In the automotive industry, a more environmentally responsible future is clear: electrification. But for the heavy-duty trucking sector, however, the path towards combatting climate change isn’t as straightforward. Several companies are using a semi-truck’s large size to fit massive battery packs, while others are pursuing hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains for quicker refueling.
Livonia, Michigan-based startup Remora sees an opportunity to address these challenges and make existing diesel trucks more environmentally friendly. Much more environmentally friendly, as Remora’s groundbreaking device promises to cut at least 80 percent of a semi truck’s carbon dioxide emissions with their carbon capture exhaust technology.
Christina Reynolds is a co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Remora. She is a leading expert in mobile carbon capture and pioneered the technology during her engineering PhD at the University of Michigan.
“Remora’s technology isn’t a new thing, we’ve just taken solid porous carbon capture to a much higher level than anyone else has,” says Reynolds. Here’s how it works:
Remora’s device attaches to an existing or new semi truck’s exhaust system between the cab and the trailer. As exhaust flows through the device, their proprietary technology captures the majority of CO2 the truck emits. In fact, Remora says that aforementioned 80 percent capture rate is just a baseline figure, and they expect it to go up significantly as testing progresses. Achieving 95 percent CO2 capture is not impossible, says Reynolds. Better yet, the weight and exhaust restriction penalty is so low that Remora claims just a 1 percent drop in performance and efficiency.
When refueling or at the end of a route, the carbon will be offloaded into a larger holding tank. The process takes around 5-10 minutes. Eventually, another Remora-equipped truck will collect the offloaded CO2 and ship it to the other main component of Remora’s business model.
Carbon dioxide makes concrete stronger
Remora will sell the CO2 they’ve collected from trucks to industrial end users such as concrete manufacturers. Here, carbon dioxide makes the concrete stronger and it’s trapped in the material for good. The profit is split between Remora and the customer, incentivizing environmental stewardship and creating an ideal win-win scenario for Remora and their customers.
Adding a Remora device to one truck is equivalent to planting 6,200 trees. Better yet, the Remora device is actually carbon negative when a truck runs on biofuels. Plants capture carbon from the atmosphere, and then release it through the exhaust where the Remora device captures the CO2 before offloading and trapping it in concrete. The biofuel cycle pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and locks it away.
“Our device costs less and is more environmentally friendly than building new EV or hydrogen semi-trucks to replace every truck on the roads,” continues Reynolds. “And for the truck itself, diesel trucks go further, have more payload capacity, refuel faster and can have similar carbon reduction percentage with Remora, or a higher percent reduction when using biofuels.”
Pilot programs take off with customers, fleet owners
In fall 2021, Remora will roll out devices to their first pilot customers. 2022, however, is where things really get moving. They have secured 13 pilot customers to adopt Remora devices to part of their fleets, and not one of those companies are worth less than $100 billion. Many of them are in the Fortune 10.
Currently, the company employs a rapidly expanding team of 12 and is harnessing the manufacturing capabilities of metro-Detroit to outsource manufacturing. And even though their focus is on semi-trucks right now, Reynolds says they can scale it to a variety of applications:
“We can tailor this device to other major carbon-emitting machines; construction and other heavy-duty vehicles, powerplants and generators, possibly even cruise ships, there’s a lot more on the table to pursue.”
Remora is named after the remora fish, which attaches to sharks and whales to eat scrap food that is otherwise wasted and enters the water stream. Remora’s carbon capture does the same for semi-trucks, and should make the world a little better for the fish the company is named after.