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This article is part of a monthly series contributed by The ESG Group at Silver Leaf Partners, courtesy of Managing Partner, Michael J. Scanlon.

Electric Vehicles (EV) charging growth

As pollution grows and the old inefficient technology of internal combustion engines (ICE) transportation rapidly declines, renewable energy is quickly developing with EVs.  Price-wise, renewables are becoming and will continue to be the cheaper, cleaner and a much more efficient option. According to IEA’s 2017 Energy Outlook, costs of new solar PV have come down by 70% and wind by 25% since 2010.  Also, China intends to spend at least $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020.  Such a big move would help assist in bringing prices down worldwide, inclusive of any tax or levy which will not be of substantial financial impact. 

 Innovative battery technology leads to a flurry of new electric vehicles, and it is obvious that electric vehicles are the reality of our modern world.  One great example is India, one of the worst polluting and unhealthy countries in the world, where they have just started its FAME program (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles). Their government is in the process of developing a no-money-down electric car purchasing program that lets buyers pay the loan back out of their fossil fuel savings. India’s Power Minister Piyush Goyal was quoted last year saying that “India can become the first country of its size which will run 100 percent of electric vehicles.” That said, they have a long way to go, as only 1.3 percent of all passenger vehicle sales are electric or hybrid at the currently.  Look to one of our smart friends, the Green Alpha Group’s insightful White paper to read about this basic, yet fundamental shift in both the way we travel and the way most consumer goods are shipped globally.

 Trucks and school buses are also quickly and thoughtfully getting into this clean, cheap and quiet revolution.  Already buoying passenger EV car sales, the trend is now boosting the EV truck market, says Lisa Jerram, a principal research analyst for Navigant Research.  Electric technology for big, heavy vehicles has also gotten a boost from certain smog-savvy city government investments in electric buses.  According to a recent report by Jerram, the number of hybrid-electric and electric trucks is set to grow almost 25 percent annually, from 1% of the market in 2017 to 7% in 2027, a jump from about 40,000 electric trucks worldwide this year to 371,000.

Also noteworthy: Just last month, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled that major German cities have the right to ban Diesel vehicles. Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, which have some of the most polluted air in Europe, now have the authority to implement limited bans on diesel cars driving into the city center. Stuttgart is the hometown of Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group brand Porsche.  There has been a global backlash against diesel-engine car’s excessive pollution and since industry leader Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. exhaust tests.  The scandal has spread across the whole auto industry and has boosted the commitment to massive investments in electric vehicles.  

Garbage = Cashing In On Waste

 In July 2017, China announced a waste import ban effective January 2018.  The ban bars import of 24 categories of solid waste, including certain types of plastics, paper and textiles. The head of the Bureau of International Recycling, Arnaud Brunet, said the ban has been like an “earthquake” for countries dependent on China for dumping their garbage, especially for the US and European countries. The EU exports 85% of its collected and sorted plastics to China. In 2016, Ireland alone exported 95% of its plastic waste to China. That same year, the US shipped more than 16 million tons of waste to China worth more than $5.2 billion.

Since China will take no more waste, waste has piled up in ports in Europe, particularly plastic.  As a result, EU regulators are searching ways to increase recycling of plastic.  Currently, Europe recycles less than 30% of the 25 million tonnes of oil-derived plastic waste.  In December 2017, EU nations and the European Parliament reached an agreement to target a 55% recycle rate by 2030 and a ban on landfilling separately collected waste. On the other hand, The European Commission is looking to impose environmental taxes, including revenue from its carbon cap-and-trade Emission Trading System (ETS), as a way to not only increase the recyclability of plastic, but also to plug the hole left in its budget when Brexit is finalized in 2020.

As concerns for environmental sustainability grow, turning trash into cash has become a trending business with bright prospect. Instead of panicking about finding new destinations to export waste, another possibility could be to invest in developing new technologies that turn waste into new, useful products. In recent years, there has been a rise of startups in the US and around the world with revolutionary technologies that transform waste into new products.

Just to name a few:  Evrnu, a Seattle based startup spied opportunity and invented a revolutionary technology that recycles post-consumer cotton textile waste to create pristine new fiber and new textiles; Plastic2Oil, based in Niagara Falls, NY, developed a process that derives ultra-clean, ultra-low sulphur fuel which does not require further refining, directly from unwashed, unsorted waste plastics; and, Nomadix makes anti-microbial, quick dry, durable, sand-resistant towels made entirely of recycled plastic in a solar-powered factory.  Their towels are currently available at Urban Outfitters and REI.

Submitted by: Kaiyi Zhang – MA in Economics Candidate, 5/2018 Fordham University.


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