As a smart grid pioneer and innovation enthusiast, I’ve spent the past year immersed in the world of DC Fast Charging and more broadly, Transportation Electrification. A couple of months ago, I agreed to take on this Design News writing project on the back of my enthusiasm for the transformative impact of bringing two foundational infrastructure areas together into one. I now firmly believe that merging transportation and electrification is nothing short of revolutionary in its potential to release efficiency and optimization – until some branding expert comes along with a better term, let’s use Transportation Electrification Transformation or TETra to describe this nascent revolution.
|TETra-based technology will converge with climate change urgencies to create massive and novel wealth and clean air options. (Image source: Washington State Department of Commerce)|
For starters, I believe this merger holds the key to release economic value that will drive innovation and new market entry. Beyond that, an historically massive driver for innovation will be found in mitigating the ecological risks of climate change emissions and implementing adaptation to address its damaging impacts in time to make a difference for our planet and future generations (i.e., regional resilience). In this and future columns, I’ll be exploring - from every angle I can imagine – this foundational thesis:
TETra-based technology and business model innovation will converge with climate change urgencies to create emergent massive and novel wealth and clean air options, to the point of restructuring global societies and economies.
When most at first glance would consider this thesis and these ideas to be wildly unfounded optimism, just what is it that makes me so optimistic in the face of creeping pessimism around climate change and confounding uncertainty over disruptive technologies? In short, we’ve already done this same thing, over and over – in my own lifetime…so why not again?
PCs 40 years ago. I’m old, so I learned to type on a 1940s manual typewriter in the fall of 1970 but still literally cut-and-pasted my handwritten notes to produce multiple college papers in the 70s and 80s. When PCs came along in the early 1980s, I was a late adopter, not understanding the full impacts. With a new MBA in 1994, I passed up a job at Dell – back when an MBA and a pulse got you a marketing job AND a gazillion stock options – because I didn’t feel I knew “enough” about technology. OK, Personal Lesson Learned.
Internet 25 years ago. When telecommunications and information technology (IT) merged to form new networks harnessing merged Information and Communications Technology (ICT), we witnessed a new revolution unfold as a new global network (the Internet), was paired with a mechanism for sharing online content (the World Wide Web), then a mobile version (Cellular & Smart Phones), and finally the rise of a new economy (Platforms & Apps). Now, we all have front row seats to a new normal, the ever-evolving, never-ending disruption of our societies, economies, and infrastructure as Internet giants and startups gobble up everything in sight.
Smart Grid 15 years ago. I was actively involved as a pioneer in applying these new ICT capabilities to digitize electric utility operations in the Smart Grid movement that arose around 2004 and has matured ever since. From back before Smart Grid was a term, when we called it the Intelligrid and I started and ran a project called GENIE (Geodesic Energy Network Information + Electricity), we’ve steadily modernized our grids worldwide with ICT infrastructure. Utilities are still grappling with the transformative changes of managing their grids with digitized enterprise and field integration, digital feedback loops, massive data & analytics, and automated processes … but they are on an essential path that builds on past innovation by combining information, communication, and electricity infrastructure.
Innovation five years ago and Transportation Electrification one year ago. I’ve been focused on technology and business model innovation in the electricity sector – productizing microgrids – and, in 2019, I’ve learned at an amazing clip as a neophyte in transportation electrification. True, we are at the very beginning of overcoming massive constraints and hurdles to address the gaps in efficiency by realizing the potential of this new TETra Revolution. Electrifying fleets and innovating fleet infrastructure will lead us to move beyond operating these two sectors as independent infrastructures and independent economies.
TETra Is The Next Revolution
The low hanging fruit of building a new, merged overlay fleet charging infrastructure will release all kinds of immediate efficiencies and drive spill-over impacts in the personal and passenger EV and sustainable energy marketplaces. TETra is our next revolution and it will be built on lessons learned from the revolutions listed in this article. We will all go faster because we’ve seen this story before. We know how it turns out in the end.
Technology review articles on the Design News website confirm my observations on the disruptive impact of TETra technologies coming our way in the months and years ahead. In this article looking backwards – The 15 Most Influential Technologies of the Decade: From breakthroughs and new innovations to established technologies, these are the inventions, gadgets, and trends that shaped the last decade. – I counted nine out of 15 technologies highlighted in bold below, which I’d put in the TETra category. A more liberal review might add a few more.
- 3D Printing
- Collaborative Robots
- Digital Twins
- Internet of Things
- LiIon Batteries
- The Mars Rovers
- Open Source
- Raspberry Pi
- Smart Phones
- VR, AR, MR, and XR (The new realities)
And in this Design News article looking forward at disruptive technologies – Transformational technologies that can change the world – I counted 11 of 20 technologies that I would consider drivers of TETra disruption, again highlighted in bold.
- 5G Networks
- Shared Mobility
- Advanced Plastic Recycling
- Solid State Batteries
- Protein Production
- Commercial Vehicle Automation
- Point of Use Sensing
- 3D Printing
- Energy Trading Platforms
- Natural Language Processing
- Hydrogen & Fuel Cells
- Materials Informatics
- Quantum Computing
- Last-Mile Delivery
- Battery Fast Charging
- 2D Materials
- Flow Batteries
- Vertical Farming
We’re at that time of year when it makes sense to look back, take stock, then look ahead with our imagination. There are many other articles of this type on Design News. I encourage you to ferret them out and, as you do, consider as I do the potential of all these technologies to drive our next big revolution, the Transportation Electrification Transformation or TETra. As you do, ask yourself how it could impact your life and career options. I know for certain that some of us will drive this wave, others will ride it, and many more will get in late – but without any doubt, this wave is coming and it’s going to be bigger than ever.
John Cooper is an energy entrepreneur and thought leader with 33 years of experience in a variety of pioneering roles and projects, and a nationally recognized innovator in energy. Since 2010, John has worked with innovative startups to accelerate DER penetration and carbon mitigation in cities, regions and countries. John’s consultant firm Ecomergence offers applied solutions to Transportation Electrification Transformation (TETra) with multiple benefits for the technology, utility, transportation and public sectors. John now serves as acting VP Business Development Americas for Tritium, a global leader in the rapidly growing DC fast charging industry.