San Francisco clean-energy startup aims for hydrogen breakthrough for trucking

California has long been in the vanguard of pursuing renewable energy, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has budgeted billions of dollars for supporting and accelerating the state’s transition toward clean energy.

San Francisco company Verne is looking to tap into that with technology that will help move heavy duty transportation away from polluting diesel and gasoline power. We spoke with co-founder Ted McKlveen about what they’re up to.

Q: How did you and co-founders Bav Roy and David Jaramillo come together to found Verne?

A: I met David in college and Bav in business school. We are all passionate about addressing climate change, and excited about the potential to reduce emissions in transportation with hydrogen. We make a great team, bringing complementary skills. David received his PhD from UC-Berkeley and leads our tech innovation, Bav has an engineering background and an MBA and leads operations, and I previously had a strategy role at a renewable energy start-up and lead our sales and partnerships.

Q: What led you to pursue clean energy technology for heavy duty transportation as opposed to say, consumer vehicles?

A: We wanted to solve a “difficult-to-decarbonize” problem. We wanted to address a sector that doesn’t currently have a good alternative to fossil fuels. Passenger vehicles have a solution: battery electric vehicles work well, are economical, and are gaining traction. Heavy-duty transportation is a whole different story. These vehicles need to carry very heavy payloads, travel long ranges, and refuel quickly to get back on the road. While battery electric trucks will work for some applications, many trucks will need a new technology to become fully zero-emission.

Q: You’ve received backing from Stanford, CalTech and MIT, as well as Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Network and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, and were featured in Forbes’ “30 under 30.” How did Verne generate so much buzz for a young company in such a niche field?

A: Heavy-duty transportation might seem niche, but transportation is the largest source of emissions in the United States, responsible for more greenhouse gases than electricity generation. These institutions know what a big problem transportation is as we collectively strive to get to net-zero emissions and have been incredibly supportive of our efforts to make an impact.

Q: What is the benefit of hydrogen power for heavy transportation?

A: Electric batteries required to power a semi-truck for 500 miles would weigh over 10,000 pounds and cost over $150,000. The battery weight significantly cuts into the freight that the truck operator can haul with big impacts on economics and profitability. Hydrogen is a very light gas, much lighter than batteries. For the same 500-mile range, a hydrogen system could be ~1/4 the weight, similar to the weight of a current diesel system. Hydrogen trucks can also be built to travel diesel-equivalent ranges of 1,000 miles or more before needing to refuel.

The major truck manufacturers, including Freightliner, Peterbilt, Volvo, Kenworth, and more, are all beginning to develop hydrogen trucks. Battery electric is a more advanced technology today in general, but the future of trucking will include a lot of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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