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Climate tech's supply chain concern, and comfort

Michael Flaherty
Oct 27, 2022
JJ Raynor, director of business development at Uber, speaks at the Climate Deals breakfast roundtable.

Uber's JJ Raynor, far right, speaks at the Climate Deals breakfast roundtable. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Duarte

Around 20 climate tech pros gathered ahead of the Axios BFD in New York City on Wednesday. The aim was to talk about the electric vehicle transition, but the discussion touched on a range of important issues across the space.

Here are excerpts from the Expert Voices roundtable, which was moderated by Axios Pro's Megan Hernbroth and Alan Neuhauser.

Bill Loewenthal, chief product officer at ChargePoint, said he sees supply chain issues lasting for the next "few quarters" but with potential green shoots at the end of it.

  • "We manufacture charging infrastructure through contract manufacturers around the globe. We partner with key silicone providers and other kinds of raw materials providers.
  • "We see the supply chain situation affecting the kind of components we use to find its way through [over] the next few quarters. And part of that is, if there is a consumer recession, some of the demand on the consumer electronics side will free up components that are necessary in vehicles or charging infrastructure."

Corinne Still, a partner at Apollo's infrastructure equity business, also addressed supply chain concerns:

  • "If you think about the demands on the battery supply chain, if you're looking to build, you know, front of the meter, utility-scale storage, you're also competing for those batteries with all of these car makers and manufacturers who are growing...
  • "And the vast majority of batteries are going to those applications and other applications like aviation, so you have a real stress on that part of the system...To build upstream capacity will take time. "

Barbara Burger, the former head of Chevron Technology Ventures, spoke of the opportunity for companies to build capacity in areas where manufacturing once thrived:

  • "There's a huge opportunity to scale your plant and stick it somewhere where there has always been a plant," she said, adding that there are a lot of rural oil-and-gas towns where this opportunity exists.

Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of eVTOL developer Beta Technologies, expanded on this opportunity:

  • "I had this theme of making manufacturing sexy again, and people want to work in a business where they're mission-focused. We all agree with that. But they also want to work in a place that cares about the employee," he said, referencing part of Vermont where he's building out net-zero facilities.

Beta Technologies' CFO, Ed Eppler, addressed the macro environment, and said despite the various pressures, the economic storm will pass. Eppler cited his status as a "recovering investment banker" and his experience with other economic swings.

  • "It's gonna be OK: It's hard to make long-term prognostications on relatively short market windows," he said, referring to the late-1990s internet boom and bust.
  • "But the fact of the matter is, the internet became a pretty big thing, right? And it took a while to find its footing, and maybe early investor enthusiasm created some businesses at stratospheric valuations that weren't able to sustain themselves.
  • "This pendulum swing around...climate and the energy transition, these are big macro trends, and we're gonna go through a period of dislocation and there's going to be a shakeout.
  • "But I do think incumbents who basically get religion and figure out how to participate in these waves are going to have enormous advantages and opportunities because of their scale. If they're afraid to invest in new technologies because they're worried about short-term earnings, it'll be to their detriment."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Beta is building out net-zero facilities only in Vermont, and not in Mississippi.

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