Sustainability Tech Is Trending This Earth Day
Sustainability tech was one of the five megatrends coming out of CES® 2021, and in honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up some of the sustainability advancements and announcements from the event that show promise in helping save energy, reduce carbon emissions and reduce the strain on natural resources.
Consumer technology companies are designing their product pipelines and aligning their long-term visions with the threat of climate change in mind. For example, during CES 2021, General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra shared the company’s vision for a future with zero emissions during the General Motors Keynote, and Bosch invited consumers to join them in fighting climate change with the launch of its Live Sustainable Like a Bosch campaign.
“Only companies that pursue sustainability today will be successful tomorrow,” said Michael Bolle, CTO and CDO at Robert Bosch GmbH, during the company’s CES 2021 press conference. “And only by harnessing the potential of technology will we succeed in combatting the climate change.”
As identified in the CES 2021 Trends & Takeaways report, sustainable consumer technology innovations at CES 2021 coalesced around three areas: electrification of cars, infrastructure designed for sustainability and digital solutions for a sustainable home.
Electrification of Cars
Major vehicle manufacturing companies are shifting their energies toward electric vehicles, and innovations center on battery efficiency and customer satisfaction.
“The success of electric vehicles is going to be based on making sure that we do not compromise the performance or the attributes that the consumer is looking for,” said Sherif Marakby, executive vice president of research and development at Magna International.
Magna, which engineers and manufactures vehicles, is taking a building-block approach to electric vehicles. For example, they are deploying electric powertrains into the front and rear axles of existing combustion-engine vehicles. A new partnership with LG Electronics will help Magna deliver sustainable, electric powertrain solutions at scale.
Magna is also designing vehicles with aerodynamics in mind to improve efficiency and save energy.
Sono Motors unveiled at CES 2021 a prototype of its solar-powered electric car, Sion. Covered in solar cells instead of paint, the Sion has bi-directional charging capabilities, meaning that consumers can use grid electricity to charge the car battery, if needed, or use the solar energy the vehicle generates to charge other devices.
Mercedes-Benz is offering a fully electric EQS sedan that will include its new MBUX Hyperscreen, which incorporates features to help drivers plan routes and charging. The car also automatically optimizes wattage for the vehicle’s systems to get the most range.
General Motors plans to release 30 models of electric vehicles during the next five years. During the General Motors Keynote, Barra displayed a new generation of electric vehicles that are powered by GM’s Ultium batteries and showcase GM’s vehicle intelligence platform.
Each of the three cars featured at CES 2021 is designed to highlight different consumer preferences, such as power, performance, control or personalized entertainment.
Infrastructure for Sustainability
The way that consumer technology is created, delivered and supported is also ripe for improvements for sustainability, and the tech industry is setting — and meeting — lofty goals.
To power the electric cars coming to the market, more and more batteries are going to be needed, and the world’s largest battery factory and supplier of lithium ion, Panasonic, is moving toward more sustainable practices.
Panasonic has partnered with Redwood Materials to focus on increasing the sustainability of their lithium-ion supply chain. Their vision for the future includes relying on recycling for raw materials and eliminating cobalt.
Bosch is another company that’s aiming to reduce carbon emissions, both at its own locations and by providing solutions for other manufacturers. Bosch’s cloud-based energy platform optimizes equipment and processes in manufacturing operations, helping reduce CO2 emissions in factories.
Bolle explains, “It uses intelligent algorithms to help predict energy consumption, avoid peak loads and correct deviations in typical patterns of consumption.”
The platform is already in use in more than 100 Bosch locations worldwide, and it — along with instituting energy efficiency practices, using renewable energy and green electricity, and offsetting unavoidable emissions with carbon credits — has helped Bosch achieve its goal of carbon neutrality in 2020.
To help other companies similarly reduce their carbon footprint, Bosch has created the Bosch Climate Solutions startup to offer advisory services.
Solutions for a Sustainable Home
On an individual level, smart home technology is allowing homeowners to take control of their energy and water use, making homes more sustainable.
“The true value of smart homes will be delivered when energy management becomes part of this value proposition,” said Jai Thampi, senior vice president, home and distribution business at Schneider Electric.
Schneider Electric has a system of solutions for smart and sustainable homes, Wiser, that includes the Square D Energy Center, a smart electrical panel and accompanying software application that acts as an energy management system. It combines the functionalities of solar inverter, energy monitoring and electrical protection within a single electrical panel.
Paired with active monitoring smart circuit breakers, a room-by-room temperature control system, and sensors that manage real-time energy use, Schneider Electric’s suite of products are giving homeowners a level of insight that allows them to take control of their carbon footprint by measuring, quantifying and even gamifying energy efficiency targets.
Bosch is introducing eco-friendly solutions that help consumers reduce their environmental impact, including
- Household heating systems that reduce carbon footprint.
- Energy-saving dishwashers.
- Clothes washing machines that save water.
- Power tools that reduce electronic waste.
Kohler smart, touchless faucets can help homeowners monitor water usage and then, based on that new awareness, reduce their usage. Kohler also has a whole-home water monitoring system, powered by Phyn, that uses machine learning to detect leaks and monitor water usage anywhere in the home.
From the world’s largest factories to consumers’ homes, reducing carbon emissions and living more sustainably is going to require changes on every level, and technology is helping create a greener path forward.