Day two of ACT Expo kicked off with a packed house for the Dana keynote presentation, followed by a deep dive into the future of zero-emission infrastructure with the executive roundtable.
After a quick welcome and intro by GNA CEO Erik Neandross, Dana CEO Jim Kamsickas took the stage with a history lesson that seemed to be repeating itself. Looking back close to 200 years ago, Kamsickas reflected on the early days of the mobility industry. Inventors at the turn of the 20th century were confronted many of the same challenges the engineers of today are facing, including infrastructure, fuel sources, and costs.
“Remarkably, the history of electric vehicles reaches back nearly 200 years,” said Kamsickas, discussing Scottish inventor Robert Anderson, who introduced a horseless carriage with single-use batteries. “It was a true inspiration for the inventors who would follow him. Throughout the mid 1800s, as the need for more efficient movement of people and goods continued, electric innovations persisted with the prototype electric carriages and locomotives, and rechargeable batteries were introduced in 1859.”
Highlighting the innovations and advancements made in social media, online shopping, and artificial intelligence, Kamsickas admitted that the mobility industry does not always come to mind in terms of rapid technological shifts, but that is changing.
“We are in the midst of disruptive change in commercial transportation,” said Kamsickas. “The convergence of innovative technology around us has influenced the way we develop our vehicles, with software becoming the defining force for connectivity, autonomy, tracking, and predictive maintenance.”
To make this change, Kamsickas called for immediate and courageous action. With increased government mandates, corporate investment in developing new technologies, and industry trade associations setting new standards, the industry is in a prime position to move forward, according to the Dana CEO, adding, “we are in it together.”
Innovative Stakeholders Lead Infrastructure Discussion
Led by Sherry Sanger, executive vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer for Penske Transportation Solutions, the panel included stakeholders from the broad spectrum of fueling providers, vehicle manufacturers, and utilities, some with their own fleets to consider when looking to reach zero-emission goals.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Sustainable Transportation and Fuels Michael Berube was first to address the audience. Berube works within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
“2040 is an awful long way off,” began Berube, who then explained that, on a federal level, his office is working with partners across the transportation space in an attempt to develop a decarbonization blueprint. “One of the key things is that we need to be close to [being] fully deployed across every sector in 2035.”
A considerable amount of focus, according to Berube, is on the infrastructure, adding that the industry is “never going to hit our goal for decarbonization if we don’t get the infrastructure there. So we’re very much focused on working with utilities.”
Panelist Nuray Elci, general manager of renewables at Chevron, next explained her company’s approach to the infrastrucuture question, taking a balanced approach to address the needs of today, as well as 2030 and 2040.
“As a company, we’re really focused on making sure that any solution that we focus on in the energy transition is affordable, it’s reliable, and it’s lower carbon,” continued Elci. “We’re looking at a multi solution world again. We think it’s a journey, so we are going from having renewable diesel solutions, biodiesel solutions, compressed natural gas linked to renewable natural gas solutions, as well as hydrogen. It’s a journey, it’s not a cliff, and we’re looking forward to meeting our customers on that journey.”
Pasquale Romano, president and CEO of ChargePoint, brought the solution provider perspective to the panel, discussing some less discussed benefits of moving to zero emissions.
“I actually think we’re missing the biggest benefit to society with respect to electrification, and the biggest benefit is actually we’re going to reduce the cost of living,” said Romano. “Energy and transportation costs are built in absolutely everything, so if you can reduce transportation costs, you can reduce energy costs.”
Romano went on to discuss the three simultaneously evolving arcs of energy transition, transportation electrification transition, and the rise of machine learning and autonomy.
“You’ll never get the timeframe exactly right, so don’t even try just assume that there’s a dot on the horizon where all those problems get solved,” said Romano. “In 2040, we’re going to be a lot farther along than we are today on all of those arcs.”
Transitioning to the OEM perspective, Ford Pro CEO Ted Cannis called his company’s approach more pragmatic.
“We have a lot of customers in this room, and what I’ve got is a lot of customers who don’t know how to make the transition, and they don’t have advance solutions,” said Cannis. “The electric vehicle is electrons on wheels — it’s another smartphone — and we needed to come up with a better answer.”
Cannis then went on to describe Ford Pro as a productivity and sustainability solutions for commercial fleet customers, giving them an end-to-end solution.
“The speed of the start is going to determine the path at the end, and the start is complicated,” added Cannis.
Mark Esguerra, director of distribution planning and strategy at Southern California Edison, was the final panelist to address the crowd, focusing on how the electric grid will look in 2040.
“We expect that the grid is actually going to change significantly from how it’s designed today,” said Esguerra. “The dependence on the grid is going to be that much more, so we’re expecting to see higher reliance, in addition to all the different climate drivers that are going on. We’re designing for this grid — there’s climate resilient, adaptive storms, floods, wildfires, in addition to electrification. We have multiple drivers to fix, to address, and [we] really want to make sure we integrate as many of those drivers into a well thought-out integrated plan for the community. When we think of 2040, we think of this reimagined grid that’s going to look different. That’s going to be very exciting to see how it all unfolds.”