Farah Nanji 0:12
My name is Farah Nanji. I'm a podcast journalist and lecturer racecar driver, and founder of a podcast agency called Mission Makers. Mobility. It's something that affects each and every one of us in the room. How we move as a planet is as exciting and transformative as it is alarming. As a racecar driver and DJ like many of you, I spend a lot of time travelling around the planet. Flying into Zurich this week for Davos, it was really heartbreaking to see just from the air, how little snow was covering the beautiful Swiss Alps. So I think we all know that, sadly, we are speaking at a very fragile moment in our in our history of humanity. The world isn't on track to meet its climate objectives. And there are major tensions in the energy sector that will require extraordinary levels of alignment across policymakers, corporates and investors to neutralise energy threats without derailing the clean energy transition. So today, we're going to explore the incredibly important future of mobility both from the perspective of being here on the ground on Earth, and from the lens of outer space. So I'm extremely honoured tonight to be joined by Jon Creyts, the CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, and a widely acknowledged leader in global energy. Nicole Stott, a retired NASA astronaut and engineer who spent over 100 days in space, and 27 years with NASA. And Sergio De La Vega,, who was one of the early investors in Formula E, and chairman of citizens company. So, the first question I really like to ask all of you guys is, what is the key element that makes mobility important to you? And what is the number one thing that you prioritise above all else in your approach to mobility
Jon Creyts 1:55
Well, I'll maybe I'll jump in here first. And I do, we've heard some depressing things here about the state of the planet. I, at my institution, Rocky Mountain Institute, we practice something called applied hope, right, which is the idea that we can will into existence, the world that we want to need, right, but we need to practice systems change, we need to practice transformation in the end to get there. And so we try to create examples of transformation. Now that the mobility sector is critically important for us here when we think about, you know, creating that sustainable future for all of us. And when I say all of us, I mean, the planet in its entirety. Transportation is the fastest growing emission sector, when we look at it, whether that's in China, whether that's in the United States, whether that's in Sub Saharan Africa, in each of these regions, we see the fastest growing areas as being transportation. But it's also one where we've seen real, real progress, you're especially on the electrification front. Now, when we think about points of optimism, today, on the planet, solar and wind are more cost effective, they're the cheapest form of energy for 95% of the people on the planet. That wasn't true a year ago, it wasn't true two years ago, but it's true now. And the idea that we can take this very cheap form of electricity of this energy, and that we can use it, then to power, how it is we move goods and people across the planet that is the single driving force for us right now at Rocky Mountain Institute, to understand how we use energies that flow and convert them to allow people to flow. So that's, that's kind of a quick summary. I'll get into some of the case examples here soon, but, but the idea that we've got plentiful and cheap energy that we now need to convert, and we can do that we can do that technologically, we can do it socially, we can do it quickly, in a timeframe that's relevant to this most urgent planetary crisis that we're facing.
Farah Nanji 4:11
Thank you, Nicole?
Nicole Stott 4:13
Well, I following John with a like bit of a philosophy. Idea is having worked for NASA for 27 years and blessed to spend some time in space. I think back to some of my early mentors, working there at the Kennedy Space Centre on the space shuttle programme and, and all of this space stuff, it's really complex, right? And the way we were taught as young engineers to deal with that real that complexity was, first of all, to go into any problem you're trying to solve with the belief that there is a solution to the problem. And then the second thing was our motto across the board, which was to operate in a way that was based on here's how we can not why we can't. And that kind of philosophy, I think she puts you in the position to believe there's a solution to the problem. And to be very actively involved in making sure that that happens, and taking down the barriers to anything that somebody might want to throw in your face that you just want to discard, not ignore, but move forward from. Now, when I think of mobility, to me, it means connection. And the US having the ability to move around the planet, and I'll keep it terrestrial at this point. I mean, allows us to be in places like this, to exchange ideas, to meet new friends, and to understand that we have more in common than different. And that is a real, I think that's a really compelling part of solving problems. And then I like to follow a little bit again, with John here, the idea of the the renewable, the sustainable energies, I think of that allows us to power the mobility and other things, the best way for us to really look at that is to maybe take a step back and consider some of the Sci Fi kinds of things that have already become SCI fact in our lives. And the other kind of sci fi stuff, for example, something called space based solar power that we could bring to life right now and provide energy to our entire planet. By doing that off the earth for the earth. And then from mobility, I just want to say that, that sci fi sci fi thing, I am a total Star Trek person. And I'm really looking forward to the time when we have those transporters because I think that'll solve a lot of them problems.
Farah Nanji 6:53
Amazing. Thank you - Sergio?
Sergio De La Vega 6:55
and mobility is freedom. Is social justice, right? How can I exercise my right to health or education if I don't have a way to reach their hospital, or their school, so I think it's very important for all of us, fortunately, and unfortunately, it took us more than 100 years to realise how inefficient combustion is, right? When we burn fuel in our cars, we waste 70%, almost almost 70% of the energy, that energy doesn't become movement, it becomes it turns into noise, heat and emissions. Right. And we are paying 100 years of emissions. Now we saw the pictures before so. But technology I mean, in a way was we this inefficiency was kind of hidden by the low historical low cost of oil, right? Oil has been historically very cheap, elevate of the fact that we call it the black gold and silver is very cheap, right. And lately with technology, other technology, other technologies like solar or renewables in general, are getting to the level of competitiveness that oil has had historically. And that's what's pushing my agenda. Today, electric mobility is not driven by environmental activism it is driven by economics. And that's why I think we've seen so much progress lately on it, I think it has became mainstream. I mean, I'm, I've been involved in electric mobility for almost 10 years, and I've been crazy. Eight out of those 10 years, right. There's been too much scepticism and I think continues to be but I mean, we've seen tremendous changes I've seen, I mean, we're expecting almost a revolution in terms of energy storage and batteries. And so we're at the very beginning of, of the race. And with that, you know, we're gonna, probably in 10 years time, we're gonna be telling ourselves, how could we be burning fuel for so many years? Right? We were crazy when it so thank you very much.
Farah Nanji 9:05
Yeah, it's very true. And it begs a lot of questions. Nicole, you've done something that so many of us in this room can only dream Oh, and earlier on in the greenroom, I was sharing with you my dream of being able to be maybe the first DJ in space someday. And I think you know, it's a burning question that many of us will have, is how did check space change you when you when you went up and down? You finally came back down to earth?
Nicole Stott 9:28
I do think it was life changing. It's certainly I don't know you know, to have an experience and I think we have them here down on Earth to those pictures we saw of our planet the other worldly places that are available to us that you know have not been explored yet right here on Earth. They open us up to the on wander that surrounds us right and to how you know and how hopefully we can be part of the solution and maintaining not just the beauty of that But, but the life supporting nature of it. And I think that having that experience in space, and I mentioned all the complexity, you know, complex thing to get to space to just live and work there for a short period of time to come back to Earth. And yet it comes down, I think, really, for me to three simple lessons that I learned there, and those are three very simple things: we all know them in this room, I would hope that you will all want to bring them more into your daily lives. We live on a planet in space. I mean, I know that's an obvious thing. But when I looked out that window, that was one of the first things that came to mind is like, oh my gosh, that's gorgeous. Oh my gosh, that's a planet. I didn't have that in my daily life. Before that, we are all Earthlings. Another obvious yet sometimes not thought of thing. And the only border that matters is that thin blue line of atmosphere that blankets and protects us all.And if we think of in our daily lives, we would consider those things. They are also at the basis for solving all these planetary challenges we have just considering those three realities. And then if we start behaving like crewmates, and not passengers here on spaceship Earth, that's another major way for us to just regroup. And think about probably our most important role as as Earthlings is to save the life supporting nature of our planetary spaceship.
Farah Nanji 11:35
Absolutely. And hopefully, we don't need to go to space to understand these three, very simple, but yet so complicated understandings. So you've been at the forefront of taking risks with, you know, Game Changing series, such as Formula E, what kind of what are some of the key factors that investors should consider when investing in early stage investments? And how can we attract more investment into the mobility sector?
Sergio De La Vega 11:58
c Right? I mean, we are, we, when we get into new technologies, we are taking risk, and it's unavoidable. Right. And, and just a game of finding a way to mitigate that risk by not putting all the eggs in same basket, or by taking any other action that mitigates risk as the only way you can survive on those things. We have noticed lately that there is so much innovation in the mobility space, but many of these innovators don't make it through because going to market is very difficult, right? I mean, you get together with a bunch of very smart guys to build a new vehicle a new solution, you have to realise that going to market is much more expensive and much more difficult than that inspect it. And you know, if you're not lucky enough to find the right mentor, right? sponsor, right? Investor, likely your product is not gonna make it. So that's in a way, and it's going to be like advertising. That's why we created the super cool mobility centres to give these innovator, those innovators and those new companies the opportunity to go to market, right. And also, I found that there's so many companies that have the need, or the conviction of lowering and reducing emissions, and they just struggling to find solutions. So how can you have in one side, all these innovators trying to make it through? And then you have all these companies trying to find the right solution? And there is no, there's a disconnect. Right. That's what we're trying to bring. So I mean, this is based on our experience, we started investing in electro mobility, sustainable mobility in 2012. And most of the companies we invested on are today that right, so I think we will learn the story, we want to make this great solution for the rest, maybe it will be a way to make some of those losses back.
Farah Nanji 13:54
Absolutely. And, John, we know there's an increasing need to ensure that our mobility, safe mobility future is not only safe and secure, but equitable and access for all. So what are some of the innovations that you've been seeing that can ensure that there is going to be this benefit for everybody in this transition towards clean energy? And of course, talk touching maybe on some of the threats that are happening right now in the sector as well.
Yeah, so one of the really exciting things. So we've seen solar costs go down, we've seen wind costs go down. Now we've seen battery costs go down so that over the last 10 years, they've reduced about 82% in overall cost, which starts to make this economic story. You know, kind of that Sergio talked about possible, right? But if we get to 2050, and only half the planet, makes it to net zero, fundamentally, we've lost, right. So we do need to figure out the way to act as crewmates here and create the right ecosystems that build out successful dissemination of technologies that are that are clearly cost effective. And I've talked a bit about electric mobility, but it's also about hydrogen for things like shipping. It's also about things like sustainable aviation fuel for things like aviation that we need to pull together. But one example of a system level change where we're all acting as crewmates is that RMI worked together with the Government of India, alongside 130 companies, including a bunch of startups and some of the large entities like Walmart and Flipkart and others, some of the TNCs that are also there, to figure out a way to actually create demand for electric vehicles in the urban centres of India. Now, this is hugely important, not just from a carbon perspective, but from a pollution perspective and minimising the amount of toxic air there is in the urban environment. And together the cities that are these companies all created a standard for zero carbon deliveries of people of, of individuals using shared ride share. And in the first year, here, we've had over 100 million deliveries of zero emissions packages or people, right, that was done by a group working together, committing certifying and now India has committed to take this idea globally, and is helping to champion the process that it used here in a way that starts to build out that capacity of larger communities to address the challenge here, right now we've we've got, we've got big challenges. It's not like, we don't have a petroleum supply chain that is going to resist this right. And we don't have we have real actors and real business interests and real employment issues, and, and all different aspects of this change that need to be addressed. But if we work on it together, and if we recognise the fact that we really are on spaceship Earth, you're right, and we've got one planet that we've got to manage, we have the solutions, and we have the ability to come together and bring everyone along, and have everyone benefit from this, this better world that we can create.
Farah Nanji 17:20
Thank you and talking about Spaceship Earth and Nicole. How can you share with us, you know, some of your observations and work that you've done on how the development of new space based technologies will shape the future of transportation and communication on this planet?
Nicole Stott 17:37
Well, I mean, I think communication and transportation are some of the major ways we've seen the space influence already. Here on Earth, I think it's going to continue probably exponentially as especially as the energy issues start to get resolved. You know, I am all I am actually really hopeful for that transporter. And maybe it's not going to materialise in the way that we saw it on Star Trek with little, you know, glowy lights and the spinning thing, but but I feel like there's ways that we're going to be more collectively travelling because of what we're learning from flying in space. We might even be using spaceships to fly suborbital Li from point A to point B, that ends up causing less tissue with the environment than what we're doing with our current aviation model, or some hybrid of that. I think that's going to evolve over time. I think we don't even really know what we have to look forward to, except that I think it is going to have a very positive influence on communication and mobility in ways that we, you know, can't even really imagine.
Farah Nanji 18:50
And what about the future of space tourism?
Nicole Stott 18:52
I, I mean, I'm all for it. You know, I think that I think that tourism is something that it again opens our minds, it opens our hearts to the on wonder that's around us, I think we need to utilise the space based opportunity for that, as it's available, I would love to see I mean, I highly recommend the opportunity to fly in space. And the more people that have it, I think we'll have more appreciation for this. This fact that we live on a planet will want to come back like every astronaut, I know, and take action as a result of it and encourage action and others. And I just think it's part of the evolution that we're going to see and what's going on in in space tourism right now is really the baby steps that are allowing us to get to the point where space exploration from a commercial side especially is bringing to life the real underlying mission And of people like Bezos and Musk that is not about just suborbital flight, it's not about five minutes getting a, you know, going on a joy ride, it's about how do we lift the industrial issues that we're having off the planet into the relatively benign environment of space for the benefit of everyone on earth? How do we populate space in a way that allows us to utilise the resources in a more efficient and equitable way here on the planet? And how do we continue to realise that everything we're doing in space is ultimately about improving life on Earth?
Farah Nanji 20:41
Absolutely, really well said. So you as a fellow petrol head, I'd love for you to expand a little bit for our audience on how Formula E can impact the future of mobility?
Sergio De La Vega 20:52
Well, I think formula is being more of a of a message, right, I think is being started nine seasons ago, so nine years ago, as a, as a way to convey a message and amplify the message. Right? Formula II was trying to prove to the people that electric mobility was a fact. Right. I mean, at the end of the day is a show is a sport that conveys that message, right? And I think, is not the single driver of the adoption of mobility today. But he contributed to it. And I think God like that, we will see so many technologies that will be pushed through some sort of entertainment, like it was music, and those kinds of things also drive and induce behaviours, right. We're humans?
Farah Nanji 21:46
Of course, and what about some of the challenges moving forward? Were all opportunities for the sport?
Sergio De La Vega 21:53
For the sport? Look, I think motorsports is our living, you know, one of the best moments, so it's hard to find a threat. But definitely, you know, there's, there's, there's a threat to it, but just look at the end of the day, this is I think, for this purpose of this discussion, he has served its purpose, I mean, he has already conveyed the message. So I, you know, I see more companies, more sponsors, shifting from the more traditional motorsports with our fuel base, into this type of news border, a new lot of new eSports, which is not electronic, but electric sports, emerging. The audience's are very different are people that are, I will say, are more conscious, or more innovation driven. And, and again, we still have I mean, I still run into a lot of sceptical people about the future of mobility, electric mobility. I mean, their particular newspapers are very popular, widely read everyday that they are their detractors of mobility, right? I mean, there is a lot of misinformation about the availability of the materials are necessary to make batteries, I mean, the length of the life of the batteries. And so So I think, you know, challenges will be about we collectively understanding of finding the right way to do it. I mean, we can make mistakes, don't get me wrong. I mean, if we transition too fast, into electric mobility, the world's going to be chaos, and there's not going to be enough grid to charge your cell phone, you operate your refrigerator and charge your car. I mean, there are many challenges with it. And there's, this is not a magic is not a magic solution. Right. And there's got to be some sort of tolerance on all of us. And, and responsibility, we have to be very responsible, right? We just cannot assume that this is a solution. And let's go, let's go for it, man. Just
Farah Nanji 23:57
know, of course. And that's, of course, where due diligence plays a huge role as well, and accountability. And finally, as we wrap up this panel, I'd love to ask each one of you what are the new developments in mobility that you're most excited about? John, we can start with you.
Jon Creyts 24:11
Sure. I, I am excited by the pace and scale of technological development. I think hydrogen two years ago, you wouldn't even have considered it as being economic within the decade, we can now see very clear pathways, especially alongside some of the policy support that's been put out there, that within the next two to three years, we see hydrogen ramping at scale, which is a critical technology again, for some of the heavier duty transportation elements. When I think about, you know, kind of other innovation that's happening here. Sustainable aviation fuels similarly, we're seeing corporates come together in different ways to build up right now at cost five times. is more to buy sustainable aviation fuel than it does to buy traditional jet fuel. And none of us are willing to pay five times more per flight, right? So but corporations are starting to buy that down. And we're seeing policies come in that get these technologies on the learning curve and get us to a point where, within this decade, we can start chipping away at some of these real emission sectors that we really need to tackle. And it is, it is this constant social and technological and, you know, kind of system level innovation that I see as the greatest cause for hope right now.
Nicole Stott 25:40
Everything John said, because I think that's, I mean, that's at the heart of it. And then I am. So my husband and I already, like took our cars down to one, right, we looked at the way we operate, and we're like, okay, we can be down to one car, it's electric. But my, my hope is that I don't need to own a car. I'm really I am looking forward to the self driving. You know, rideshare really very thoughtful, deliberate transportation. And then that, to me extends to when I want to fly somewhere, how do I do that in the most thoughtful, sustainable way. And I think that it crosses all all areas of of mobility. And but but when we can get to the point where I don't even need to own a car and a place that traditionally you cannot just walk and get to places. I'm just really looking forward to that day.
Sergio De La Vega 26:43
Yeah, for me, we use energy to move energy, right? I mean, we use a three, three and a half tones. truck to move one tonne of cargo, right, we use a two tonnes car to move ourselves, we wait to 80 kilos, 90 kilo, right. So we use a we move, we spend most of our energy to move the vehicles that transport our goods and ourselves. And we started to see a lot of innovation on that right? I mean, electric assisted bicycles, three wheelers have been figured as the kind of project you're looking at in India, right? So I mean, a lot of solutions that in which we are starting to consider the weight of the vehicle in the wall equation. And that's what I see. It's a very simple formula. It's so obvious. And I see a lot of innovation happening over the next few years on that space. I mean, one, one thing that will allow us to do that is a very basic factor. I mean, a vehicle a normal vehicle and internal combustion vehicle concentrates a lot of weight in one point, which is the engine, right an electric vehicle, you can distribute the weight anywhere you want, because you put the batteries wherever you want, and then you make a very stable vehicle. You can make it lighter. I mean, there is that brings an enormous space for innovation.
Farah Nanji 28:03
Thank you so much. I really appreciate all of your thoughts and hopefully this has prompted some seeds for transformation on how we all collectively and individually approach the topic of mobility. That huge round of applause for our panellists.