Vancouver – June 30, 2022 – On Wednesday, June 29, Westcoast German News spent the afternoon and early evening at a “next gen” mobility investor conference. The two new words I learned were “micromobility”: Micromobility implies minimal, if not small; mobility implies the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. So it is the ability of movement through minimalistic means. Mechatronics, also called mechatronics engineering, is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the integration of mechanical, electronic and electrical engineering systems, and also includes a combination of robotics, electronics, computer science, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering.
WARNING – this article is image-heavy and may take some time to load, but it will be worth it. Also, I was only able to attend in the afternoon, so I missed a few cool start-up pitches from the morning, please leave your favourite in the comments.
The Motivate Vancouver website stated:
Motivate VANCOUVER powered by CoMotion shines a global spotlight on the Metro Vancouver region’s most dynamic early-stage companies in the rapidly-evolving emerging mobility and clean transportation space.
Startups, emerging innovators, venture capital investors, policy makers, and mobility leaders – the key players in the Metro Vancouver region and beyond are coming together for a new global investment gathering.
Attend a day of pitches, panels and breakout sessions that showcase the next-gen mobility trailblazers and highlight Vancouver as an emerging world hub for innovation
I got there in the afternoon, just in time to see the “Industry Chat: The Investment and Venture Case for Renewable Hydrogen” and learned a lot. I did not realize that hydrogen could be used to power regular cars and even airplanes. So far, I had only heard of hydrogen busses. According to a government news release: Four public hydrogen-fuelling stations are operating in the province in Saanich, Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver. This is all news to me! It was also interesting to hear from Mary Fry from the Vancouver-based Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation (HTEC) that I really had no idea existed.
In contrast, there are currently 91 hydrogen filling stations in Germany and 130 new hydrogen filling stations were opened in Japan, South Korea and China in 2021. There are also at least 39 filling stations for fuel cell electrical vehicles in the USA.
Discussion: Renewable ‘green’ hydrogen is an essential tool in the pursuit of a net-zero future – and the world seems finally ready to bet big on the industry. Global investments in hydrogen have skyrocketed since 2019 and last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in the United States allocates $8 billion dollars for regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs. Where should this influx in funding be focused to quickly and effectively scale up the infrastructure needed to produce, transport and use clean hydrogen? What opportunities for partnerships exist to expand the networks of refueling stations? How are companies innovating to efficiently achieve hydrogen fleet transitions?
After the industry chat, we were able to listen to a fireside chat with a guest from Germany, Dr. Matthias Jurytko and Kate Wilson, the managing editor from the Vancouver Tech Journal:
Dr. Jurytko of Stuttgart, Germany was pleased to announce “Germany’s Daimler Truck AG and Sweden’s Volvo Group last year created a new division, cellcentric GmbH & Co. KG, specializing in the manufacturing of fuel cell systems for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and had spent the morning celebrating the “the grand opening of a new multi-million dollar manufacturing and R&D facility in Burnaby”, as announced in the BIV magazine.
After this, there were 3 pitches: Moment Energy, Veemo and Breeze Traffic.
We heard from “Panel: Electrifying the Mobility Market” next. Second from the left: Dom Kwong, Co-Founder and COO of Damon, the world’s smartest, safest, all-electric sportbike (motorcycle), Curtis Schickner, the Investment Principal of OGCI Climate Investments, and Adam McLeod, who leads the Western Canada sales team at Lucid Motors. Lucid is a California-based EV manufacturer and maker of the Lucid Air – the world’s longest range, fastest charging electric vehicle.
Then there was Industry Chat: Advanced Air Mobility Prepares for Takeoff with founding member and principal of Helijet, Danny Sitnam, Catherine Kolimas Schorm, a Managing Director in the Global Industrials Group and Rob McKinney (with microphone here), CEO of Ravn Alaska.
Discussion: Players big and small in Advanced Air Mobility are forming strategic partnerships to unlock new markets and take the next steps toward commercial operations. SPACs have allowed leading AAM companies like Joby, Eve, and Surf Air to go public in recent months, but what can be done to further attract investment into the commercialization of AAM technology? And how are companies planning to bring commercially available and sustainable air mobility options to existing and emerging communities and markets?
The Event ended with an “Evening Reception at the Vancouver Art Gallery”, sponsored by Helijet
Motivate Vancouver plans to return in 2023 and if possible, I would like to attend one more time to see what new start-ups are planning and establishing behind the scenes. One of the people I talked to in the break had come here from San Franciso and he told me about a company that was working on the concept of a flying truck. This is the stuff of dreams that we saw in movies like “Back to the Future: Roads, who needs roads?”
To finish off, I would like to quote an article found on the BBC website talking about the future: “At the moment, the autonomous urban aircraft market is still a bit of a Wild West. Dozens of start-up companies are competing to develop commercial jetpacks, flying motorbikes and personal air taxis. Venture capitalists, auto and aviation corporations (even rideshare company Uber, with its ambitious Uber Elevate) are staking claims on the burgeoning industry, which may be worth as much as $1.5tn (£1.1tn) by 2040. Meanwhile, aviation authorities hash out the policies and safety standards that will govern this new realm of transport.”
Let’s see what one year will bring to the table.