Sometimes the smallest innovations can have the greatest impact on global efforts to curb global climate change. Arguably one of the greatest contributions to combating climate change has been the move to the humble LED light, which has reduced hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions by simply reducing energy consumption in buildings.
And now companies backed by Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Gates are joining investors like Amazon and iPod inventor Tony Fadell to pour money into a company called Turntide Technologies, which believes the next big innovation in the world To have worldwide efforts to slow global climate change – a better electric motor.
It’s not as flashy as an arc reactor, but like lightbulbs, motors are an ubiquitous and completely nondescript technology that has worked in essentially the same way since the 19th century. And like the light bulb, they need to be upgraded.
“Turntide’s technology and approach to restoring our planet will directly reduce energy consumption,” said Steve Levin, co-founder (along with Downey Jr.) of FootPrint Coalition Ventures.
The operation of buildings is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide, according to a statement from Turntide. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), a third of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. Smart building technology adds a smart layer to eliminate this waste and inefficiency by automatically controlling lighting, air conditioning, heating, ventilation and other critical systems. Turntide’s electric motors can bring additional savings.
Because of this, investors have put over $ 100 million in Turntide in the past six months.
The company, led by Chairman and CEO Ryan Morris, commercializes technologies originally developed at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Turntide’s fundamental innovation is a software controlled motor or switch reluctance motor that uses precise energy pulses instead of a constant flow of current. “With a traditional motor, you are continuously driving current into the motor no matter how fast you want it to run, ”said Morris. “We pulse in precise amounts of electricity exactly when you need the torque … It’s software-defined hardware.”
The technology was developed for eleven years, partly because, according to Morris, there wasn’t enough computing power to get the system up and running.
Morris was originally part of an investment firm called Meson Capital, which acquired the technology back in 2013, and it took another four years for the engines to actually work in pilots, he said. The company has spent the past three years developing the marketing strategy and proving the value in its original market – retrofitting the heating, ventilation and cooling systems in buildings, which is the main contributor to the 28% contribution the built environment makes to it the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global damage are climate change.
“Our mission is to replace all of the engines in the world,” said Morris.
He estimates the technology is applicable to 95% of today’s electric motors. However, the initial focus will be on smart buildings as this is the easiest place to start and can have some of the largest immediate effects on energy use.
“The carbon footprint of our activities is pretty massive, ”Morris told me last year. “The average energy saving [in buildings] was reduced by 64%. If we can replace all of the motors in buildings in the US, that’s the carbon equivalent of more than 300 million tons of carbon sequestration per year. “
That’s why Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and real estate and construction-focused venture company Fifth Wall Ventures have joined forces with the Amazon Climate Fund, Tony Fadell’s Future Shape, the BMW iVentures Fund, and a number of other investors connected in supporting the company.
The company raised approximately $ 180 million in funding, including today’s announcement of a $ 80 million investment round that closed in October.
Buildings are clearly at the heart of Turntide, which just yesterday announced the acquisition of a small building management software developer called Riptide IO based in Santa Barbara, California. But there is also an application in another massive industry – electric vehicles.
“In two years we will definitely be in electric vehicles,” said Morris.
“Our technology has tremendous benefits for the electric vehicle industry. There are no rare earth minerals. Every electric vehicle uses rare earth minerals to get better performance from its electric motors, ”he continued. “They are expensive, destructive to me, and China controls 95 percent of the global supply chain for them. We do not use exotic materials, rare earth minerals or magnets. We are replacing these with very advanced software and calculations. It’s the first time Moore’s Law has applied to the engine. “