Our Insights

British Columbia: Canada's clean tech powerhouse

By Jennifer Marron, RBC Disruptors

As the world hunts for solutions to the global emissions crisis, many are putting their faith in the technology sector. In Canada, that’s transformed the Greater Vancouver Area—home to 25% of the country’s clean tech companies—into a beacon of hope.

British Columbia’s lush landscape of forests, ocean and mountains isn’t the only reason it’s been referred to as Canada’s “green” province. Today, more than 98% of B.C.’s electricity is generated from clean or renewable resources. Its emissions per capita is among the lowest of all Canadian provinces. And its capital, Vancouver, has become a magnet for innovative firms tackling climate change.

According to the Vancouver Economic Commission, approximately 70% of B.C.’s 200+ clean tech companies are based in the city, employing more than 3,500 people. The area is also home to the world’s largest hydrogen and fuel cell industries, with a 16% global market share.

The second episode in our special, “Disruptors: The Climate Conversations” features a hands-on journey through the heart of B.C.’s Clean Tech Valley, where host John Stackhouse met with several companies working to decarbonize Canada’s economy: carbon capture innovator Svante Inc., fuel-cell manufacturer Loop Energy and electric motorcycle pioneer Damon Motors Inc.

Decades of innovative, green policy from both city and provincial governments have made Vancouver a clean tech hub for companies like these. Having instituted the world’s first carbon tax in 2008, the city embraced game-changing goals and strategies, including the Greenest City Action Plan and the 100% Renewable Strategy.

Today, Vancouver is at the forefront of global innovation, especially in fuel cell solutions, power electronics, and waste/wastewater treatment technologies. And the world is taking notice. The city was recently recognized as one of the world’s top three clean tech ecosystems by Startup Genome, a finding not all that surprising, considering 13 of the world’s top 100 clean tech firms are Canadian, as reported by the Global Cleantech 100 report.


Speaker 1 [00:00:01] Hi, it’s John here. I’m in Vancouver. And if you want to see the future of clean technology, there are few places in the world that will give you a better view. Twenty five percent of Canada’s clean tech companies are here. This is maybe the Global Center for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and all sorts of other technologies that will change the way we live, manufacture, travel and consume, and can also help the rest of the world transform the way we use energy. In episode one of our climate series, you heard about the great challenge Canada is facing to balance energy security and climate security. It’s possible it’s going to cost a lot $80 billion of investment that we’re going to need to generate as a country, and it’s going to take new technologies. And to get there, we’re going to need innovation at a scale we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. I had the opportunity to talk recently with Marty Reed. He’s a long time investor who moved from Silicon Valley to Vancouver in 2015 to launch Evok Innovations. And I asked him where some of the most exciting areas are right now for clean tech.

 

Speaker 2 [00:01:09] Certainly, carbon capture is top of the headlines along with hydrogen. Those are kind of two areas that have just generated enormous attention. I think we absolutely have solutions today that are proven and able to scale, and we can’t use any excuse to delay that path. In parallel, though, we know we need real true innovation to get ultimately where we need to get. And so it really is a all paths strategy. Innovation will be critical, but at the same time, there are solutions today that we can’t be dragging our feet on deploying.

Speaker 1 [00:01:43] Marty, I think, is speaking to one of the fundamental challenges of the transition for Canada, and that’s that we need to get a lot more comfortable with risk. We’re going to have to take chances and invest a significant amount of money in technologies that have yet to be proven at scale. We don’t have time to wait for the perfect business case to be presented. Instead, we’re going to have to make a number of bets and count on some of them paying off big time. This is Disruptors, an RBC podcast. I’m your host, John Stackhouse. On today’s episode, we’re taking a road trip through Clean-Tech Valley and meeting some of the innovators in BC’s burgeoning clean tech sector. British Columbia is in many ways showing us how to do it. It’s been a leader in North America in both policy and private sector investment, and it’s not only changing the economy and society all around me here, but also demonstrating the economic opportunity that could bring in a new era of sustainable growth for all Canadians. So stay with us as we travel through Greater Vancouver and meet some of the entrepreneurs who have set out to transform the decade ahead. We’re at the entrance of 70, which two people familiar with the Clean-Tech space is a Canadian champion for carbon capture and sequestration.

Speaker 2 [00:03:14] Hi there. Hi, I’m John. Hi, John. Nice to meet you.

Speaker 1 [00:03:17] Great to meet you.

Speaker 2 [00:03:19] So my name is Matt Stevenson. I’m the CFO of Svante. I’d been here for I think about seven years now and joined the company halfway through its development. This is our pilot manufacturing facility. And so today this is where we make the actual filter bids that capture CO2. And you know, we have an operating plant sketch when we’re building another one right now for Chevron in California, and this is where we actually produced today, the beds for those plants. We also have engineering and manufacturing staff here. And so what’s really exciting for us is we’re going to be moving. If you just look out at about five minutes that way to the south, to a brand new one hundred and forty thousand square foot facility, which was going to house all of our R&D or manufacturing, our new manufacturing line and some of our product prototyping. So it’s it’s an exciting transition for us.

Speaker 1 [00:04:05] Before we go any further, explain the name Svante.

Speaker 2 [00:04:09] Yeah, this is this is where we reveal our inner geek as a company. We also take savant that we’re find to be CO2 savants. But this font is named after Sun Arrhenius, and in the 1890s he was one of the first scientists to put down on paper. The connection between CO2 in the atmosphere and rising temperatures. So this is well understood physics. However, there’s another connection to us, which is he was sort of a chemical engineer before chemical engineers existed, and then he was putting together a lot of disciplines at the time, physics and chemistry, and he came up with something called the or any US law, which is a law that every chemical engineer and many other engineers learn in their undergrads about the connection between the rate, the speed at which you do something and the temperature. In fact, our adsorption process is a rapid cycle process and relies on that principle. We actually use the erroneous law in the in our daily business. And so it’s got a it’s got a few connections to the company.

Speaker 1 [00:05:04] Matt, we’re now in your office and we’re looking at a plastic model, I can’t help but think of childhood visions of a toy garage I used to have where you could take the Mattel cars I think they were and make them go around the circular ramp, going up to the parking garage on the roof. I don’t think any of my friends as a kid had a plastic model of a carbon capture unit because it was just born in the wrong century.

Speaker 2 [00:05:29] Well, I suppose we’re always been a little bit ahead of our time, although the times are catching up. You know, we created this quick model. We wanted it to be as simple as we think our process is, which is to have a solid state filter material that absorbs the CO2 and then regenerates it and purifies it. And does that in a really simple piece of equipment and does it very quickly. And so that’s what you see here. You see a simple device. So it’s a

Speaker 1 [00:05:50] big circle with plastic pieces, red, orange, yellow that you can move around. And I’m trying not to just start playing with that because it looks like fun.

Speaker 2 [00:06:02] You absolutely can. You’re welcome to. Yeah. Each of the colored sort of representations of ducks is showing a step of the cycle. So, you know, in the red duck, we’re showing flue gas would be flowing through this duct. The next duck, that’s orange. You would have steam coming in and regenerating the CO2. So you now have just water and CO2. If you cool it down, you have purified CO2. And then the yellow step is where you’re cooling down the absorbent and making it ready again to absorb CO2 from flue gas. And what you see here in the black material is a representation of our structured absorbent beds. So these are simple filter units that we put in this rotor, and it just rotates through each step of the process, absorbing the CO2, deserving the CO2 and being cooled down. And what you get in this material is something that’s very modular, very scalable and very low cost.

Speaker 1 [00:06:49] So this model is, I’m guessing, two feet in diameter. What does a real unit look like?

Speaker 2 [00:06:55] Yeah. So if you think about our existing pilot plant in Saskatchewan, that’s capturing 10000 tonnes per year of CO2, that’s four meters in diameter as we scale it up. We actually do it as a big, tall roadster with a big hole in the center. And when you get up to, you know, a 14 meter diameter, it’s only one or two meters wide and that’s capturing, you know, could be a thousand tons per day of CO2 or 350000 tons per year. And then we have larger device designs up to 24 meters and outside diameter that could do, you know, a million tonnes per year of CO2.

Speaker 1 [00:07:29] Can we go see the some of the real stuff?

Speaker 2 [00:07:31] Absolutely. I’d love to show you that.

Speaker 1 [00:07:35] We’re now entering the main part of the industrial facility where the brains of 70 look to be part and work hard.

Speaker 2 [00:07:42] That’s right. Yeah, so we stepped into our pilot manufacturing line. So this is the day where we actually produce our structured absorb and filter beds that are operating today in the field and our pilot plant in Saskatchewan soon to be operating in a plant with Chevron in California. And we’ll walk through the process of making our filter beds, you know, sort of in the sequence that I showed you, which is you’re starting with absorbent powder, you’re turning that into a slurry. You’re coating that slurry into a thin film. You’re then printing dots, stacking it and forming it into a structured absorbent than the unit

Speaker 1 [00:08:16] you’re talking about. Might look like maybe a big window inside a box that you might buy at the Home Depot. How many of these would you need for a unit of that size that would capture a million tonnes?

Speaker 2 [00:08:31] Forty eight of these will capture 10000 tons of CO2, and it’s relatively linear from there. So if you want to capture a million tonnes per year of CO2, you’re looking at not tens of thousands, but you know, thousands of these units right here that are organized again into 48 modules that are repeatable.

Speaker 1 [00:08:53] So thousands of these units to make a one megaton facility work and just to give people a sense of the demand that may be out there as a country, we’re going to have to deal with 40, 50, 60 megatons of carbon capture, depending on your perspective over the next over the next decade. So we’ll need hundreds of thousands of these units, whether they come from 70 or plenty of others entering the space. How many of these can you produce in a given month?

Speaker 2 [00:09:23] I’ll put it in a different way. What we’re scaling up across the street and our new manufacturing facility is going to be able to do 10 one million tonne per year capture plants every year. So if you were to think about 40 or 50 megatons in Canada around the oilsands decarbonization, then you’re talking about four or five years worth of production out of that manufacturing facility.

Speaker 1 [00:09:48] We’re back in the boardroom. Thanks for the tour. Matt, tell us a bit about what sectors you think are ready to go with carbon capture and where you’re looking for acceleration.

Speaker 2 [00:09:59] We’re seeing a lot of interest across the hard to beat industries, so that’s from oil and gas, petrochemicals, hydrogen generation, which we see really is a rapidly scaling market through to cement and steel industry. So we see a lot of interest across the board. And really what it comes down to is where are the projects where all of the factors are coming together? So that includes the pricing regulatory regime and also local factors like energy prices, availability of renewables, et cetera.

Speaker 1 [00:10:29] We’re going to have to do a lot of this in a very short period of time. And one of the questions that’s often asked about CCU technologies is can it work at scale? You’re doing pilot projects. They seem to be working, but they’re going to have to be much bigger. Do we just have to take a chance on that because we don’t have time to gradually ratchet up what we do? And how should we get our heads around that, that big bat and all the risks that go with it?

Speaker 2 [00:10:55] I think you can take smart, calculated risks in the DNA of 70 is doing everything at Gigaton scale. So even when we’re doing a small pilot plant, we’re thinking about doing it in a way that’s massively scalable. So I think when it comes to the risk of scale up, you don’t have to take wild risks. You can take really smart risks when it comes to project execution and technology. I think what we need to see to help projects move forward is to remove some of the business and commercial risk associated with the regulatory and pricing environment. We really need to see stability and strength in carbon pricing to allow a large number of these projects to take off.

Speaker 1 [00:11:29] What do you say to people who say all that’s good, but doesn’t this just become a cover for more oil and gas production, which is what we ultimately need to bend the curve on?

Speaker 2 [00:11:40] I understand that argument, but I think, you know, the energy transition is about four pillars in our view. So it’s about electrify as much as you can. It’s about a massive deployment of renewables. It’s about the use of hydrogen for hard to decarbonize aspects of the economy, and it has to be about carbon capture and removal. If we’re going to hit our net zero goals in 2050 or our global climate targets around 1.5 degrees Celsius, the the global energy economy is a is a complicated system with a lot of inertia. It’s not going to transition immediately tomorrow. And while we go through that transition, we need to be decarbonizing it to ensure that we’re meeting our climate goals. In today’s world, when people are focused on energy security, it’s even more important that while we’re going through that energy transition, we’re decarbonizing the fossil fuel side of the picture.

Speaker 1 [00:12:28] Matt, before we get back on the road down the hydrogen highway, one last question can you remind? Food of ARTIGO was again

Speaker 2 [00:12:36] spontaneous, one of the first scientists to write down on paper the connection between CO2 in the atmosphere and a warming climate, and we certainly owe him a great debt of gratitude.

Speaker 1 [00:12:45] I hope someone in memoriam makes him an honorary Canadian. Thanks for your

Speaker 2 [00:12:50] time. I’m certain we would do so. Thanks very much, John.

Speaker 1 [00:12:57] We’re now in North Burnaby at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, it’s gorgeous. And right before me next to the cherry blossoms is a big hydrogen tank. It’s part of Loop, which is the next clean tech company. We’re going to visit. They do something with fuel cells, which I don’t really understand, but hopefully after this interview, we’ll all have it figured out. Welcome to Loop. We’ll open the door and get inside.

Speaker 2 [00:13:28] So I’m Rob Stevenson, director of technical services here at Leute. So what we’re looking at is two mock ups of the modules that we currently produce in this facility. So this unit up on top here, that’s a 30 kilowatt capable unit. We’ll get into some of the power rangers a little bit later in the tour and then underneath it is 60 kilowatt capable unit. What that does is if you feed it hydrogen, you feed it air and coolant circuit. It will provide that power to charge a battery bank or power vehicle.

Speaker 1 [00:13:59] All right. Thanks, Rob. Let’s go inside. Go inside. Yeah.

Speaker 2 [00:14:05] So this clean room is a facility that we put in about three years ago to build our stacks or stacks or the power producing unit within our fuel cell modules there, where we introduce hydrogen and oxygen into alternating series of what we call unit cells to create electricity. So those stacks are what we build inside this clean room. And the two individuals that you see in there right now are in the midst of building one and getting it ready to put it into a product.

Speaker 1 [00:14:36] So a tech time out here? Can you explain what a fuel cell is and what you do with it?

Speaker 2 [00:14:44] Certainly. So, yeah, fuel cells are a mix of two main components. One is the stack, which we just talked about being produced within this clean room. The other main series of components within the module are a fuel so module are called the balance of plant. The balance of plant provide all the necessary gases and fluids to keep the stacks alive and produce electricity. So we introduce hydrogen. We introduce oxygen via air. And then we create using the chemical reaction. We create electricity out of that and we remove heat. We extract heat from it using a coolant system.

Speaker 1 [00:15:22] So it looks like a big box of energy, kind of a magic box energy.

Speaker 2 [00:15:26] That’s a good explanation for it.

Speaker 1 [00:15:28] Do I have to put hydrogen into it or does it come preloaded?

Speaker 2 [00:15:32] You do. So typically, the hydrogen will be provided by a tank system that will be part of the integration work that we do when we put this unit into the hands of a customer. And they’ll have that as a high pressure gas supply that they will connect to the bulkhead fittings on the other side of the module from what you see here and keep all our integration connection points in one area to make it easier for the customer to plug and play the product into their application.

Speaker 1 [00:16:00] And do customers need to go to a central depot like a hydrogen station to plug and play? Or would they have that at their own, at their own site?

Speaker 2 [00:16:08] It’s yeah, it’s a very good question. The infrastructure is traditionally lagged the development of the hydrogen network, essentially, and it’s it’s been perpetual in that, but it’s really accelerating quickly that we see in places like California, places like Europe, there’s a there’s a real acceleration like almost like an inflection point has been hit here at the establishment of hydrogen fueling stations for vehicles, and that’s getting more and more play. Lots of that going on in China as well. Lots of fuel cell vehicles in operation there that are being fueled at stations. They can also be delivered to site depending on your application through industrial gas suppliers. All right. All right.

Speaker 1 [00:16:50] And then I’m sorry, I’m interrupting reporting. OK, great to see you.

Speaker 3 [00:16:55] Hey, John, it’s great to have you at the facilities. I’m Ben Nyland, CEO of Loop Energy. Looking forward to showing you around today.

Speaker 1 [00:17:02] So we’re now walking up Burnaby Mountain to the other Office of Loop. I’ve got to pause and admire this address. It is 20 700 production way and one innovation place, which kind of says you can’t have innovation without production and you can’t have good production without innovation. So take us inside Ben. All right,

Speaker 3 [00:17:24] let’s go on in. This section we’re walking through here is the engineering department. So lots of folks working here. We’re actually going to be reconfiguring this shortly to

Speaker 1 [00:17:34] accommodate the

Speaker 3 [00:17:35] growth that we’re getting in the employees. So this is they’re nicely spaced out now it’s going to get a little bit tighter over the next little while.

Speaker 1 [00:17:41] And how many employees do you have now?

Speaker 3 [00:17:43] We’re just about 100 employees at this point. And when we did our IPO last year, we were around 40. So we’ve grown quite dramatically.

Speaker 1 [00:17:51] Where do you think you’ll be in a year from now? The objective is to have doubled close to double what needs to happen out there in the market for Luke to flourish for years to come?

Speaker 3 [00:18:01] Well, I think the good news is that starting to happen, the fact that energy security is now aligning with climate change to provide real momentum in this direction, I think there’s been desire by governments to put in regulation. Companies want to move in this direction, but they need to see the economic benefits. And so that alignment, the fixing of the chicken and egg problem, where’s the hydrogen going to come from? You need hydrogen before fuel cells. Well, you need fuel cells to know you’re going to consume. The hydrogen is getting fixed because of the alignment of energy security and climate change. So what needs to happen is an abundant supply of hydrogen that is reasonable cost that can be accessed by those who are using fuel cell systems. And the good news is that’s happening in spades in Europe. In China, significant pushes in that direction, and we’re now starting to see that in North America, there are projects in Alberta and Ontario and Quebec to get hydrogen corridors set up. And so that momentum that’s happening in China, in Europe is now translating into North America as well.

Speaker 1 [00:19:03] And you’re aiming for heavy vehicles, trucks, busses, fleet operators are going to need to make changes. They are making changes. We’ve certainly seen municipalities, for instance, lead the way. But the big fleet operators, retailers, shippers and the like are going to have to replace their fleets. What’s it going to take for them to move at scale?

Speaker 3 [00:19:26] So many of them have deployed battery electric vehicles in their fleets to test those out. We’ve talked to some of the biggest fleets in the world logistics fleets. There are companies like Amazon, for instance, who have established Hydrogen Strategy Group within Amazon. And you think Amazon is a retailer? They have a huge logistics fleet. They see hydrogen as being part of that and hydrogen being a key part of the solution. So, so really, they need to see something that they can count on at scale. So that means reliability in the vehicles proving the technology. It also means being able to fuel those vehicles effectively and deploy them across the fleets. And so that’s where we when we talk to fleet operators, they really want to see vehicles that accommodate their cargo requirements that accommodate their range requirements and accommodate their operational requirements. So many of these vehicles operate 16, 17, 18 hours a day. They can’t necessarily be plugged in with batteries, right? Batteries are great in certain applications, but there are many applications where batteries don’t fit. And what we’re finding is when fleet operators are sensitive to distance to range, they’re sensitive to cargo limitations and operating hours. That’s where fuel cells really come into play. So as fuel becomes more available, as hydrogen becomes more available, they will be in a better position to scale those fleets.

Speaker 1 [00:20:43] You’re a global company. Growth in Asia and Europe, China specifically. How far behind is North America? When you look at those other regions,

Speaker 3 [00:20:53] well, I guess this is probably a good news. Bad news story, right? So in terms of motivation, in terms of programs, in terms of momentum, we are well behind. There are serious programs, serious amounts of money flowing in. You know, the Canadian government just announced a $9 billion program for Canada. This spread across many, many sectors. Germany, France and Spain have all announced seven eight nine billion euro programs specifically directed at hydrogen, right? And so there’s a level of focus in these other areas that we don’t have yet. So that’s kind of the bad news piece we’re well behind. But the good news is they made those decisions relatively recently. So. So China made those decisions five 10 years ago when they realized hydrogen was important to energy security. Europe has just been making those decisions in the last two or three years. And so it’s a matter of making those decisions and making those commitments and really in it from a time perspective, we’re not that far behind. And from a technology perspective, Vancouver is the cradle of fuel cell technology. We have great trucking companies in North America. Cummins is one of is possibly the leading diesel engine manufacturer in the world. Well, they own 20 percent of lube. They’re interested in this space. They just need to have certainty that the commercial offtake is going to be there when they develop those products.

Speaker 1 [00:22:13] We’ve all heard for many years about the hydrogen highway. Before we go, I wonder if we can just pop over to the window and take a look at our weather event? Absolutely. You bet. Coming up after the break, our third and final stop along BC’s hydrogen highway, so stay right there.

Speaker 4 [00:22:35] You’re listening to Disruptors, an RBC podcast. I’m Theresa Do. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a defining moment for global energy markets as governments and consumers grapple with energy shortages and high gas and power bills. Climate change targets are clashing with energy security measures. Coming soon, a new RBC Economics and thought leadership report on how Canada can play a role in calming nervous oil markets in the short run and develop a framework for a competitive and decarbonize oil and gas sector for the long haul. The world’s going to need it. To learn more. Check out the link in the show notes of this episode and visit our bbc.com slash thought leadership.

Speaker 1 [00:23:17] Welcome back. On today’s episode, we’re speaking with some of the innovators in the heart of BC’s Clean Tech Valley. Each in different ways working to reduce emissions across Canada. Our first stop was 70, a carbon capture company transforming both fossil fuel based electricity generation and industrial processes. And We Just left Loop Energy, which produces hydrogen fuel cell systems for the automotive and power generation sectors. On the last stop of our journey, we’ll meet a serial entrepreneur who’s bringing his passion for the open highway to the world of EVs. The team of motorcycle? Hey, hi, it’s John Stark host to seek at 2:30 Finance. Beyond these doors is the future of motorcycling. I’m going to go inside and see what that future looks like. My name is Jay Jro, and I’m the founder and CEO at Daymond Motorcycles. We do some of the development here and we do some of the development in San Rafael. We’ll go upstairs just because it’s beautiful up there. And this is the picture of the factory that’s being built in Northview, Surrey, just on the south side of the patellar bridge, two hundred and eight thousand square foot factory to build up to 40000 thousand motorbikes a year. Those motorcycles that will build at the Northview factory will be the hyperdrive based bikes, and I’ll show you guys hyperdrive downstairs. The hyperdrive system is a battery pack and a powertrain train, and it’s all the electronics and the air and a collision warning system, all in the shape of a motorcycle without wheels. And that means we can mount suspension and wheels and bodywork plastic to turn hyperdrive into any kind of motorcycle. We want a true EV platform for motorbikes. So I’m going to get you to back up literally to the day you got the dream for this. Everyone’s been talking about electric vehicles, but we always think Tesla or other cars. When did you think of an electric motorcycle? I got the idea for electric motorcycles. I guess when Vector X made an electric motorbike that was around twenty seven twenty eight, they had a really sexy looking electric motorbike. And at the time I was starting an electric car company called Ref-. So here in Vancouver, we did electric SUVs and pickup trucks that we sold to the US Army and US utility companies amidst Paladins province of B.C. in Ontario. And they were very unique EVs in that they could feed energy back into the power grid so they can be plugged into a charging station and they could push energy out of the vehicle into the power lines to balance supply and demand on the grid. But during that time, I was lusting after this Vector X company and another electric motorbike company called Mission, who we’ve since acquired at Damon. So I guess I’ve been thinking about electric motorbikes and I thought, That’s wonderful. I love writing, but that has no purpose. Like, what’s the purpose of making electric motorbikes electric? But, you know, fast forward all the way to 2016. I was in Jakarta riding a motorbike around twenty two million other daily riders, and I thought, Oh, there’s a real purpose to motorbikes being electric and of course, air quality and all of that. And then, you know, dodging trucks and crashing my motor bike on the sidewalk in in Jakarta. The safety issue became more paramount. You know, if you crash a motor bike here, it’s bad, but you’re not going to get run over by 50 more. But there is really, really bad. And so that kind of, you know, I guess over those eight years came to a realization that we need to reinvent motorcycling. OK, let’s go back downstairs. Jay, tell us about the production goals that you’ve set out. You showed us the picture of the plant that’s going up. So we’re on track to start production at the end of the year. We’ve got twenty two hundred or so orders growing at a hundred and fifty or two hundred a month. Three quarters of orders come out of the US. And of those a quarter out of California, probably not too surprising, 13 percent of North America is electric. Cars are sold into Vancouver and B.C.. And so the demand, you know, not just here but everywhere for electric vehicles is really, really high. How big do you think the market is? Oh, it’s eventually it’s 100 percent of the market. It’s enormous. I mean, it’s worldwide. It’s one hundred and forty four billion. It’s 160 million motorcycles sold annually around the world. And how many of those wish it to be electric? Not everyone, not everyone. Today, the average motorcycle customer is fifty seven years old in North America. The average Damon customer is thirty seven young people, twenty five to thirty five years old. They don’t learn how to drive cars with gears, and so they’re intimidated to drive a motorcycle with gears. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to ride a motorbike, but they expect technology. They expect system integration with their phones, they expect integration to the cloud. They expect it to be safer. They expect it to be easy. They expect it to be clean and silent as well. How is the riding experience different? Oh, that’s that. That is a long conversation. Let’s start with the old guy here. This bike we built about three years ago, and I’ll go through how the riding experience is different. I’ll start by turning it on. First, on the outside, it looks like it looks like a regular motorbike, and we designed it to look like a motor bike. But we also designed it to look powerful and fast and and to kind of blend in with other superbikes, which means you could buy one of these and not look, quote unquote weird around your buddies and their guest bikes. And the idea is that we want to draw people away from gas bikes as they are known, but to also be familiar, so futuristic but familiar. But the more obvious things is like the rearview mirror that shows me everything behind me while I ride. No motorcycle has a rearview mirror, so you now have blind spot warning without having to check over your shoulder on a motorcycle. When you look left and right because your helmet, you actually block your field of view forward. You have to take your eyes off the car ahead in order to check for a car beside you. And now you don’t with a blind spot warnings. The other thing is different in the rider experience is the forward collision warning. If there is a vehicle approaching, the handlebars are going to vibrate. There you go. If there’s a vehicle or a pedestrian approaching or a pedestrian. Crossing at a light. You’re not looking the handlebars vibrate to warn you of that potential forward collision warning, as you just saw. And then the last thing I think it makes it pretty significantly different is the bike transforms forms at the push of a button. Right now, it’s in a low crouched sport bike position. But while you ride, you can put the bike into an upright rider position. Take the weight off your back, drop your legs down, and now you can be in a more comfortable commuter style position so you can have like two bikes in one, and absolutely none of this kind of technology has ever been done before on a motorcycle. Tell us a bit more about the software. Seems is obviously software enabled machines, but it seems that’s a big area of focus for you. Think and mentioned not only the software, but what the software drives on the tail of this motorcycle. You have to seventy two gigahertz radar. You have a 10 hp wide angle camera in the front and then there’s a front radar in front camera as well. And this in the front, it’s one hundred and fifty meter radar with a 140 degree wide angle front camera, also 10 80p. So the cameras, the radars, there’s also non-visual sensors throughout the motorcycle that collectively ingest every bit of data that it can about its environment. So is the ground wet or dry? How far leaning over is the bike in terms of angle? What’s the wheel speed? What’s the tire temperature? What’s the ambient temperature outside exactly? How many centimeters away is that approaching car? All of that information is processed on the onboard air engine that air engine does onboard processing to determine that a potential vehicle threat in real time and then warn you of that threat again through the vibrating handlebars or through the lights. We are not depending on the cloud to do that processing. So even though the bike is five g connected, we don’t need that internet connection to tell you if there’s a threat. You mentioned how you were inspired in some ways by riding in Jakarta. How are you thinking about geographic opportunities since you’re probably not going to be able to scale quickly enough to serve the entire planet? So we’re focusing on North America and Europe first. We do have orders from many other places, but we’re focusing our early shipments into North America and then Europe in twenty three. And then we’re working on a third design for a different category of motor bike that comes after the hyper fighter and its siblings that will kind of widen the triangle, if you will, for us. And then we have another platform that will be a different battery chassis platform for lower cost motorcycles that that’ll first get launched in Latin America. We have a partnership down there called Taco Tacos, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Latin America, and together we will manufacture our hyper light platform in the two to $5000 range for that very broad market Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and so on. And then those kinds of lower cost motorcycles will be available in North America and Europe as well, and eventually into Southeast Asia. We’re doing this whole episode on clean tech and focusing on Vancouver as one of the world’s great clean tech sectors. We’ve talked to hydrogen companies, the carbon capture companies, talking to a consumer facing manufacturer. What do we need to do, J, to keep entrepreneurs like you here and to ensure that you scale from Canadian soil? Well, have babies. That’s the reason I never moved to Silicon Valley. This is my third startup. It’s my third tech startup in Vancouver and my very first one, I had my first kid and that made it pretty difficult to think about moving, which made each company so much harder than it needed to be because fundraising in Vancouver is really hard. Access to capital has gotten better slowly over these 14 years that I’ve been doing it. The talent pool in Vancouver is really good. The loyalty is really high. The diverse, clean tech talent is the other reason we wanted to manufacture in Vancouver because all the people here want a company like that to work for. They want something big to be proud of. They want to assign themselves to an OEM brand, something that they see, not just an app in your pocket, but something that you see go down the road that you can be proud of, that you see. Oh, that’s from Vancouver. Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it’s been fun. Thank you, guys. This is great. What a trip. Vaughn, our audio engineer, and Jen, one of our producers and I have been driving around Greater Vancouver getting to meet these incredible companies. We’ve learned a lot about carbon capture, about hydrogen and fuel cells and about electric motorcycles. I can’t tell which company is more exciting, but it’s not really a contest because we need them all and thousands more like them to innovate and transform our economy in the years and decades ahead. The race to net zero is real, but the race among entrepreneurs to find new ways to get us there in sustainable and profitable ways is also very real, and they are ahead of the pack. At least the ones we spent time with today. I’m thinking back to Matt at 70 and what they are building and already putting in the field to capture carbon and get it back in the ground so that we can continue to use oil and gas for the foreseeable future as we develop other fuels and energy systems. From there, we went to loop and met Ben to hear about one of those new fuels hydrogen and the fuel cells that loop is building to change the way trucks and busses move around our communities and between our communities. Next time you’re on a highway, just look at those 18 wheelers and think about the fuel they’re consuming and what a way to end the journey. Jay sees the future for motorcycles, and he’s making it happen. His customers see this, and it’s why he’s getting orders from all over the world for his super bikes. That’s the kind of vision we need for the next generation of the Canadian economy entrepreneurs, operators, investors and all of us as consumers and citizens who can see things differently and get excited about it. But you know what? As excited as I get about all of these things, I know we’ve got a problem. Not all Canadians are engaged in this transition, and critically, Canada’s indigenous peoples are not being given the opportunity to lead in the way that they can to ensure that we are transforming our society and our economy, not only in more sustainable, more creative and more tech forward ways, but also in more inclusive ways. On the last episode of our climate series, we’ll meet some remarkable indigenous leaders from British Columbia who are doing just that, creating an economy and society for the future that we’ll all want to be part of. I’m John Stackhouse and this is disruptors and our BBQ podcast. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 4 [00:35:37] Disruptors an RBC podcast is created by the RBC Thought Leadership Group and does not constitute a recommendation for any organization, product or service. It’s produced and recorded by Jar Audio. For more disruptors content like or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and visit rbc dot com, slash disruptors.


This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

You may also like

Sources

RBC Thought Leadership, British Columbia: Canada's clean tech powerhouse, April 26, 2022