In this episode of Hardware to Save a Planet, Dylan is joined by Paul Gross, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Remora, to discuss the technology behind Remora’s new device that captures at least eighty percent of a semi-truck’s carbon emissions directly from the tailpipe.
Paul has been named one of “Forbes 30 under 30” for what he’s achieved with Remora, which he started working on in college. After initially deciding to go into politics to make an impact on climate change, Paul realized there was a quicker and more impactful way to address the issue.
He decided to build his company and got obsessed with the idea of capturing carbon emissions from the tailpipes. After meeting his partners, Christina and Eric, they launched Remora.
If you want to discover more about Remora’s technology, check the key takeaways of this episode or the transcript below.
- 04:20 – 05:37 – The impact of semi-truck on the environment – There are over two million semi-trucks in the USA, which is less than one percent of total automobiles. This less than one percent creates five percent of the entire carbon footprint in the USA.
- 05:37 – 07:14 – Capturing CO2 from the source – Direct Air Capture or Carbon Capture systems are already on the market but focus on capturing CO2 from the environment, while Remora directly from the tailpipe. Semi-trucks are significant for the economy. We still need to use them, and capturing the CO2 at the source is much more effective than pulling it out of the atmosphere.
- 07:52 – 11:33 – How does Remora work? – If you think about an eighteen-wheeler, you’ve got the tractor up front, where the driver sits, then you’ve got a trailer on the back, which hooks onto the tractor. And there’s this gap between the tractor and the trailer used for auxiliary power units or tools, or maybe left empty. Remora puts its technology right between the tractor and the trailer and attaches it to the tailpipe. Remora also installs offload tanks at its customer’s distribution. After the trip, a truck driver pulls up to the offload tank and attaches a hose to a device that pumps the CO2 out automatically. The whole offloading process takes fifteen minutes.
- 11:33 – 13:11 – Remora’s business model – Remora sells its device to a truck company like Ryder, sells the CO2, and splits the revenue 50/50. There is a massive $7.7 billion market worldwide. About 230 million tons are used yearly in various applications, like making stronger, cheaper, sustainable concrete.
- 19:02 – 21:52 – Remora plus electrification – The Remora technology is also complementary to electrification, which is usually great for the short haul route, but it’s really not realistic for the long haul route where you are going hundreds of miles before you are back at a distribution center. Charging an electric truck is nothing like charging a car. You need a far larger charger, and in many places, buildings don’t even have the connection to the grid to support such a large charger.
Dylan: Hardware to Save a Planet explores the technical innovations that are giving us hope in the fight against climate change. Each episode focuses on a specific climate challenge and explores an emerging physical technology solution with the person bringing it into reality. I’m your host, Dylan Garrett.
Hello, and welcome to Hardware to Save a Planet. I’m excited to have Paul Gross here today to talk about his company, Remora. At Remora, he and his team are building hardware that lives on semi-trucks and intercepts their emissions from their tailpipes. The cool thing about this is that if the trucks are using biofuels, Remora’s solution actually makes them carbon-negative. The more they drive around, the more CO2 they’re removing from the atmosphere. In theory, this can mean that you’re paying for carbon removal every time you ship a package because trucks like this move about 70% of all goods in the US. Personally, I’m still kind of wrapping my head around that. It’s very cool, but I hope Paul can help us digest it.
Just to quickly introduce Paul, he’s been named to Forbes 30 under 30 for what he’s done with Remora, which he started working on in college. I love the story of Paul founding Remora because I think it shows an amazing curiosity and persistence to make the world a better place. I’m hoping we can get into the details of that story. Welcome, Paul. Thanks for joining. Maybe just a good place to start is to hear that story.
Paul: Thanks so much for having me.
Dylan: Yes. Thanks a lot for joining. How did Remora come about?
Paul: I was finishing up college, and I thought I wanted to go into politics. I thought that that would be the best way to make an impact on climate change, to work on political campaigns and try to help get the right folks elected, but I got a little bit frustrated with just the slow pace of change in politics and decided and maybe would want to start a company instead. Maybe that would be a better route to impact on climate.
I got so obsessed with this idea of capturing carbon emissions from vehicles’ tailpipes that I was asking myself, “Why is this not already happening?” I did a bunch of research to understand why it wasn’t possible because it seemed like clearly, it couldn’t be possible if no one was doing it.
I came across my co-founder Christina’s work and her PhD dissertation from the University of Michigan. She had spent years, funded by the EPA, figuring out that actually mobile carbon capture on semi-trucks was possible. She pioneered this whole new field. She became a world expert in technology, and I did not at all think that she would join me in starting this company. I just wanted to reach out to ask her some questions about her research, but she and I really hit it off.
Then I wrote her a business plan. We talked some more, and she decided to quit her job at the EPA and come join me to start from Remora. Then we recruited my co-founder Eric, who has a background building diesel trucks, prototyping electric and hydrogen semi-trucks. The three of us started the company.
Dylan: That’s amazing. You saw this as a problem and then did the– you went beyond Googling what could possibly happen and you found this dissertation. I just love that story. What was it about– because I’m sure you came across other things as well in your research. What was it about Christina’s approach or what you found there that really stood out to you?
Paul: Well, I think the important thing about a dissertation is it needs to be focused on the real world and it needs to be focused particularly on a problem that we can solve now. That was the thing I was looking for. I think basic research is super important. It’s great that people are working on stuff that’s going to have an impact 20 or 30 years out. We really need that kind of work. A lot of PhDs should be on topics like that, but I think the thing I was looking for is, “Hey, this is a really urgent problem.”
We are facing the worst heat waves, the worst droughts, the worst floods that we’ve ever seen in any of our lifetimes. We can’t wait 20 years to bring out the solutions. What I loved about this idea was that it’s ready to go now. We don’t need any more scientific breakthroughs. We’re putting these on trucks right now, and we can actually have a huge impact without waiting 10 or 20 years without it always being around the next corner.
Dylan: Let’s talk about that impact. Can you kind of help put it in the perspective of the bigger problem here? How big of a problem is the tailpipe emissions of semi-trucks relative to our overall emissions?
Paul: As you mentioned in the intro, semi-trucks move 70% of all goods in the US. Almost everything around you has been on a truck, and they belch out a crazy amount of carbon dioxide. There are 2 million of them in the US alone. 340 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are created every year just as they drive around.
To put that in perspective, that’s 5% of the entire US carbon footprint, which is just a mind-blowing amount of carbon emissions when you think about all the other things that go into the US carbon footprint, and if we can come up with a single solution that works for all of those semi-trucks, I mean, that would be an enormous chunk out of the US’s carbon emissions and carbon emissions around the world.
Dylan: Yes. Interesting. When I first heard about this, I sort of looked up how many semi-trucks are there relative to other cars, and I think it’s like 1% of total automobiles in the US or something like that, right?
Paul: It’s less, yes.
Dylan: Or less, but they have this massive outsized impact-
Dylan: -on emissions. I guess I’ve been looking at this space, and we’ve had some other people on the show that do direct air capture or carbon capture in other ways, and just quickly, direct air capture capturing, sequestering carbon, or capturing carbon from the atmosphere, just ambient air. Can you talk about why you went down this route of doing it at the source?
Paul: Totally. Both approaches are incredibly important, and I think there’re some really cool companies working on direct air capture. We absolutely need direct air capture in other forms of carbon removal. The reason I focused on semi-trucks and capturing CO2 from semi-trucks is that those emissions aren’t going anywhere soon. Semi-trucks, whether we like it or not, are needed to move goods around, and they’re going to be needed for a while. They’re really hard to decarbonize. We can’t easily electrify them or convert them to hydrogen.
If we can capture CO2 at the source, that’s just a lot easier than pulling it out of the atmosphere. CO2 coming out of a semi-truck is 13% of the entire exhaust stream. Whereas CO2 in the atmosphere is 0.04% of the atmosphere. It’s just intuitively a lot easier to filter something out of a stream where it’s 13% of that whole stream rather than letting it scatter into the atmosphere and then having to filter the entire atmosphere to get that CO2 back.
I think the other exciting piece that you alluded to is that our solution can actually convert to carbon removal where we’re actually taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere if we’re pairing our solution with biofuels. I think that’s a really exciting, longer-term possibility.
Dylan: Yes. Just on the topic of pollution, generally, I know pollution also that we have the greenhouse gas emissions. We also have NOx and SOx. Does your system address pollution generally as well?
Paul: Yes. There are not a lot of SOx emissions coming out of semi-trucks these days, but there certainly are NOx emissions, and our system, we think, will reduce NOx emissions out of semi-trucks by at least 75%. It’s an incredible NOx emissions reduction as well. We think it could be higher. This is absolutely having the kinds of co-benefits that we’d want to see from a serious solution for space.
Dylan: Can you give us the rundown of how it all works? What it looks like, what the whole system does.
Paul: Yes. You could picture it like this big box on the back of the truck. You think about an 18-wheeler. You’ve got the tractor up front where the driver sits, and then you’ve got a trailer on the back, which hooks onto the tractor. There’s this gap between the tractor and the trailer that’s usually used for auxiliary power units or tools, or maybe it’s just left empty as the case on most trucks.
What we do is we just put this box, this big system that goes right in between the tractor and the trailer. It retrofits onto an existing truck, just bolts into the bolt holes that are designed for aftermarket retrofits. We attach it to the tailpipe, and it starts capturing carbon dioxide. It’s really big. It’s the entire height of the truck. It goes all the way out to the sides of the truck. It is designed to capture and store carbon dioxide while the truck drives.
Dylan: We’ll put a link to your website. You have some awesome visuals of it, but I commend you. It’s a very– when I first heard about it, I was like, “It sounds a little crazy to go after this”, but it’s really cool what you’ve accomplished. One of the big tradeoffs you must be dealing with is, yes, you have a much higher concentration of CO2 right there at the source, but in order to get it, you have to build a system that actually lives on trucks and can move around with trucks and go through all the environmental hardship that trucks have to live through. I imagine that in and of itself is a big challenge.
Paul: Yes. These trucks drive a lot of miles every year, and they go over a lot of potholes. It’s a tough engineering problem.
Dylan: Yes. The other piece of this then is these trucks are driving around and capturing CO2 as they’re driving. Then I imagine these tanks, you have tanks of CO2 that are filling up. There’s got to be a sort of infrastructure piece of this to empty the tanks or to swap out full tanks with empty ones. What does that look like?
Paul: You bet. We install offload tanks at our customers’ distribution centers. They run round trips, and then they offload the CO2 at the end of the day. That is as simple as the driver pulls up to the offload tank, attaches a hose to the device, the device pumps the CO2 out automatically, and then the driver detaches the hose, and that’s it. You don’t have to take anything off the truck or put anything new on the truck. The whole offloading process just takes 15 minutes. It’s very fast. You can do it while you’re refueling.
I think the most important thing to know is these CO2 offload tanks are off-the-shelf bulk carbon dioxide tanks. We can just buy a bunch of these and deploy them anywhere. There’s no custom infrastructure here. There’s no grid upgrade required. These can operate anywhere. As we scale up, we’ll be installing them at truck stops and other spots where we can easily allow trucks to offload their CO2 while they’re driving around, while they’re doing long-haul routes, but we’re starting with our customers’ distribution centers because that’s the simplest way to prove this out.
Dylan: Let’s talk about the business model a little bit. This is a big piece of kit. I imagine it’s fairly pricey. Are you selling that directly to trucking companies?
Paul: We are. Our business model is really simple. We sell the device upfront to a partner like Ryder. Ryder is the largest trucking company in the world, one of our initial pilot partners. Then we split the revenue from the CO2 50/50 on the back end. We sell the CO2. We generate carbon credits when we sell it. Then we share that revenue 50/50 with Ryder. The device pays for itself in just a couple of years with that revenue. Then we use our half to cover the CO2 transport and all the infrastructure required.
Dylan: Got it. You talk about revenue from the CO2. What can you say a little bit more about that? Where does that revenue come from?
Paul: Yes, so we sell our CO2 into the existing market for CO2. There’s a massive market for CO2. It’s a $7.7 billion market worldwide, about 230 million tons are used every year in all kinds of applications. We take that CO2. We sell it to a concrete producer, for example, and then that concrete producer injects the CO2 into their concrete during the curing process.
It makes the concrete stronger, makes it a little bit cheaper, makes it more sustainable, and permanently sequesters the CO2. That allows us to then generate a carbon credit for the sequestered CO2. That way, we’re getting revenue from selling the CO2 to the concrete producer and then selling that carbon credit.
Dylan: One of the things you told me before the show is that, and this makes a lot of sense, if the trucks are running on biofuels, this actually makes for a carbon-negative system that those biofuels are taking carbon out of the ecosystem, to begin with. Then the emissions are CO2 that you’re storing again. How realistic is that? Are these trucking companies running on biofuels today, or is that a more aspirational goal?
Paul: Yes, and just to walk everyone through that process, the way it works is the plants grow. They capture the CO2 as they grow through photosynthesis. Usually, those plants would decompose and release the CO2 back into the atmosphere. It’d be carbon-neutral, but if we instead take those plants and burn them for fuel and then capture that CO2 and sequester it permanently, now we’ve got a pathway from the air into permanent storage.
We’re taking those CO2 molecules that got sucked in by the plants, and then we’re permanently sequestering them after we burn those plants captured in the CO2 and sequester it. That’s a really exciting pathway. It’s called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. That’s the technical term. It’s one of the most recommended ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
We think it’s going to be one of the cheapest as well. That’s what’s so exciting about this. We can use existing fuels, existing trucks, and our technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We don’t have to build all of these massive plants breaking ground or construction and all the rest.
In terms of how biofuels are working today, there are plenty of trucks running on biofuels. Biofuels are widely available. There are large biofuel companies. There are a lot of issues with current generation biofuels. For example, we want to make sure that we’re not using up airable land to grow the plants required for biofuels. We want to make sure we’re not diverting water from communities that need it. We want to make sure that we aren’t cutting down trees to use land that was actually sequestering carbon already.
There are a lot of things to think about with biofuels, but I think there can be a really great biofuel solution or renewable natural gas for some other low-carbon fuel. When you pair that with our technology, it’s just a really exciting solution. We could even turn CO2 back into diesel and have a circular solution.
Dylan: Oh, interesting. Can you say a little bit more about that?
Paul: Sure. There are a number of companies right now working on turning CO2 into a number of different fossil fuel-based products, including jet fuel, diesel, even things like yoga pants and laundry detergent. Some of the leaders in the space are LanzaTech, Twelve, and that’s really exciting work that could pair with our technology. We would hand them the CO2, they’d turn it into diesel, and then they’d put it back in the truck.
Dylan: Awesome. I understand even if trucks aren’t using biofuels, this is still a really important or could be a really impactful solution, right? What I’ve learned is we need to stop emitting as soon as possible. Even if we were to stop emitting today, we have a bunch of CO2 to remove from the atmosphere.
Dylan: I understand you have some trucking companies signed up for pilots already. You mentioned Ryder. I think that’s one of them. Can you talk a little bit about what’s getting them excited about this? What’s the value they see? Are they seeing it as a revenue opportunity? Is it more about aligning with corporate sustainability goals?
Paul: Well, I think the first thing is that the world has really woken up to the reality of climate change just in the last couple years. I think we’re seeing this enormous exponential growth in corporate climate commitments. We’re seeing a lot more people show up to the polls, voting on climate as their number one issue. We’re seeing people all around get really worried about the crazy situation we’re in. It’s pretty terrifying.
I grew up in San Francisco, and we didn’t have wildfires one month out of the year when I was growing up. Now, that’s the reality in California. It’s really scary. I think everyone sees that, and I really commend the folks that we work with in the trucking industry who are just so ahead of the game on taking action on this huge problem that we’re facing. I think they are hearing the urgency from their customers who are the shippers. For them, it’s this brilliant investment in a competitive advantage.
Their shippers are all asking them, “What are you doing to reduce my carbon emissions?” The trucking company needs to have a good answer. Otherwise, maybe the shipper is going to go somewhere else. I think the very smartest trucking companies are going to invest now in decarbonization technologies because they know that that’s going to be required in a couple of years in order to keep the business of all of the most desirable shippers.
Dylan: It sounds like a big driver is wanting to do the right thing and some almost voluntary pressure from their customers. Can you talk a little bit about the financial side of it? They actually pay upfront, but it sounds like they share in the revenue from the CO2. How does that play into their decision? What’s the payback time?
Paul: Yes, it depends on how much they’re using their trucks, but generally, we see a payback in just a couple of years. For them, they’re actually going to start making money on these devices after they’ve been out in the field for a couple of years, that’s an incredible opportunity. I would say more generally, it’s rare to see a decarbonization technology that doesn’t have a green premium where you don’t have to pay more to get that emissions reduction. To have something that’s cost-neutral or even potentially revenue-generating, that’s a really rare opportunity for these companies. I think that’s why they’re jumping on this and investing in the technology for their fleets.
Dylan: I imagine one thing these companies are keeping an eye on is electrification. Do you feel like that’s on their radar as well, or is it just too far out as a realistic solution and they’re looking at this as something they can implement now?
Paul: Yes. I think what we’re hearing from all of our partners is that this solution is complementary to electrification. Electrification is great for the short-haul routes, like last-mile delivery vans or maybe some of the regional city hall out and back, but it’s really not realistic for the longer-haul routes where you’re going hundreds of miles before you are back in the distribution center or at a truck stop.
That’s just because batteries weigh a lot. They’re big and heavy. If you’re trying to electrify a truck that’s going even 300 miles, you’re talking about adding 15,000 pounds of batteries, even for the leading electric truck. If you want to go 500 miles, it’s over 20,000 pounds of batteries. That’s 10 tons of batteries. That’s half of the truck’s entire payload capacity, and that’s just not going to be practical for really any trucking company.
I think that’s the principal reason that folks are just thinking electrification is probably not going to work for a lot of these long-haul, heavy-duty routes, whether it’s semi-trucks or locomotives or partnerships. Then you also just have to look at the infrastructure requirements. Charging an electric truck is nothing like charging a car. You need a far larger charger. It’s a massive draw on the grid. In many places, buildings don’t even have the connection to the grid to support such a large charger. That’s a really tough thing to invest in.
Then, of course, the grid is still not decarbonized. It’s actually still 63% fossil fuels. Even if you’re charging an electric truck on the grid, you’re still probably not carbon-neutral. I think the reality is it’s just really hard to replace all 2 million semi-trucks that are currently on the road in the US in any short order. I think those are some of the factors that are playing into our partners’ decisions to focus on electrification for short-haul but really focus on other solutions for the longer-haul routes.
Dylan: That’s a good point you just brought up at the end there that this really is a retrofit. There’s no need to– you can use trucks that are on the road today. Is that– yes.
Paul: Yes. The reality is that there are a lot of internal combustion engines on the road today, and they’re probably not going to go anywhere super fast.
Dylan: I’d love to get into the tech a little bit more, and maybe to start, if you could share where in the system Remora is innovating. Are you inventing new ways to do carbon capture itself, or is it more about the challenges of integrating that into this mobile system that’s the truck? Where’s the innovation happening?
Paul: Sure. We are not reinventing the wheel on carbon capture. This has been understood for 100 years. It’s a little bit like electric vehicles, where there were actually electric vehicles on the road before internal combustion engines. Carbon capture has been happening for a long time, and we’re using the same materials that were used by NASA and the International Space Station to pull CO2 out of the air that astronauts were breathing that were used in submarines, and that have been used in other carbon capture plants as well.
We are not reinventing the wheel. We’re using a very cheap end absorbent that we can get mass quantities. The place that we are innovating and the place that we have a lot of intellectual property is, how do you do this onboard a truck? It is really, really challenging. It’s really challenging to condition the exhaust correctly, to get it to the conditions where you can actually capture the carbon dioxide because the exhaust coming out of a truck is not uniform. You don’t get this nice, easy-to-predict stream. You get different flow rates, you get different temperatures and humidities and all sorts of other stuff coming out of the engine, and you have to deal with all that in real-time. That’s really hard.
Another thing that’s really hard is doing this with the energy available onboard the truck. You can’t just use infinite energy. Obviously, we’re trying to decrease the truck’s emissions. We’re not trying to massively increase the truck’s fuel usage. We’ve figured out a very energy-efficient way of doing this partially by using heat from the truck’s exhaust.
Then another, I think, really key part of this is doing it within the weight and volume profile. We can’t add a lot of weight to the truck. That’s the whole reason that electrification isn’t working for semi-trucks is that it’s adding too much weight and batteries. We need to do this in a lightweight way. We need to do it in a way that fits an existing truck, and we figured all of that out. That took a lot of engineering, and there are still a lot of cool open engineering problems. We’re always looking for more incredible mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and chemical engineers, to join the team and help us solve some of these open problems.
Dylan: I’m curious about testing for this because I imagine there are so many real-world conditions that come up driving around on a truck. You mentioned potholes. How are you testing your systems? Do you have trucks in a lab somewhere? Do you have teams out driving semi-trucks around on the road? What does that look like?
Paul: A combination of things. We do a lot of simulations, which is really important in any engineering work. For instance, we’ve simulated the frame of the truck over 26,000 hours of hard cornering, hard braking, impossible G-forces, a very intense stop or a very intense acceleration. That’s making sure that the frame that holds all the components can stand up to all of that vibration and everything else, and the testing was successful. We did that in partnership with Southwest Research Institute, so a very experienced third party. That’s one category.
Another category is we own our own trucks, which is really fun. We install various subsystems or full systems on those trucks and drive them around. We also take the trucks to a chassis dynamometer. It’s like a treadmill for a truck where you put it on these big stations that turn the truck’s wheels of the truck and simulate different load conditions. We also have our own engine dynamometer that is just an engine that runs on a treadmill and simulates different loads.
Dylan: I think it’s always surprising when people learn just how much work it takes to go from having functional prototypes to having real devices out in the world. The question is, why can’t this happen now? What’s standing in your way from where you are today? What problems do you still have to get through?
Paul: Well, it is happening now.
Paul: We’re deploying our first devices. I think the big challenges that we have are, how do we capture more CO2? There’s sometimes that the truck does crazy stuff and it makes it really hard for us to capture the CO2 in those moments. Right now, the system just knows, okay, we have to bypass this moment.
Figuring out each of those edge cases, how do we deal with that so we can capture all that CO2? That’s going to slowly increase our capture efficiency. We’re also trying to decrease our weight. Always. We’re always trying to make our device smaller, and we’re trying to use less energy because you always want to use less energy to, again, improve the impact of the system. Those are the open engineering challenges. They’re really hard. Yes. That’s the reason that if I were an engineer, I would be super excited to go work on this.
Dylan: That makes sense. Cool. You mentioned weight a couple of times, and the weight of batteries, and how big of an impact that can have. Can you give us an idea of what weight you’re at or what weight you’re targeting with your system and how that compares to the total weight of a truck and its load?
Paul: The total weight of a fully loaded truck is 80,000 pounds, about 40 tons. That’s the maximum allowable weight in the US. Our system weighs about 5,000 pounds empty, about 6,000 pounds fully loaded with CO2. As we improve the technology, improve the weight by a couple of thousand pounds. We should be quite lightweight. Again, a comparable electric truck is going to add 20,000 pounds of batteries for a similar level of range to our device. We’re obviously already far lighter than batteries, but we want to decrease every pound we can because weight matters so much in the trucking industry.
Dylan: Are there other things other than the weight of the system itself that is impacting truck performance?
Paul: We also take a little bit of energy from the truck to power our system. Then I think the other key thing to point out is we’re not affecting the truck’s engine or the truck in any other way. You might worry about back pressure. We’re putting less back pressure than the maximum that’s allowed by the engine manufacturers.
We’re not affecting the health of the engine in any way or the longevity of the engine. We’re not changing the emissions from the engine, and then we’re not impacting the truck. We’re using the existing bolt holes for aftermarket retrofits to bolt onto the truck. We’re following the OEM’s bodybuilder guidelines. We’re not going to be affecting the frame or anything else about the truck by installing the device.
Dylan: Cool. Thinking about the future, where do you see Remora in the next 10 years?
Paul: Our goal is to get a device on every semi-truck in the US.
Paul: I think the biggest challenge for us is going to be, how do we make enough of these quickly enough? We’re in a really lucky situation where we just have outrageous demand for the system. We’re sold out for this year and sold out for next year. We have all these big companies that are super excited about technology. I think that’s going to continue to be true because this is something that folks need.
Often, semi-trucks are a very large percentage of a company’s carbon emissions, and there isn’t another great solution. We just need to figure out a way to ramp up our production to meet that demand. We need to figure out a way to do this fast enough to meet the problem that we’re trying to tackle. As we were saying earlier, climate change is not going to wait around. It’s happening right now. It’s really scary. We actually really need to jump on this problem.
It’s going to be really hard to ramp up production fast enough. I think this is always one of the hardest things. It’s also particularly hard in today’s world with all the supply chain challenges, but we’re going to have to do it. We’re going to figure it out. We have a great team working on this as well, and that’s going to be the single biggest challenge of this company, but also the thing that’s most satisfying is getting all of those systems out and seeing those systems passing us by on the freeway capturing carbon dioxide.
Dylan: What are the biggest challenges with that scale? In this case, is it mostly about capital, or is it, you mentioned supply chain, which I imagine there’s a temporal aspect to that? What do you look at as far as challenges for scaling?
Paul: There are a bunch. The main ones at the moment are figuring out how to pace ourselves so that we’re not spreading ourselves too thin on the one hand, but also we want to always be making ourselves uncomfortable with the pace that we’re going at because if we’re not, that means we’re probably not going fast enough. That’s a tough balance to strike, especially when there’s just such intense demand. We really want to get devices to all the people that want to use them.
I think another big challenge is this has never been done before in any capacity like mobile carbon capture. This is going to be the very first commercial mobile carbon capture system on a truck ever. That’s tough because there isn’t a supply chain built up around mobile carbon capture. If you’re building an electric truck, you can go out and source batteries from all these existing suppliers. If you’re building a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, well, there are hydrogen fuel cell cars that are out there that you can go just buy two of the fuel cells and stick them on your truck, but there isn’t a compressor that’s the right size for carbon dioxide. We had to pack together the right size compressor.
I think it’s going to be challenging for us to build up the supplier base to support the scale-up. The good news is we have amazing suppliers who are really excited about this. A lot of very large manufacturers have gotten involved and are working with us at an early stage, which they don’t usually do. I think we’re going to have the support to do this. It’s just going to be challenging.
Dylan: Yes, you’re inventing a whole new product category, I guess, of mobile carbon capture, which makes me wonder where else might carbon capture be applied or mobile carbon capture be applied. Is that something– I’m sure you’re focused on trucks today, but with unlimited time and resources, are there other places you would apply this?
Paul: Absolutely. We want to do one thing well first, which is semi-trucks, but we are really excited about the other opportunities. I think some of the other obvious applications are locomotives, cargo ships, and mining haul trucks. Really, any form of long-haul, heavy-duty transport is going to be hard to electrify if not impossible. I think that’s where mobile carbon capture shines. We would love to go help out in those other categories. There are also some other great teams working in those categories as well. We’re definitely focused on semi-trucks right now but definitely thinking about the next categories as well.
Dylan: Do you think there will ever be a world where I can buy something to bolt onto my old gas car and capture my emissions?
Paul: I hope not. I hope that electrification is fast enough for light-duty vehicles that we don’t need to build a mobile carbon capture system for cars. I think it will be. I think electrification is a really great solution for cars. It’s a great solution for delivery vans, school buses. I hope that it proceeds fast enough and we don’t run into bottlenecks with the global supply of lithium or the capacity of grids in certain parts of the world.
Dylan: Yes. Makes a lot of sense. A few questions just to close us out. What’s your perspective on the future of our planet, and why? How optimistic or pessimistic are you?
Paul: I’m optimistic. I think it would be hard not to be when you see all of these big companies taking this so seriously. The kinds of questions they’re asking me are not like, “What’s in it for us,” or, “How can we do this the cheapest way possible?” They’re asking, “How do we know that you’re rigorously reducing emissions,” and, “How do we track that you’re sequestering those emissions?” If they really care about reducing their carbon emissions, and if all these big companies care about it and are pushing in that direction, that makes me really optimistic that we’re going to have the funding to roll out the solutions we need and get all these new technologies down the cost curve.
I think the other thing that makes me optimistic above all else is to just see the incredible climate tech community, both the team at Remora, just all of these, I think some of the most talented people in our generation are going into climate tech, all these incredible PhDs and just incredibly talented engineers jumping into this, that is a good leading indicator of cool solutions. That just makes me really optimistic. All the other founders in this space, I’m just so in awe of the kinds of things that folks have tackled and are working on.
Dylan: Yes. Well said. I can’t agree with you more. Speaking of that, who is one other person or company doing something to address climate change right now that’s inspiring you?
Paul: I’m really inspired by Peter Reinhardt at Charm Industrial. He founded a segment before this, and he just started thinking on the weekends about how he could most efficiently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It was because he couldn’t figure out a good way to offset segments carbon emissions, and that pulled him into starting this new company, and now, working full-time on the company as CEO. We need more CEOs like that, really thinking about how we can do the best to reduce carbon emissions, and that level of commitment of jumping off to start a new company, and their solution, which is incredibly cool.
They’ve already removed something like 90% of all tons of carbon dioxide that have ever been removed from the atmosphere. They’re just a couple of years old as a company. That level of speed as well, that’s just really inspiring. I think that team is incredibly impressive, and the work they’re doing is really important.
Dylan: I’m a big fan of Peter myself and what Charm is up to, and thanks for giving them a shout-out. You remind me of Peter, actually, in your story, finding a problem that you just think, “Ah, somebody should be out there solving this,” and then following that thread and continuing to follow it until here you are running a company getting after it. I just love that drive and that curiosity and that persistence to make a solution where there should be one. That’s cool, you gave them a shout-out. Just to say it, they were our first episode.
Paul: That’s awesome.
Dylan: People can go and listen to what they’re up to. Yes. What advice do you have for someone who’s not working in climate tech today who wants to do something to help?
Paul: They should come work in climate tech. I think that the biggest thing I’d say is it feels like people have thought of all the solutions, and something’s not being done, it’s probably because it’s impossible. That is completely not the case. There are all of these things that are not being done that are absolutely possible that would have a big impact, and someone needs to just go do them. This is all of these low-hanging fruit in the climate tech space right now. It’s the best time to join.
I think the momentum in the space is pretty unbelievable from a funding perspective. There’s just so much funding coming into the space. There’s so many talented people that want to join teams. I would say if you’re thinking about starting something, you should go do it right now. If you’re thinking about joining a team, this is the best time to do it. It is so exciting. I think we’re at the beginning of a very, very big wave. We need a big wave to decarbonize the world, and I think we’re going to see a pretty incredible, incredible path to decarbonization over the next 20 years. Now is the time to get involved.
Dylan: All right. That’s an inspiring note to close out on. Thank you, Paul. I’m very appreciative that you’re out there doing this tackling such a big challenging problem that I’m now convinced is going to have a really big impact. Thanks for your time today.
Paul: Thanks for having me.
Dylan: Hardware to Save a Planet is brought to you by Synapse. To find out more about us and how we develop hardware solutions for the world’s most ambitious companies, head to synapse.com, and then make sure to search for Hardware to Save a Planet in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, or anywhere you can listen. Make sure to click subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Synapse, thanks for listening.