25 Nov 2021

Podcast: Powering the future of mobility, with Verkor and InnoEnergy

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In this episode of One Step Ahead, our host Libby Potter takes a deep dive on a key component of the future mobility value chain – electric batteries.

With close to a quarter of global carbon emissions coming from the transport sector,1 phasing out internal combustion engines (ICE) in favour of electric vehicles (EV) will be essential in the race to Net Zero. Benoit Lemaignan, Co-founder and CEO of French battery maker Verkor, and Diego Pavia, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy, an EU-backed investor in sustainable energy projects, talk us through the challenges and opportunities in electrifying transport.

They explain why a rapid scaling up of battery production is needed to meet the growing demand for EVs, how battery recycling contributes to the circular economy, and why the new mobility business segment could be up to seven times bigger over the next decade.

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Benoit Lemaignan

Co-founder and CEO Verkor

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Diego Pavia

CEO EIT InnoEnergy

Below are a few edited highlights from the episode. You can listen to the full episode on your favourite podcast platform (including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher) or right here on the Lyxor ETF website:

Libby: In terms of energy for transport and mobility, can you explain why there is a need for innovation in this space, particularly in the context of reaching Net Zero emissions?

Diego:
Well, CO2 emissions at a worldwide scale are, as we all know, around 33 gigatonnes (Gt) per year; in Europe it’s around 5 Gt per year. There are three big contributors. The first is industry – steel, fertilisers, cement and so on. The second one is transport. And the third one is energy and electricity generation. All of them contribute more or less to a quarter of all CO2 emissions. So transport is something that is at our hand to transform into what we call the electrification of transport and mobility activities.

If we look at the main contributor in the transport area today, it is no doubt the burning of the fossil fuels that power our engines, be it in passenger cars or lorries. Tesla showed us the way, and that it can be done differently. For Europe it took three or four years to understand that electrifying the transport sector not only makes sense from an environmental point of view, but it also makes a lot of sense from a business point of view. (…)

Libby: Benoit, coming to you but staying with the topic of mobility and transport, what was your vision for Verkor when you set up the business?

Benoit: At the very beginning, I was personally deeply involved in how to decarbonise our economic system since 2007, when I left Airbus to join a consultancy. At that period in time I was struggling to find very impactful projects that could scale and transform our economy. When it comes to mobility, there is no limit to electrifying everything as much as possible and as fast as we can.

And to electrify, it requires two or three different things. The first one is that car manufacturers move to electric vehicles. The second need is to have important local production of batteries, because it’s useless to move to EVs to decarbonise the mobility system if we have to import batteries from elsewhere, and particularly from Asia. And the third reason is that we need to have companies and industries capable of producing those batteries locally in the right timeline.

All of that was clearly also started a few years ago now by Northvolt in Sweden and the Northern countries of Europe. There is an obvious need for more Northvolts, and more similar projects in other parts of Europe. So at the beginning of that, an encounter between myself as an entrepreneur and InnoEnergy led to a willingness to accelerate that sphere all over Europe. And being a former entrepreneur in the field of clean energy, I was willing to have more impact, and try to be faster in the industrialisation of those activities. (…)

Libby: Looking at the opportunities ahead, what kind of tailwinds are helping drive the adoption of electric vehicles?

Benoit: I think the first one, if you haven’t driven an EV, is that you need to drive one. An EV is such a cool thing – it’s exactly like when the iPhone came out. Everyone still had a Nokia 3310 and found out that the iPhone was more exciting. Nobody will come back to a simple touch phone again. I think it’s the same with an EV. Once you’ve jumped into using an EV on a daily basis, you can never come back to an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). It’s just not possible, simply because you don’t want to have your hands full of gasoline when you fill the tank, you don’t want to change the oil, and so on and so forth. (…)

It’s of course also much more cost-efficient, because again you don’t need to have that heavy maintenance, and you probably know that any EV today has a lifetime that is much more important than the lifetime of an ICE car. We have seen that a few Tesla cars – probably because they’re the oldest – have reached more than one million kilometres without any difficulties. (…)

Libby: Diego, a question on battery powered airplanes – surely we’re not far away from being able to replace short haul flights with electric flights?

Diego: Well, today there are already 19 seaters that do 500 kilometres offering that service. Again, the speed of innovation that Benoit mentioned before, is incredible. A full electric plane, a 19 seater – which is quite a lot – that is autonomous to make that journey, today is commercial. And a few years ago, it was maybe not even in anybody’s dream.

Catch up on the rest of the conversation – including topics from last mile deliveries to hyperloops – in the full episode of One Step Ahead.

Relevant ETFs

At the time of this podcast recording, the following companies in the new mobility value chain mentioned by our guests were held in our SFDR 8 compliant Lyxor MSCI Future Mobility ESG Filtered (DR) UCITS ETF (Bloomberg ticker: MOBI):

  • Tesla, the leading US electric car maker
  • Albemarle, a US specialist chemicals company with leading positions in lithium 
  • Johnson Matthey, a British specialist chemicals and sustainable tech company
  • Eramet, a French mining and metallurgy company with a focus on manganese and nickel extraction
  • Faurecia, a French automotive supplier with expertise in clean mobility

Equally, our SFDR 8 compliant Lyxor MSCI New Energy ESG Filtered (DR) UCITS ETF (ticker: NRJ), Lyxor MSCI Smart Cities ESG Filtered (DR) UCITS ETF (ticker: IQCT), and Lyxor MSCI Disruptive Technology ESG Filtered (DR) UCITS ETF (ticker: UNIC) hold Schneider Electric, a French provider of energy and digital solutions for efficiency and sustainability.

Our SDFR 9 compliant Lyxor Net Zero 2050 S&P Eurozone Climate PAB (DR) UCITS ETF, Lyxor Net Zero 2050 S&P Europe PAB (DR) UCITS ETF, and Lyxor Net Zero 2050 S&P World Climate PAB (DR) UCITS ETF whose holdings are selected and weighted to be collectively compatible with a 1.5°C global warming climate scenario hold multinational automotive manufacturer Stellantis who announced in July 2021 a €30bn+ commitment to its electric vehicle lineup through 2025.

Finally, our SFDR 9 compliant Lyxor Green Bond (DR) UCITS ETF (ticker: CLIM) and Lyxor Corporate Green Bond (DR) UCITS ETF (ticker: PLAN) hold green bonds issued by Volkswagen, the proceeds of which are earmarked to help finance their electric vehicle programme.

Learn more about our Thematic ETFs

1 “https://www.wri.org/insights/everything-you-need-know-about-fastest-growing-source-global-emissions-transport

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