In the transition to an electric world, there is a clear need to be energy- and cost-efficient. Looking at cars, in particular, electric engines can harness about 77 percent of grid-generated energy; comparatively, a gas combustion engine converts only between 12 to 30 percent of gas into motion. While more friendly to the environment and your wallet than a fossil-fuel-powered engine, traditional electric engines are not perfect specimens, equating to almost 25 percent energy loss.
One company, Turntide Technologies, has a mission “to transcend technology barriers to make every watt worthwhile, accelerating humanity’s move to 100% clean energy.”
To fund this journey to a more efficient motor, the company recently raised $80 million, leading the company to be valued at more than $1 billion.
Turntide Technologies produced a “smart” switched reluctance motor, powered by software and connected to the cloud, based on research conducted by its Vice President of Motor Design, Piyush Desai, at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “Desai’s team’s research was focused on evolving these motors from inefficient but reliable machines into highly efficient and still-reliable machines. And they did it,” Eric Meyerson, Vice President of Brand and Marketing Communications, told The Impact. The motor reduces energy usage by 64 percent on average and can be used in HVAC rooftop units, air handling units, and fan arrays. Case studies achieved energy savings of 63 percent at a biotech company in San Francisco, and 70 percent at a Five Guys restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama. Plus, installing the technology at more than 300 retail bank locations saved Fifth Third Bank $500,000 in annual energy bills.
Turntide’s mobile and web apps allow users across industries to easily and fully automate systems, view real-time equipment and building data, monitor and manage them remotely for optimal performance, receive notifications about irregular behavior, and create detailed reports based on information and insights that are stored forever. CEO Ryan Morris says that if these intelligent motors took the place of every traditional motor in buildings around the world, over 2 billion tons of carbon emissions would be avoided, equating to “adding seven Amazon rainforests to the planet.”
Although Turntide has worked primarily in the building sector, with customers like JCB and JLL, it has also sold its product to those in the agricultural sector and transportation, like Hitachi Rail. It also ramped up its activity in the transport sector with a flurry of acquisitions, such as electric vehicle technology companies Hyperdrive Innovation and BorgWarner Gateshead.
Moreover, Turntide’s motors consist of common materials rather than rare earth metals, the mining of which can be environmentally harmful, involved in complicated supply chains, and are expensive.
Indeed, manufacturers like Stellantis have been making deals with mining companies in the face of a shortage of metals needed for electric batteries and a resulting scramble to acquire more. It does not help that metals often come from China. Dave OudeNijeweme, head of technology trends at the Advanced Propulsion Centre, explained to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers: “a relatively small number of large companies based there are producing magnets at price points that are below what western companies can match.”
It is no surprise, then, that “demand for electric motors for vehicles is skyrocketing. The supply (for raw materials) is not increasing very quickly. I think you’re going to have a boiling point reached in the next three to four years,” Morris explained to Reuters. Therefore, a battery that does not rely on these metals avoids some significant problems.
Turntide has more than 150 patents on this battery technology and has received investments from a number of well-known sources, including the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, BMW i Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures from founder Bill Gates and the FootPrint Coalition from founder Robert Downey, Jr. Existing investors such as Fifth Wall and Meson Capital’s Captain Planet LP took part in the company’s most recent fundraising round, along with new investors like OGCI Climate Investments and SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust. The company plans to use the new funds to invest in stateside manufacturing and the development of new technologies. “This capital will accelerate and further scale our efforts to decarbonize the world’s most energy-intensive industries,” Morris said in the press release.
The company’s mission to avoid wasting energy is perhaps best reflected in its name change from Software Motor Company to Turntide Technologies in 2020. “Turning the tide on carbon emissions growth requires a massive improvement in energy efficiency to complement renewable generation,” the company explained upon the rebrand. This newest fundraising round, and its achievement of famed “unicorn” status, places Turntide one step closer to achieving its sustainability goals.