The Future of Cleantech

A Conversation with Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO, Ethical Electric Company; Dan Kapp, Director, Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Co.; and Tony Lammers, President and CEO, MAR Systems; hosted by Sheeraz Haji, CEO, Cleantech Group

DK: By next year, we’ll have Ecoboost offered in about 1/2. We continue to expand our hybrid offerings, and will bring to market plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Bringing all of these offerings available on the same vehicle frame, customizable according to desire and affordability.

Plug-ins will certainly play a role.

SH: Working with Sun Power and OEMs?

DK: We’ve always working in partnerships, but this transition to seamless electric vehicles, we’ve worked with more partners. Eg. Microsoft on Ford Sync, which helps customers with charging capabilities.

Also partnering with Toyota to develop rear-wheel drive for larger vehicles.

SH: Natural gas as transportation fuel?

DK: Primarily targeted toward commercial fleets that aren’t linked to an infrastructure. Tied to an installation of infrastructure, which takes time and commitment. From vehicle technology perspective, you’d have to dedicate the vehicle to CNG.

TM: Ethical Electric startup retail electricity supplier. 40% of the country has the option to buy from alternate suppliers. Will be 100% renewable.

First aggregate demand, sign up customers, then use their market power to bring it into the marketplace. Allows us to become virtual utility. Don’t own powerlines, but own the relationship with the customers.

Deregulated markets allow for a lot of opportunity.

Business model innovation: Can offer free smart thermostat, take that data, stick it in cloud, justify power purchasing.

SH: Why will you be able to get people to care?

TM: Essentially we have a marketing problem, but people fix that problem all the time. We’re going to be partnering with national membership organizations. Just partnered with Sierra Club.

SH: Who else is out there?

TM: Some companies in Europe. Occio in Netherlands, Green Peace Energy in Germany.

For our customers, price is not what they’re looking for. If our products cost an extra 7-8 dollars a month, our customers may not even notice it.

TL: Water is v. important entity and energy water nexus is important: Takes a lot of energy to move water, a lot of water to make energy.

Most new alternative energies consume more water than traditional power plants. Ethanol takes 1000X more water than an oil well. Water reuse is a big water industry issue.

SH: Is it hard to innovate?

TL: Water industry is very traditional. How do you get it to adopt innovation? Engineering driven, Sales adoption cycles are very long.

SH: What’s the winning business model?

TL: We use wastewater, which doesn’t generate water for anybody. Cost, efficiency are big deals. VCs aren’t interested in water projects.

TM: We’re in the middle of fundraising now. There have not been enough exits to create angel community for seed stage. Been raising money from people who know the internet. It’s hard for clean tech startups to get the money they need.

TL: We’ve been funded by a number of organizations. Ohio has strong seed funding community. You just have to have a compelling business plan to get funded. In water industry, tech driven opportunities are getting funded: IT infrastructure, SAS, etc.

SH: What role do corporates play?

DK: Some competitors do more VC, but we dont. We work with partners, universities, suppliers, IT generation. It’s become clear that in this new connectivity space, autos are entering another realm. Just opened a lab in Silicon Valley.

SH: Does it all come down to policy?

TM: Largely what we’re trying to innovate in the absence of policy.

TL: Can’t have policy conversation without bringing clean water into conversation.

DK: Plenty of policy to drive efficiency of our vehicles. The bigger question is what will drive the market?

Amory Lovins: How is weight reduction going?

DK: Initially, we’re downsizing engines as we have opportunities. Continuing to do research in carbon fiber and more exotic alternatives, making them commercially viable.

SH: In ten years, what’s the surprise area?

TL: Water sufficiency. Global problem, and we’ll be solving it.

TM: India and China: Power needs in different economy.

DK: What is transportation? Tremendous growth in population, urbanization? What are cars and transportation means going to look like?