Additional Competition Tracks

We acknowledge in this competition the importance of accounting for the entire lifecycle from the get-go in solution development. At the same time, in such a vast space of activity, we wonder if there’s room to acknowledge different types of efforts that can collectively move us closer to a preferred future state – energizing the planet with green energy.

You can see the current timeline draft in this discussion.
Below are two options for additional tracks.
Where do you see the higher value - option one or two? Are additional tracks needed at all? Why?
Option 1: Three tracks in Semifinals, one team can compete in multiple tracks.
In phase I, following the fuel evaluation (track A), evaluation of 2 additional tracks (B and C).

  • Track A: The (energy carrier) producers | developing the energy carrier (/green fuel)
  • Track B: The Processors (logistics) | developing the preparation for energy storage and transfers
  • Track C: The Users | developing/modifying the conversion technologies

Option 2: Two conversion tracks in the Finals (teams can compete in both)
Track A (the current competition): Transition the planet to clean energy and electrification. Immediate and long-term impact.

Demonstrate efficiency in:

  • Combustion for long-haul transportation and back up power
  • Heat Generation for heavy industry
  • Electrification (best use case)

Track B: The Perfect Electric Cycle (horizon impact, make the best business case).

Demonstrate efficiency in:

  • Electrification for long-haul transportation
  • Electrification for backup power
  • Electrification for heavy industry
  • Electrification for buildings

and provide a detailed deployment plan accounting for technology depreciation

Hi @akb, @carlbozzuto, @rayw, @b0bbybaldi, @agval, @Magneto, @gyyang, @clabeaux, @SPSBadwal, @skunsman, @marcelschreier, @bernardsaw, @Paul, @KeithDPatch - What is do you think about the two options of additional competition tract provided here? Which option would provide higher value according to you?

Hi Sashi,
For me, although Option 1 is cleaner, it might not provide the integration you’re after. Thus, Option 2 sounds more interesting and could generate more innovative scenarios. I would only add to Track A the lines that include “storage and distribution” to make it a complete package.

Hi Shashi, We took an early decision that we should specialise in just one specific area, the production of low cost green Hydrogen, and that to be in all the other specialist areas we would work with companies that have positioned themselves there. For us, the main external collaborative areas are the construction of high quality stainless steel cylinders for the production and storage of H2 gas and fuel cells for the production of electricity from our Hydrogen as they could be included in our plan to deliver complete Hydrogen production units installed in standard 20ft (50Kgs per hour) and 40ft (100kgs per shipping containers for easy delivery to where the hydrogen/power is needed, which may also include "Powerwalls " electrcity storgae and distribution to homes and businesses. Clearly to achieve global reductions of CO2 will require major investment and large scale production of all components. Consequently we fit in virtually all the options listed.
You have requested detailed production plans, where can we uplift our documents to?

Hi @Shashi and @Eti - I can’t make up my mind between the two options, but here’s the aspects I like from them…

Option 1: the energy carrier production [fuel or other potential energy form], storage and transfer, and end user aspects.

Option 2: Electrification for long-haul transportation, backup power, and sites (heavy industry and buildings).

Looking at all the aspects (in bold) above I’m wondering if they could be merged: energy carrier production; storage and transfer; and then end user aspects (for transportation, backup power, and sites).

There might be some overlap across some aspects, e.g. between storage and transfer and backup power, and sites.

Each aspect might have its own set of evaluation criteria, and some proposed solutions might have winning attributes across more than one aspect. [For example, an unforeseen breakthrough delivering an ultra-high energy density, light-weight, compact, low cost, safe solution might address all use cases.]

As you probably know I’m not a fan of combustion in the future - but I do recognise its immediate importance over the short to medium term. Compatible combustion systems allow current systems to continue without significant disruption and additional investment (from the end user perspective).

@akb @agval Thank you for your comments, these are key considerations. Reading your comments, I realize I should have included a clarification that the rest of the competition remains the same. I’d like to share this context in case you have anything to add to your comments.

For both options, competing teams address the full cycle and partner as needed. Meaning, if an existing team doesn’t have all capabilities in-house they may partner with another. Teams will work together from the beginning to address the Finals: demonstration of the energy carrier (/fuel) lifecycle.

  • In option 1, teams are working together to achieve the full cycle from the get go, but tested separately in Phase I. In the finals, they will be evaluate for 3 use-cases by function: combustion, heat generation, and electrification.
  • In option 2. The competition looks the same as featured below, and splits for the end-use testing in Finals. As such, all competition teams will be evaluated for fuel quality, storage, production rate, scaling potential, transfer/distribution, sustainability and so on. Teams can then choose to demonstrate their energy carrier end-use performance in track A and/or track B. Track A does includes an electrification demonstration, but it is left open to allow the innovator to demonstrate their best use case.

For additional reference, the current competition timeline as featured in this discussion.

Thanks @rayw for sharing your thoughts. You don’t need to send any documents now, but you could participate in the competition when the competition launches later. Thanks.

@akb
Thank you Adam, and I’d like to echo your sentiment about combustion vis-a-vis the urgency to decarbonize and provide clean fuels to the most vulnerable. We have long been debating this topic among our team, asking if we can focus just on the preferred energy future (electrification). Yet, we repeatedly hear/read that the main strength/promise of energy carriers/fuels is in facilitating this transition from short to medium to long (electrification of the hardest to abate sectors), particularly in consideration of how slow infrastructure and conversion technology is slow to change. And that’s actually the grounds for the two tracks in option 2: though Track A includes electrification, maybe Track B can bring forth more innovations in the utilization of energy carriers for electrification (?) What do you think?

P.s. IEA recently highlighted the challenge of existing infrastructure: Making the transition to clean energy – Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 – Analysis - IEA.

Hi @Eti
In the short to medium term it’s likely that a mixture of solutions will prevail - each depending on local scenarios, support and investment. (For example, see the Global Renewable Energy Network diagram.) Fuel can play a key role in this phase. Preferably in a fuel cell, but combustion is likely to continue to be a dominate feature. Aside from carbon issues, combustion is a significant contributor to outdoor and indoor air pollution (e.g. NOx, PM) - and so that’s the reason for the preference to move away from combustion, when it’s viable. “Clean” fuel is often used in the context of carbon alone - and often ignores that fact that combustion isn’t clean, it’s typically polluting.

So perhaps one aspect of the XPRIZE challenge is this early transition period: how do we keep existing systems running with as much of the existing infrastructure as possible.

The second aspect is the ultimate goal: electrification [which may include fuel in fuel cells]. In the future, it will be [theoretically] possible to support every use case by electricity alone - i.e. no combustion process [except perhaps for some chemical reactions].

*My following self-defeating ramblings are left in, as it might inspire someone else to come up with a better solution :slight_smile: *

Regarding options and tracks, perhaps allowing teams to just focus on one of the following might (or might not) work: energy carrier production; storage and transfer; or an end user aspect (e.g. transportation or heavy industry).

Until the challenge runs and teams apply we might not know what capabilities each team has but I suspect many would only be able to address one or two aspects of the above list, and getting teams to join up to produce a full solution might bring its own problems. So I wonder if separate XPRIZE prizes might be needed for each aspect: energy carrier production; storage and transfer; or an end user. The downside to my proposed approach is there would be a lot of prizes to award (and that might mean a huge budget); and a full solution might not result, or winning solutions are incompatible with other parts of the complete picture / infrastructure. The XPRIZE Foundation has a lot more experience of these aspects than I do, so I happily defer to their expertise on this :slight_smile:

I would prefer option 2. In my opinion, the improvements that are potentially provided by Track A can be applied with more immediate impact. The potential for Track B will likely take much longer. With the possible exception of buildings, the other 3 applications will be exceptionally difficult to decarbonize without some kind of new technology that does not use some kind of combustion technology or fossil fuel. It should also be recognized that the more sectors become electrified, the more electricity production is needed and the more back up power is needed. That also implies more grid infrastructure and reliability. Finally, the key words in Track B are to “provide a detailed deployment plan accounting for technology depreciation”. Whatever solutions that are proposed, the deployment solution will be the critical path to actually accomplishing the proposed goal.

I find the following interesting:
Option 1: Three tracks in Semifinals, one team can compete in multiple tracks.
From this, I would delete
Track C: The Users | developing/modifying the conversion technologies
That track is unclear and vague.

In the case of
Option 2: Two conversion tracks in the Finals (teams can compete in both)
I think the ones which are actionable quantifiable challenges are:
For Track A -> Heat Generation for heavy industry
For Track B -> Electrification for heavy industry
The others in this track are already well researched and exploited in the market, but it is for the industry that I see a niche and potential opportunity for innovative solutions.

Thanks @akb, @b0bbybaldi, @carlbozzuto and @agval for sharing your thoughts.

Many thanks @carlbozzuto, for your comments – very interesting and helpful aspects! I’m curious if you happen to have an estimate of how long will it take to develop prototypes for Track B (electrification of the hardest to abate sectors)?

Secondly, I had a couple of questions regarding your short comments on buildings. Is this type of innovation for buildings relatively more mature? And if so, is it warranted to keep buildings in the competition to demo? We are specifically thinking about retrofitting existing buildings – what do you think?

For most buildings, the main requirements are lighting and HVAC. Buildings are already switching to more efficient lighting systems, which already use electricity. Thus, at least part of the building is already electrified. For HVAC, the common proposals are heat pumps and electric chillers. These would convert a major portion of the building workload to electricity, instead of hot water for heating and chilled water for cooling. Then there is the potential for micro grid applications to give the major buildings some resilience. The biggest problem is that buildings tend to be long lived. I bought my house in 1972. Over the years, we made additions, replaced the windows, added siding with additional insulation, replaced all of the appliances, and replaced the furnace in the basement. We are now more energy efficient than we were in 1972. However, it took us over 40 years to accomplish all of those things. Buildings are like that. MIT has a major program looking at buildings. I would not recommend taking them out of the competition. It just seems to me that they have a few more options than say heavy industry or long distance travel.
Relative to the question of timing, it takes time to develop enough data to start the design of a relatively small prototype. For the Carbon XPRIZE, we tried to accelerate that process by suggesting that within a year of being selected for the final round, the contestants could have their equipment designed, shipped, and constructed at the test site and then be ready for testing for perhaps an 8 month period. That was before the pandemic. Even so, teams were behind schedule for getting their equipment designed, fabricated, and shipped to the test sites. With the pandemic, and additional year was needed and, even then, several teams were not able to get their full testing requirements completed. Once the prototype is built, it has to be tested and run for some significant period of time. There will likely be problems encountered that will call for some adjustments. We just completed our judging after 4 years from the starting point. The Carbon XPRIZE had a fairly definitive goal. A team had to capture CO2 from power plant flue gas and make a useful product. The goals for this prize are a little more vague (ie electrification of heavy industry). I suspect that a little more time will be needed, maybe something like 5 years overall.

@carlbozzuto thank you so much for the detailed answer, it is extremely helpful!

Option 2 sounds better to me.