition companies suffer from intangible claims, those seeking to penetrate this field should only focus on the technologies able to solve these two issues."

Hydrostor to develop 1 GW of energy storage in California

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Low Importance


"
Following an announcement of building an A-CAES project in Canada, Hydrostor is now developing two projects in California. It quoted that an investment of $1.5 billion will be needed for the projects. A 500 MW/4,000 MWh facility in Kern County is under development, with planned operation in 2026. Clients should remain skeptical of Hydrostor's technology due to its high capital costs and of the company's commitment to a 500 MW project with only 1.75 MW now in operation in Ontario. The projects will only succeed if they receive substantial financial support from the state, more than what it received in Australia for its canceled 5 MW project; however, California's need for clean energy may motivate it to support such a large investment."

Plywood supplier Wisa plans to launch wooden satellite for sustainability

Miraj

Miraj Mainali, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Ignore


"
As outlined in our report "The Next Generation of Satellite Imaging," satellite manufacturers are cutting costs by using less durable materials, as the life of smallsats is only two to three years. The lower mass also allows room for more important components like hyperspectral cameras and AI processors (see Intel's case study). While other companies have used light aluminum alloys to build smallsats, Wisa is taking this to the extreme by using chemical-treated wood. Although wood might be a more sustainable material to build short-lifespan smallsats, those interested should be skeptical of this project because the Woodsat will probably not survive the extreme conditions (temperature, gravity, pressure, vibration, and radiation) of the thermosphere."

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