We should be using hydrogen fuel cells paired with batteries right now. Leclanché is currently retrofitting vehicles to use both these complimentary technologies. There is no reason why any heavy transport vehicle should be using diesel fuel any longer; we can put a stop to it within a few years. There is a larger technology debate and economic viability case but these are manageable obstacles. The battery industry has evolved and is creating good by itself. Smart energy management architecture and batteries paired with hydrogen fuel cells are creating an enhanced and immediate impact. This is evolutionary in nature.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World In The Next Few Years,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Anil Srivastava.
Anil Srivastava, the Chief Executive Officer of Leclanché, is a highly successful and experienced executive with a strong track record of building global businesses. His quarter century experience spans the clean energy, digital technology and telecommunications markets.
He joined Leclanché in June 2014 and has engineered a turnaround of the 100-plus year old battery manufacturer into a top-tier provider of energy storage solutions serving the utilities and mobility/transportation industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was born and raised in India and learned that human society will be much happier when you can advance anything in the areas of food, healthcare, water or electricity. Anything that advances in these areas is ideal. I was brought to this specific career path from an experience I had with my wife while I was on vacation in Greece. We were in the middle of “nowhere” and I saw a solar panel on the roof of a house — tapping into the energy of the sun. It made me think of the villages in India. Affordability + Power. After that moment, I came back to Paris and joined Areva Renewables, a company in this space.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I joined Alcatel in Paris, I was faced with the need to change the mindset of the Enterprise Division team I was leading. I felt that as a company, we had lost our attention to detail. Everything was old and not in good condition. I decided to start out by improving the bathrooms, the sinks, the toilets, etc. One young employee told me that I was crazy in an all-hands meeting. My simple response to this was, if you can’t figure out the small things, you can’t figure out the big things. Attention to small details makes good companies great and great companies excellent. The rest is history built on good teamwork and commitment; the Company resumed growth after many years of decline.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I don’t have any specific principles or philosophies; just the values I live with. I learned my work ethic from my parents. My mom had no formal education, and my dad was a chief financial officer. He taught me about integrity and honesty by example. Though he had broad access to company money and resources, he never took advantage of his trusted position to enrich himself or provide for a better home, newer appliances, cars, etc. for our family. He was very principled and didn’t give into temptation; I appreciated him teaching me that key lesson. My mother was persistent, a hard-worker and woke me up every morning to study and be on top of things like my education. I learned those important values from my parents.
Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?
Our team at Leclanché is creating a smart energy management architecture marrying the latest battery technology with green hydrogen fuel cells with the goal of tripling overall power efficiency compared to standalone fuel cells. This will help to greatly reduce greenhouse emissions and the cost of ownership!
The impact of this smart energy management architecture is significant. It can reduce greenhouse gasses significantly — nearing zero emissions in the heavy transport sector. That’s trucks, busses, marine vessels of all kinds, mining vessels of all kinds, port infrastructure, etc.
We don’t have to wait until 2050 to reduce greenhouse emissions. We can see a quick significant profound reduction in greenhouse gasses right now and help to create a green economy in these sectors using Leclanché’s Smart Energy Management Architecture.
How do you think this will change the world?
We should be using hydrogen fuel cells paired with batteries right now. Leclanché is currently retrofitting vehicles to use both these complimentary technologies. There is no reason why any heavy transport vehicle should be using diesel fuel any longer; we can put a stop to it within a few years. There is a larger technology debate and economic viability case but these are manageable obstacles.
The battery industry has evolved and is creating good by itself. Smart energy management architecture and batteries paired with hydrogen fuel cells are creating an enhanced and immediate impact. This is evolutionary in nature.
No, I don’t see any unintended consequences, but I do see obstacles. The obstacles could come from people trying to take a very rigid, almost religious position if you will, in hydrogen fuel cells versus batteries. I could see that getting in the way. I could see someone saying one is great and someone else saying the other is greater. But combined, they are better. I expect some resistance from vested interests, if you will and primarily from a technology debate, as to which one is superior.
There should be an incentive for retrofitting highly polluting vehicles diesel-powered heavy transport vehicles including credit for ‘saved CHG emissions’ and a penalty for those who do not.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
No, tipping point, this has truly been evolutionary in nature. Current battery technology is good by itself but not sufficient to solve the key problems in heavy transportation and other sectors. A smart energy management architecture can make a significant and profound impact right now.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We’ve always led by example. Whenever we see opportunity, we’ve acted. We are currently leading the charge to widespread adoption.
Here are three projects using a combination of hydrogen fuel cells plus batteries that showcase how we are leading by example:
- HySeas project in Scotland, UK: this technology is used by maritime vessels in Scotland. This is the final step to zero emissions from marine transport — all powered by renewables.
- A large trucking company in the U.S.
- Freight Trains: We are currently helping to retrofit a diesel locomotive to 100% electric clean power in Canada. Converting a diesel locomotive to 100 percent electric? Can you imagine the impact of that? That’s what we do — help to create an ecosystem of partnerships moving forward.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Premature industrial grade: The battery industry was still in an industrial ramp-up stage.
- Complexity: The complexity of energy storage systems is severely understated. This industry is a convergence of electrochemistry and IT systems for application in the mobility and electricity industry.
- Vehicle ‘start-use case’ to ‘now running vehicles’: Batteries were used for starting vehicles; not for running vehicles. The scale of engineering, performance reliability and safety requirements needed for that is much more demanding than just the start-use case. The challenge for the scale was, and I believe still, is underestimated. Look at the repeated recalls in the automotive industry involving some of the largest players in the Industry. Also, look at the repeated unfortunate fire incidents in energy storage systems.
- Leclanché, my Company, though 100+ years old with rich heritage, was essentially a start-up in developing new applications of battery technologies.
- I underestimated the capital investment, and time, required to scale the business in all its aspects. Our technology needed to leapfrog the much larger Asian competitors. Our production levels needed to be at multi-gigawatt hour scale to be cost-competitive. Thanks to our shareholders, our technology has achieved that with an investment of more ca. $250 million over the past six years — we are well on our way to scale our production capacity in Germany and are looking to expand further through a joint venture in the automotive sector.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets?”
Honesty. Start by being honest and truthful to yourself.
Acknowledging the Issue at Hand/Coming Together: Problems need to be solved by coming together and acknowledging you have a problem.
Voicing Your Concerns to Others: Be honest about your fears and your concerns with others.
Don’t Overpromise: Better to be honest and willing to speak to what you can do, in terms of ability and capability.
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Smart Energy Management Architecture: Anil Srivastava’s Big Idea That Might Change the World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.