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Podcast With Moment Energy: Revolutionizing EV Battery Life

Explore Moment Energy, led by co-founder and CEO Edward Chiang, as its revolutionizing EV battery life. Batteries are transformed into reliable, eco-friendly, and affordable battery energy storage systems (BESS). In this interview, we talk about the history of the company, the difficulties associated with disposing of electric car batteries, and the complexities of recycling lithium.
 

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🕑 KEY MOMENTS

➜ [00:01:08] The importance of repurposing or recycling lithium batteries
➜ [00:01:53] Supply constraint and opportunity in the EV batteries
➜ [00:04:14] Safety and certifications in EV battery deployment
➜ [00:10:39] Second life EV battery projects
➜ [00:12:10] The importance of collaboration with automakers
➜ [00:14:44] Identifying and securing new projects
➜ [00:20:14] The importance of building a strong team
➜ [00:21:17] The slow adaptation of technology in cleantech
➜ [00:23:27] Finding genuine climate companies
 
 

👤 INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD CHIANG

Dunja Jovanovic: Edward, let's kick things off by diving into the story of Moment Energy. How did it all begin, and what's the driving mission behind the company?

Edward Chiang: The journey of Moment Energy started about four years ago when we set out to repurpose electric vehicle batteries for stationary energy storage. I'm Eddy, the Co-founder and CEO, and our mission is rooted in ensuring that these batteries, often with around 80% of their life still intact, don't end up improperly disposed of due to the prohibitive costs of recycling. Instead, we want to give them a second life, serving as a stationary storage application for 10, 15, or even 20 years.

DJ: Now, let's rewind a bit. When you first conceptualized Moment Energy, what was the vision for your brand identity, and how has it evolved over the years?

EC: The initial inspiration for our brand identity came during my time doing nuclear energy research in northern Canada. However, the turning point was the tornado that hit Ottawa in 2018, causing a 24-hour power outage. That experience made me realize the vulnerability of our energy systems. So, starting Moment Energy was about addressing these global issues and ensuring universal access to clean and reliable energy. Over the years, our brand identity has evolved to reflect our commitment to sustainable energy solutions and making a positive impact on a global scale.

DJ: Could you share more about the challenges and the measures Moment Energy has taken to prioritize safety in the deployment of batteries?

EC: Safety is indeed a critical aspect, and it's a challenge we've tackled head-on. In the market, ensuring the safe deployment of batteries is paramount. Even with new lithium companies, there's a risk of projects being deployed without prioritizing safety. At Moment Energy, our focus is on leveraging the safety certifications EV batteries gain during their automotive life. We're committed to bringing the same rigorous safety standards to stationary storage, ensuring the industry's highest safety levels. Our proprietary technology, including the battery management system and robust safety certifications, sets us apart in prioritizing safety in our solutions.

DJ: Could you elaborate on the issues associated with lithium batteries, considering the widespread perception of lithium as a solution to climate change?

EC: The challenge with lithium arises from the mining of lithium material by large conglomerates. Despite claims of sustainable practices, many companies source their batteries from a limited number of mining companies. Questionable mining practices, especially in places like the Congo, pose risks to human lives. This is why our focus on second-life batteries is crucial. Rather than discarding these batteries or mining new lithium, we repurpose batteries that have already undergone stringent processing, offering a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible solution.

DJ: Do you feel the need to educate the public, investors, and potential clients about the challenges and dangers associated with lithium batteries and recycling?

EC: Absolutely. There's a significant need for education, especially regarding the fate of end-of-life EV batteries. Many governments are unaware of the challenges, and despite substantial investments in recycling, a substantial percentage of batteries remain unaccounted for. We advocate for more recyclers and second-life companies to prevent these batteries from ending up in landfills. Our approach is to repurpose batteries that have already met their initial purpose, reducing the reliance on new lithium and promoting a more sustainable solution.

DJ: How do you differentiate your company in the market, especially in terms of safety?

EC: Safety is our key differentiator. In September, we achieved UlCertification, making us the first and only company in North America with Underwriters Laboratory certification. This certification is essential for proving the safety of our solutions when commercially deploying projects. While other companies may deploy uncertified projects on the grid, endangering customers in case of incidents, our focus on safety, backed by our proprietary technology and third-party certifications, sets us apart.

DJ: Your collaboration with Mercedes Benz Energy is notable. How does such collaboration impact smaller companies in the clean tech space?

EC: Collaborating with major automakers, like Mercedes Benz Energy, has been crucial for us. Automakers recognize the value of second-life battery projects and the importance of responsible disposal. By partnering with companies like Moment Energy, automakers fulfill legal and environmental requirements while contributing to positive social and environmental impacts. This collaboration model can serve as an example for smaller companies in the clean tech space, offering opportunities for growth and mutual benefit.

DJ: With recent seed funding, how has it contributed to your company's growth and development?

EC: The seed funding has played a significant role in our growth. It has allowed us to develop and deploy seven commercial projects, distinguishing us from companies stuck in a cycle of pilot projects. With substantial capital, we've been able to build a robust team, focusing on safety and research and development. This funding not only ensures our stability as a company but also demonstrates our commitment to making a tangible difference in the clean tech sector.

DJ: Can you share some future projects you are excited about?

EC: We have four exciting projects on the horizon. One involves deploying our systems for EV charging at Vancouver International Airport, offering portable and flexible charging solutions for electric vehicles on the airfield. Additionally, we're working on projects with three hospitals to address brownouts and ensure uninterrupted power for critical life-saving equipment. These projects showcase our commitment to providing sustainable solutions for various applications, from transportation to healthcare.

DJ: Looking at the future of the energy storage sector, what excites you the most?

EC: The scaling potential in the energy storage sector is incredibly exciting. The demand is significant, and companies like ours have the opportunity to make a substantial impact. While financial success is a major factor, our primary focus is on creating positive social and environmental change. The challenge lies in scaling fast enough to meet the growing demand. We're actively working on building the first second-life gigafactory to manufacture over 1 gigawatt-hour of stationary energy storage per year, contributing to the sector's expansion.

DJ: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the clean tech space facing similar challenges?

EC: Building a strong team is paramount. In the cleantech space, whether focused on software or hardware, the collaboration with infrastructure and energy makes it capital-intensive. Hiring genuine individuals who care about the mission is crucial for long-term success. Climate solutions require a marathon approach, and a team that is both talented and genuinely committed to the cause is essential for overcoming challenges and achieving sustainable growth.

📝 EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Hello fellow clean tech enthusiasts or professionals, you're watching another episode of  The Green New Perspective. You go to your podcast when you want to learn more about cleantech, nature, tech, biotech and agri tech industry.

This episode is proud sponsor by New Perspective, a next gen marketing agency working with clean tech clients only. And if you want to learn more about our sponsor, please check out more details in the description of this video.

So in this episode, we are hosting Edward Chang, who is a co-founder of Moment Energy, Canadian company that is giving retired EV batteries a second life. So in this episode, we are going to talk about why repurposing or recycling lithium batteries is crucial rather than letting them end up in landfills.

So join us as we explore the implications for the automotive community and beyond. So can you introduce yourself to our audience and then introduce your company Moment Energy and tell us more about your commission?

So I'm Eddie or Edward, co-founder and CEO at Moment Energy. And what we do is we repurpose electric vehicle batteries into stationary energy storage.

I started this company about four years ago now, and we really were digging into the core problem of what happens to electric vehicle batteries, end of life. And what we found is majority of them, unfortunately, aren't properly disposed of because the cost of recycling is prohibitive for consumers as well as for automakers. So for us, our mission is to ensure that these batteries that often have 80% life left on average, still can be repurposed for a stationary storage application for ten, 15, 20 years.

Edward, can you tell me more about the problems with batteries that we have at the moment?

Yeah, I mean, in terms of the new lithium side, there's a huge supply constraint. What we're finding is that a lot of automakers are buying up all the lithium material, because they're able to pay significantly more for each gram of lithium compared to stationary storage applications. So what we're finding is EV manufacturers, they're buying up all the materials, new stationary storage manufacturers, they don't have enough materials. But at the same time, at end of life, there's a copious amount of end of life EV batteries that aren't being recycled.

So this really provides a huge opportunity where we can then use that end of life battery, EV battery and serve that need for stationary storage. Sure.

And when you founded your company, so what was the, let's say, the initial idea for your brand identity and how does it how did it evolve throughout the years?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the initial portion of the brand identity is, was essentially through my time, I was living a little bit north of Canada, um, doing nuclear energy research for the federal government. And what happened in 2018? Yeah. Um, what happened in 2018 was a tornado hit Ottawa, our capital. So we were a small town of a thousand people, a PhD, small town of PhDs. And what we essentially what happened was Ottawa was out of power for four hours while we were out of power for an entire day, 24 hours and coming, having grown and been born in Vancouver in a bigger city, I've just never experienced something like that. Usually outages are only for maybe 1 or 2 hours maximum.

So I started asking the locals and ask them, you know, how often does this happen? That's, you know, over 24 hours. And they said, yeah, this is a short outage. Every year we experience outages for up to a week. And that was just very surprising to me because we were only two hours north of Ottawa, our capital. And what in terms of what really started the company in the passion for me was if Canadians and Americans are facing this yearly, what's the rest of the world? And that's really why we started this company, to ensure that all humans have access to clean and reliable energy.

And where do you see the biggest challenges on the market that you face as a company? Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, in terms of the markets, what we're finding is, um, just making sure that batteries are deployed safely. What we're seeing, even in new lithium companies, we hear that, you know, people are just deploying projects because it is, you know, a way to make money.

And a lot of people are not as genuine and they're just deploying energy storage. New lithium, new chemistry batteries and whatnot. But they're not really putting so much effort into the safety and the certifications required to to deploy safe batteries. And that's exactly what our focus at Moment Energy. These batteries that we're repurposing from EVs have gone through all the safety certifications of a vehicle, which is really stringent because, you know, ideally is these batteries are still safe, even if you crash them into a wall at 200km an hour. Now, ensuring that that safe process from the automotive perspective is now brought into the stationary storage perspective is very important to us. So our focus over the past four years is to ensure that we create the safest systems in the industry.

Can you can you explain for our audience this? We don't know much about these batteries. What's the actual problem with what. You know, because lithium is often talked about as like a miracle solution to climate change. So what we do with lithium. Yeah.

Yeah. Exactly. That's why we're repurposing. I mean, the whole problem with lithium is typically they're mine. The lithium material is mined by huge conglomerates. Right. And no matter if it's Tesla, Apple or whatever company, they all say that they're mining their batteries sustainably, but in reality, they all get their batteries by this one, 1 or 2 mining companies. And unfortunately.

Mining can never be totally sustainable. So yeah, exactly. Something might have to say not just for the lithium.

Totally. And especially within lithium batteries, there's terrible, terrible mining practices happening in the Congo, for example. And, you know, human lives are being put at stake there. And that's really why our customers are really interested in Second Life batteries, because they've gone through the process. And now, you know, rather than just throwing these batteries away on one end, or rather than mining and refining new lithium material for the stationary storage application, why don't we just take batteries that have already gone through that so that we don't need to mine new lithium for stationary storage? So it's significantly more environmentally on the side, environmentally friendly as well as socially not requiring, you know, the negative, hugely negative mining practices that are happening in Africa to to grow.

Yeah, sure.

And how do you market yourself to distinguish from another competitors in the market.

Yeah. Safety. So yeah what's been really amazing is end of September, we actually became the first and only company in North America with UL certification. UL certification stands for Underwriters Laboratory Certification here in North America. And you need the certification to improve your the safest solution that you can then commercially deploy projects. And for us, you know, we've been commercially deploying projects for a lot of off grid communities where they're very diesel dependent, reducing their diesel consumption by 70% for four years now. And now when we're going on grid that requires these certifications, we essentially are the only company that has a certification to prove that we are the safest, while other companies essentially have not. They've been deploying projects that are not certified on grid. And what that does is that endangers your customers. If, you know, knock on wood, if there's ever a fire event, that entire building is uninsured, so that customer is being put in major environmental and safety risk as well.

So for us, our differentiator is ensuring that on the technology side, we are the safest. So we have our own proprietary technology to keep battery safe called the battery management system, electrical systems, hardware systems for fire propagation, all the way to getting a third party body reviewer to come in and ensure that we are the safest.

And do you feel like you need to educate, like both the general public and then the potential investor and potential future clients about the all the implications you mentioned about the dangers with them and then recycling of batteries.

Yeah, absolutely. A lot of education on the consumer side, as well as the governmental side is what typically happens to these batteries. A lot of governments don't realize what's happening. For example, the US Department of Energy have internal studies showing that even after all of the billions of dollars investment they put into recycling, still recycling is only looking to capture about 7% of all end of life batteries, which means 93% of all end of life batteries. Where are they going to go? Are they going to go into landfills? Hopefully not.

Right. So that's why there needs to be more recyclers, needs to be more Second life companies repurposing the batteries over. 20 years to ensure these batteries aren't ending up in landfills. But at the same time, that's why we started this company. We started this company because we talked to local consumers who had electric vehicles, and we asked them, hey, you know, your your vehicle has reached end of life. So what does your dealership tell you to do with the batteries? What does the automaker say? And the automaker says, yeah, send it to your recycler. And then they could take it to the local recycler. And the recycler says, sure, I'll charge you 2000, 3000, $4,000 just to recycle your electric vehicle battery. And these prices are prices that consumers can't pay, right? And ultimately, what we found is in countries like in China, as well as the half of all European Union countries, which is great. They've mandated by law about five years ago that all batteries have to be either repurposed or recycled.

And it's the automakers responsibility, which is much better for the for the entire market because automakers can afford it. They just don't want to. And they are the ones that should be responsible for all end of life EV batteries.

Yeah, yeah. And the consumers, that's that's for sure. Yeah. Because that way I mean it's not really you don't know if it's going to get recycled and that should be mandatory. Yes. So you had a big collaboration with Mercedes-Benz energy. So can you tell me what does that collaboration means for you and collaboration with bigger companies like how how come that collaboration actually what kind of impact it has on smaller producers, smaller companies, smaller startups within the clean tech space? Yeah.

I'll start off by talking about what the automakers think about this whole process. So automakers like Mercedes, Nissan, a lot of the other automakers like Renault, they've actually deployed Second Life battery projects before they did it about, let's say, five years ago was the time frame. And what they really saw was there's amazing value because there's still 80% life left after you're done driving these electric vehicles for 10 to 15 years.

But secondly is they also realized, okay, building and designing stationary storage is completely different from creating electric vehicle. So instead, since the laws are forcing us to disassemble our battery packs, either send them to recyclers or send it to a repurpose, or let's just stop there. We'll be the supply supplier of the batteries, and then we're going to partner with companies like Moment Energy to ensure that their batteries are repurposed and that relationship between us and Mercedes. But at this point, we work with every single automaker, um, other than the Chinese automakers as of right now on R&D or on supply chain, um, processes for, yeah, over the past four years now. And, you know, it's a very symbiotic relationship there. We ensure that they are fulfilling the legal requirements and the environmental requirements that their batteries are not being thrown away, but instead are being repurposed. And then after we repurpose, we ensure that our batteries are recycled. And at the same time, they are happy to essentially co-develop on projects, we co-develop on R&D.

And and they help us with a lot of R&D of our own battery systems as well, to ensure that we can integrate their electric vehicle batteries.

And you feel that this kind of collaboration means a lot for your brand positioning, for your future collaborations. Is it something that you would definitely recommend for other companies, not just like yours, but all over the clean tech space?

Yeah, absolutely. So for us, it's a little bit more interesting the reason why we became the first and only company in North America with certification is because we had these relationships. A lot of these certifications actually require, for example, in our industries, certain data sheets on how these batteries were manufactured even before they entered the electric vehicle. So in those cases, it's actually impossible to get certification without working directly with that automaker, which is what our competitors did. And that's why they've been trying for three plus years, and they still haven't been able to get the certification. But for us, we were able to do it.

So working directly with the big corporations are is helpful. And as long as you know how to navigate it as a partnership rather than, you know, you feeling like you become a subsidiary of a big corporation.

Yeah. That's true. You also raised a significant seed funding recently. So how does this funding contributed to the to your company's growth and development as well?

I mean, pretty massively right for us. That's why we are one of the only Second Life companies that have to develop and deployed so many projects. We have seven projects online in the field, the customer sites, they're not pilot projects. Our systems have to work, unlike other Second Life companies where they hadn't risen enough. So then they they they're kind of just pilot projects in their own backyard all the way to developing those strong relationships with automakers. Right. And our partners, if you're a small startup that hasn't risen any money, then you could disappear at any moment. But by raising. Enough capital. For example, for us, we have 10 million.

We actually have. We're in talks right now for another 50 right now with the US government as well as investors. You know, that ensures that you're one a company that's not going to disappear tomorrow. That's why the automakers is so reluctant to work with other of our Second Life competitors, all the way to safety and having enough R&D funding to ensure that your systems are safe, which, again, is something that a lot of other companies are lacking.

Mhm.

And you mentioned like you have seven active projects at the moment. So how do you identify and secure new project.

Yeah. For us again we treat these as sales like a lot of startups in clean tech especially. You know you can get caught up very easily by pilot projects right. They do one pilot project and they think okay great. Now it's going to be commercial. And then for some reason something doesn't really work out. And then they think, maybe I'll do a second pilot project at a different site. And, and it just.

Becomes a little like, yeah, a pilot projects. Yeah.

Yeah. And the goal here is really. Yeah, maybe you can do one pilot project. But a moment we just took the philosophy of just commercial, your very first project. It has to be commercial. You have to not just be deploying projects at a laboratory or in your backyard. You have to be deploying it at a customer site and making sure that that your product is serving a customer need. In the end, I think especially with a lot of climate becoming more hyped and and more and more funding kind of everywhere for climate, it's easy for a lot of researcher types who just start developing product because it's a cool product and honestly, it is a cool technology. But ultimately you're creating a business now and you can create a business if you're not customer centric. So that's what really what we focused on and, you know, taking it as almost sales, we just we send out our sales team. We make sure that we are listening to our customers.

The customers tell us, hey moment, we really need these characteristics. And then we add those characteristics into our battery systems to ensure we're serving a need, not a want.

And do you have some future project that you are excited about that you can share with us here?

Absolutely. So we actually have four projects that we're super excited about. One of the which is at Vancouver International Airport. So here in Canada, we're actually going to be deploying our systems for EV charging. And the reasoning is yeah, it's really exciting. The reasoning is because they've transitioned all their vehicles to electric for for the airport. Now the problem is all the charging infrastructure is on the ground side, not on the airport side or the air side. So now what they really want is, you know, a shipping container that's portable, right? We have batteries inside it. We have a charger inside it, maybe even some solar. And we'll put it right into the middle of airfields. Right. And if they want to move it they can move it anywhere.

So it's very portable EV charging so they don't have to drive the vehicles onto the ground side. Instead they keep it all in the air side. Um, second one is actually three hospitals. So what we're doing is a lot of these hospitals, they have brownouts because these are hospitals. Um, we served what we call the commercial industrial industry. So we don't power an entire city. We power buildings or neighborhoods instead. And within that industry, the problem major problem is the grid is very old. We hear that a lot, right? Yeah. And because the grid is really old, as more and more customers are installing more solar, which actually puts load on the grid, also drawing more energy in general, they're using more energy that puts a grid load on the grid. Unfortunately, those small pockets like neighborhoods or hospitals, they just blackout or they brownout is what we call it. And these hospitals have experienced a lot of brownouts recently.

Why, Brown? Why brownout?

So essentially, it's like blackouts before, like a couple, um, a couple hours.

Okay. Doesn't last long.

So, yeah, it doesn't last super long. But the thing is, even if it's minutes, imagine lives are right. You have, like, life sustaining equipment there. So that's really why it's important to have batteries. They have a diesel generator. The generator sometimes doesn't turn on all the time. Right. It's not 100% reliable. So having batteries plus a generator really helps with all these life important systems as well.

And what would you say that you're excited the most when you think about the future of the energy storage sector?

Yeah, I think in terms of the entire energy storage sector, I think it's just the rate of scaling for all companies, not just moment energy, but for all companies. The demand is huge. Like they're essentially if you create an energy storage company with new lithium batteries, you can make a lot of money. Right? And it's not just about money, though. For us, it's about making that tangible difference. That's why we're powering homes and powering communities and powering buildings rather than powering entire city, because we think that powering, you know, smaller applications, a little bit smaller, like ten homes, it's still pretty big, but a little bit smaller applications is where the impact to human to human impact is.

But, you know, really there's so much demand that that, you know, you can create utility scale or residential scale energy storage and you can make a lot of money and create a lot of positive social environmental impact. But the key is just, can we scale fast enough? Right? Can we build and manufacture fast enough? Which is why already we've been working with the US Treasury and Department of Energy, where we're building the first Second Life Gigafactory over the next couple of years. So in other words, manufacturing over one gigawatt hour of stationary energy storage per year. And we're super excited about, you know, just trying to serve the demand. What utilizing Second Life batteries.

And for like other interpreters, entrepreneurs who are facing similar challenges that you just mentioned, what advice would you give them based on your personal experience with your company?

Yeah.

I think in all, in clean tech especially, it's very capital intensive. Pretty much even the software side, right? They're clean tech companies. As pure software, you need hardware to upload your software into solar or wind or or batteries, right.

So in the end, you're going to everybody here in clean tech is going to be working with infrastructure and energy. And I think the typical thing is, you know, do not underestimate that aspect. Even if you feel like you're building a pure software company, you're more or less you're going to have to work with some hardware and building that really strong team that's done it before is the number one key. Like at moment, what we always say is hiring and building the best team in the world is the most important part. It doesn't matter if you know they're a genius at their craft, but if they're just not genuine people and they don't care about the environment, they're just here for, you know, their own selfish reasons. Maybe they're mean to other people as well, and they're not kind. Those are the people that you do not want to build a company around, because when you're in clean tech, this is a marathon. It's not it's not a sprint. You need a strong team that can, you know, perform well over a long period of time.

Not, you know, maybe genius individuals that can help you perform really in a short amount of time really quickly. But then, you know, the team falls apart because you don't you didn't hire genuine people that care about the mission.

Reckoning. It's also about the expectations. Like you said, it's a long run. Maybe some people, you know want to see results really fast. And that's just ain't going to happen within the cleantech space. The adaptation of technology is slower than what's going on with other technologies, who are not focused on resolving some problem issues with climate change. So yeah, I think that's another aspect that we could mention here. Um, sorry for interrupting you. Um, can you can you can you tell me where can people reach out to you on socials, on your website, if they're interested in to learn more about your technology, about your team, about your company?

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So you can reach us at our main website, which is moment to energy as well.

We do have socials moment energy at on Instagram as well as Facebook and LinkedIn as well. For LinkedIn, we love to hire. We're always hiring. We're growing that. We grew the team from four people to 40 in just 3 to 4 years, and now we're just constantly looking to hire all the way up to 200. And then for projects, that's the website. And then, you know, just see our amazing culture. We love hanging out together where, you know, it's important to embrace climate and as entire team and work together and just see how much fun we're having while we're trying to solve this climate catastrophe. You can find us on Instagram there as well.

Great. I have to share. I had a conversation with Tello. That's a company that's producing electric trucks, and they use discord. Discord, and they created a group there. So they basically created a community of people who are interested in their products, where they can share their experiences. It's kind of, well, for me, discord is a bit more intimate way of communication.

So that's something that you can maybe think about. Yeah, because my impression was that you want to hear feedback from from the people.

So yeah.

There are also a lot of really cool slack groups.

Yeah.

For climate, which is great. I think that's really what's awesome about climate in general. It's very hard to find climate companies that are disingenuous, right? In the end, we're all in climate not for the money. We're kind of here to solve this major problem, right? If we wanted to make lots of money in a short amount of time, we could have created some software fintech company, but instead we're all in climate for solar, for wind, for batteries, because we just want to ensure that this world stays clean.

Well, I'm really feeling, like, hopeful when I meet people like you, so. Keep up the good work and thank you again for being a podcast guest here.

Thank you so much for having me.

So yes, you guess the. Well, this marks at the end of another episode of the Green New Perspective podcast, and I really hope you enjoyed the conversation with Edward Chang, co-founder of Momentum Energy.

If you want to stay in touch with innovations happening within clean tech, nature, biotech, agritech space, you know what to do. Subscribe to our channel. Until next episode.

Bye.

 

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