What does the future hold for clean growth: Blasting into a new era

Tom Munro | 08 Jun 2020 | General

At last, some inspiring news!

I recently watched with excitement, as SpaceX blasted Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into space in the Dragon 2 spacecraft using the Falcon 9 rocket. It was a truly historic moment, as it marked the first time a private company has taken humans into space and, perhaps more importantly, shepherds in a new era of low-cost spaceflight.

SpaceX’s rockets are the most powerful and economical ever, able to carry almost three times the payload of the next biggest rocket on the market, but at 25% of the cost[1] . This is primarily due to their reusability. No longer are these multimillion dollar machines thrown away after one use like disposable packaging. Instead, their boosters are designed to land gracefully on drone ships shortly after launch, able to be turned around for another launch in less than 48 hours – a prime example of sustainability being at the heart of a good business.

Saturday’s launch got me thinking: If we are entering an era where we can build low-cost, reusable rockets to propel astronauts into space, surely the optimistic reality of mass sustainable transport can’t be far away, so people like you and me can do our daily commute or our weekly socially-distanced shop without wrecking the climate.

Adam and EV

Well it turns out, that new era is closer than we thought.  Some would argue it has started already. At an uncertain time when overall automobile sales are suffering due to Covid, Electric vehicle sales are already up on last year, and are only expected to increase. FDI into EV projects has increased 184% to $35.8 Bn in the last 5 years (compared to 26% for the wider automotive industry), with one of Elon Musk’s other companies Tesla leading the field in the US, closely followed by Asian brands like Hyundai and Toyota[2].

However, while EV sales and manufacturing are booming in the US and Europe, production of one of the key ingredients for an EV – the battery – is still concentrated heavily in China. McKinsey noted that of the 70 announced gigafactories globally, 46 are based in China[3]. With the disruption to global supply chains that Covid-19 has caused, and limited local battery suppliers, EV manufacturers are likely to diversify and reinforce their supply chains with new facilities in new locations in the coming years.

This presents a prime opportunity for countries in Europe, who have already started to jostle and compete for investment in so-called “Gigafactories”. The UK is currently seeking a site for a 4 million sq ft Tesla Gigafactory, which could be their second facility in Europe after the Berlin Brandenburg facility.[4]

To ensure they are in the driving seat for attracting EV investment, countries like the UK and Germany will need to examine and improve their offering to investors like Tesla, not only through a competitive package of incentives, but also via strong, long term policies to secure the market, and increased funding for R&D to bring new innovations and technologies to this industry and other related clean growth sectors (such as renewable energy and aerospace), and build the skills base of the workforce in these emerging areas.

As the world re-emerges from its sickness in 2020, there will be a renewed focus on clean technologies like EVs. Investment in clean growth is not just a prudent financial move – it is an investment in a prosperous and sustainable future.

If you would like to know more about the opportunities and risks presented by COVID-19 to investment in clean growth sectors, please get in touch – tom.monro@wordpress-448088-2081753.cloudwaysapps.com 

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/spacex-falcon-heavy-launch-cost-industry-pricing-vs-ula-2018-2

[2] FDI Markets; Electric Vehicles; Jan 2015 – Dec 2019

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/oil-and-gas/our-insights/recharging-economies-the-ev-battery-manufacturing-outlook-for-europe

[4] https://www.am-online.com/news/manufacturer/2020/05/29/uk-government-seeking-site-for-sprawling-tesla-ev-gigafactory