Ecolution kWh, the company behind Module Active Response System (MARS) is on an ambitious mission. If the Ecolution MARStechnology is installed in 10,000 trailers and train cars, Ecolution kWh could become a global leader in power generation. Currently, approximately 2 million trucks pulling 40-50 foot trailers throughout North America could use the Ecolution MARS technology. The size of the train car market is even larger.
Craig Bouchard co-founded Ecolution kWh along with CEO Johanne Medina-Then, CTO Johnny Then-Gautier, and Luis Santos, Ph.D. The minority-owned company raised a seed round led by Brown Venture Group out of Minneapolis in 2021.
What is the Ecolution “MARS” system?
Ecolution kWh started its product offering by targeting refrigerated trailers (Reefer’s) pulled by heavy-duty trucks. Ecolution technology makes these vehicles more efficient by reducing fuel consumption and mitigating carbon emissions. With Ecolution’s MARS system, the existing TRU Genset system and diesel gas tank in the Reefer trailer can be eliminated. The Ecolution Reefer Trailer weighs about 1658 pounds less than the technology currently on the road. This increase in efficiency helps solve the range problem that has served as a headwind for electric truck production. Trucks equipped with Ecolution tech will have a potential increase in range of up to 30 percent.
Ecolution applied for global patents of its “MARS” system for trains and subways. Imagine a typical freight train with three locomotives pulling 100 cars. Just one flat car on that train with a battery container on top will generate and store 2.5 megawatt-hours in one day’s time. This energy would be downloaded at the train station. In most large cities there are hundreds of freight trains passing through each day. Ecolution envisions a hundred-megawatt “megapack” of energy generated by the kinetic energy from trains and truck trailers available to each smart city. Such a megapack could power the redevelopment of inner cities with healthy clean power. Real social justice at work.
As the Ecolution kWh website explains, “MARS transforms heavy-duty vehicles and rail cars into a just-in-time rolling electric grid that dramatically reduces carbon emissions, empowering users to generate, store and distribute energy.” The patents that have been obtained by Ecolution apply to “any moving vehicle,” meaning that maritime and space applications are down the road.
The Ecolution Mars system uses alternators connected on the axle or bogie to the trailer or train car brakes, funneling power to battery storage. Unlike regenerative braking, the ecolution system can generate large amounts of electricity during deceleration, steady-state, or acceleration. The on-demand energy can be downloaded into micro-grids at train stations, industrial plants, or directly into the grid. Ecolution has executed letters of intent thus far with the cities of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Amarillo, Texas. More cities are undoubtedly on the way as clean energy that can be moved to wherever it’s needed is a common demand around the world.
The possibility of running heavy-duty trucks with wheels equipped for travel on the rail makes the MARS technology even more fascinating. This would allow the adoption of the ecolution technology at a lower cost and with more flexible logistics, broadening the total addressable market.
Why Now’s the time for Ecolution kWh
While gas prices continue to grab the headlines, a less-talked-about cost is also rising: the cost of electricity. Rising electricity prices stem from multiple reasons. The most immediate is the rise in the price of natural gas. In the United States, 40 percent of electricity comes from burning natural gas.
Because of green trends and supply chain costs, it is unlikely that energy prices will come down soon. What may be permanent is the cost that utility companies must incur to harden their grids against natural disasters. This drive to harden grids has come as a result of disasters linked to climate change. Utilities are also investing in new equipment, sources of energy and transmission lines to mitigate their emissions.
Compounding the cost of all these utility system upgrades is the ongoing supply chain issues. Utilities have to pay a premium and experience long delays to procure the materials they need. Supply shortages are becoming an increasingly alarming issue. In New England, there’s not enough pipeline capacity to bring in natural gas for electricity.
Taken together, all these factors have created a market that doesn’t just demand innovation like Ecolution’s, but needs it.
Solving Electricity Shortages and Easing Prices
In times of disaster, Ecolution technology could be a material help. With the Ecolution microgrid, one flatbed trailer could produce 2-megawatt hours of power per day. With just ½ of 1% of the 2 million trailers in the US equipped, Ecolution tech could potentially produce more power than a 500 Megawatt natural gas power plant.
That in itself could help mitigate shortages and ease price pressure for a small to medium-sized city. But the energy wouldn’t be restricted to locations on the grid. It would be mobile. And it could be produced at a tenth of the capital cost involved in building a new power plant. In times of disaster, this power could be moved where it’s most desperately needed.
Taking Greenhouse Gas Emissions Head On
Many companies pay lip service to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But these efforts often fall short because they’re not targeting the greatest producers of greenhouse gasses. That will not be the case with Ecolution kWh. Ecolution’s tech is built for medium and heavy-duty vehicles powered by diesel fuel. These vehicles produce a large share of carbon emissions.
According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, medium and heavy-duty vehicles account for more than 20 percent of transportation emissions. And transportation is the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions by industry.
On top of that, the second biggest contributor to emissions by industry is electricity. So by converting vehicles into mobile power plants, Ecolution kWh reduces the fossil fuel burning needed for electricity.
Also, while regulations have forced diesel truck engines to operate relatively clean diesel engines, trailers are a different story. Diesel engines on refrigerated trailers are less regulated than the cab. The trailer Genset units produce an inordinate amount of fine particulate emissions. These fine particulates cause lung cancer, aggravate the airways, and are especially harmful to people with respiratory issues. For cities like St. Paul and Amarillo, let alone larger cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Mexico City, and others, particulate matter is a serious problem.
So in essence, Ecolution technology fights against the biggest carbon emitters in the industries responsible for the most carbon emissions. No lip service is needed.
A Brighter Future with Ecolution kWh
After just two years of existence, Ecolution made the shortlist for finalists in the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards. The company was up for the award in the Product Innovation of the Year category. Ecolution kWh also earned an honorable mention in the World-Changing Ideas Awards 2021.
With a network of one thousand train cars, the company believes it can replace traditional or nuclear power plants to supply towns, power trucks and rail cars, or refrigerated shipping containers. Ecolution’s leaders consider MARS technology as a failsafe for the potential destruction of the grid by an EMP attack. For the world, this could mean a safer, more affordable, and more resilient energy strategy.