Alternative energy sources have been taking giant leaps in terms of development; all aimed at providing cleaner mobility solutions
Among the non-fossil fuel sources of energy, solar energy has remained the most underrated. In an interaction with Auto Tech Review, Andrew Hines, Co-Founder, Clean Max Enviro Energy Solutions, talks about the relevance of solar energy for the automotive space, developments around this alternative power source and its future in the mobility sector.
Clean Max is a B2B renewable energy provider for corporate consumers comprising mostly large corporates that have a genuine demand for power solutions in order to ensure their operations are more sustainable and also save costs. The company had kick-started operations in 2010-11, but around that time customers were not willing to make large investments into cleaner and cheaper sources of energy.
This heralded the birth of Clean Max as a player in the rooftop solar segment, where it would set-up rooftop solar plants for clients at their factories and commercial buildings. However, the company would own the project, and customers would only buy the electricity generated from the project. So, rather than these customers actually investing into technology themselves, they agreed to buy the electricity at a discount as compared to grid rates, explained Hines. Clean Max basically took a capital expense for these companies and turned it into an operational expense.
Although Clean Max initially started offering renewable power in the rooftop solar segment, it has also moved into large-scale renewable energy projects over the past three-four years, where power is supplied through the grid. According to Hines, the power is generated from large solar farms and is supplied to its individual private clients through the grid, and is not delivering power to the government or the utilities. The grid acts as a facilitator of the transaction between Clean Max and its customers.
The role of solar energy in the automotive industry is a similar story to that of other industries as well. There are two areas of relevance from the point of view of solar energy, with the first being cost-saving. This is obviously critical for the highly cost-sensitive automotive industry that includes OEMs as well as component manufacturers. Whatever amount of savings attainable by customers is a big attraction for them, and they are willing to explore new technologies in order to enable that. Cost-saving is particularly a big draw for the industry, especially if it can be achieved without capitals, Hines pointed out.
Sustainability is another big draw for automotive manufacturers – something that has witnessed a significant shift over the last eight to nine years since Clean Max has been operating, observed Hines. It has been observed that large corporate manufacturers are more serious about sustainable objectives that are beneficial to the environment. Companies are placing high importance to these sustainable forms of energy sources and are actually beginning to quantify the amount of renewable energy power source being utilised at their facilities. Customers in the automotive industry are shifting from token projects to strategically planning the move of their entire power source from fossil fuels to renewable sources, stated Hines. A combination of these two advantages makes solar energy attractive to automotive clients.
Electrification of transport is an opportunity from a sustainability perspective. Besides the renewable energy aspect, EVs generally result in reduced pollution and CO2 emissions. It is a little bit of a myth that by moving from internal combustion engines to a coal-heavy grid the level of pollution increases, Hines said. Objectively, there is enough increased efficiency in the overall system of EVs that actually results in reduced emission when compared to any grid, he explained.
However, the big opportunity is that there is an emphasis on electrification of transport as well as electrification over other parts of the industry. This is further enhanced by the requirement for energy generation to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The electricity from the grid also needs to become cleaner, and this is currently taking place with grids becoming greener and using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
There is a transition towards EVs in India and across the globe, and there is also a move towards grids being supplied by renewable energy generation. These two transitions need to maintain a similar timeline, as it would then result in the real reduction of emissions with the vehicles as well as the source of energy being clean – from well to wheel. The EV story also provides a huge opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions from a climate change perspective, as it helps reduce air pollution, in addition to lowering water consumption from thermal power generation and so on, concluded Hines.
TEXT: Naveen Arul