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Driving force: Alf Poor, CEO of Ideanomics

Alf Poor, CEO of Ideanomics—a global company focused on commercial electric vehicles (EVs)—speaks with Acuris Capital Intelligence about the global supply chain and the company’s interest in the battery space.

Interview by Rachel Stone

Q. Do you expect global supply chain issues to abate in 2022?

It should ease up, but it really depends on where we go with the pandemic. You’ve got a perfect storm of ports and manufacturers shutting down because of outbreaks, on top of an increase in demand and in the prices in raw materials. COVID-19 is the one wildcard. Otherwise, we're starting to see manufacturers ramp up capability.

Manufacturers are trying to meet the backlog for today's chips—I think that will be the next struggle. I don't think we're going to see a lot of innovation in the chip sector for the next couple of years because they're trying to meet this backlog of demand.

Some semiconductor companies that we're talking to want a 64-week lead time. It's not going to help the adoption of commercial EV if we're waiting 14-15 months to start getting access to chips. That stifles innovation to some degree because you can only buy what's available.

Q. Why should we be watching the commercial EV space?

COVID-19 accelerated a trend that was already happening—local and last-mile delivery, which is becoming more and more prevalent.

It’s a slam dunk for battery EV because most of these vehicles are “return-to-base operations,” i.e. they do less than 100 miles a day. That's a perfect use case for a battery vehicle. That’s notwithstanding the fact that battery vehicles don't idle like many of the vehicles used by other delivery services—FedEx, Amazon, UPS, USPS.

Battery EV works like a golf cart: If you don't push the accelerator then you don't use power or take up energy. It's going to be cost saving for them and an environmental saving as well.

Q. Why are you watching the battery sector?

There is an advantage to investing in a growth area because your shareholders and the company will benefit. Also, the transition to battery EVs from regular vehicles requires a huge increase in global manufacturing capacity in batteries.

A battery that goes in a typical car is exponentially smaller than a battery that goes in an EV because it's only required to turn over the starter motor and run a little bit of low voltage within the car. Batteries put into EVs are high voltage—up to 800-900 volts—so they're significantly larger and significantly more expensive.

Currently, there is not the capacity in the US, let alone globally, to support the amount of EVs that are going to be on the roads in the next 10 to 15 years.

Q. What moves will your company take as government spending programs derived from the passing of the infrastructure bill come online?

Ideanomics will get in both on the infrastructure side, with energy storage and charging, and in the vehicles themselves.

We have some unique technologies, such as high-power wireless inductive charging, which is good for long-haul fleets that need to charge quickly. It removes the health and safety issue, and the thermodynamics issue of cable-based charging.

We will also benefit from the vehicles themselves — everything from two-wheelers to 18-wheelers. As two-wheelers become more important for delivery, particularly in urban areas, you're going to see a lot more people in micro mobility as well.

A bit of background: Ideanomics, based in New York, is a global company focused on commercial electric vehicles and associated sustainable energy consumption. It helps in the transformation and management of electrification in commercial fleets from vehicles to charging and energy. Alf Poor, CEO, is former COO at cybersecurity company Global Data Sentinel.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.