Having recently worked out new promotion images to attract investors for Kolibri and shared them on LinkedIn, the halftime for the attention about LinkedIn articles sure is very short. So Mike asked me why I wouldn’t put them in the blog. So here you go. I think you see the development from 14 to 16 October?
14 October: On Kolibri Profitability
Got asked about Kolibri profitability. We intend to start with min. 4 and up to 21 aircraft (higher initial investment = less overhead cost per aircraft, more routes = lower risk). More than 200 a/c year 10.
Roughly serving more than 65 million passengers a year, sustainably employing more than 20,000 people, creating more than 60,000 other jobs in Europe. A #highlyprofitable#billioneurobusiness if you avoid the common mistakes.
And as I keep saying. If you want to be a #profitableairline manager, #thinkoutsidethebox. Way outside the box. The same if you want to launch a profitable lighthouse airline to fly climate-neutral within a decade.
Looking at the past two years struggling to find investors for Kolibri, to change aviation and develop the proof-of-concept for carbon-neutral aviation, meeting with impact investors, family office principals, venture capitalists and others, European, Arabic, North American and even Asia resulted in quite some disillusioning.
Two lessons learned.
Lesson 1: It’s All About Energy
If. If we really want to stop global warming, it boils down to reduce our energy demand. On a global level. But the reality is quite opposite.
While the current clash with Russia should be another wake-up call, it just proves that and how far we are from saving energy. From removing our energy footprint. Instead our leaders travel the world buying fracking-gas, crude oil and “natural” gas (from crude) to feed the ongoing hunger. We can’t expand “sustainable energy” fast enough, to reduce, less to replace all the oil, coal and gas we consume for our energy hunger. And building windparks, water-power-plants, solar parks also comes with a toll. One we have no idea yet on how to avoid the negative repercussions to our world. Which I i.e. addressed last year in my question about Wind Parks and the Butterfly Effect and the fixed page on The Sustainability-Energy Dilemma…
If we use more energy to solve any of the famous United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it’ll be a barrel burst! If we go for electric cars, is that more than putting a band aid on a purulent wound? Are the developments about electric flight or hydrogen aircraft anything more than delaying tactics by our industry to justify their lousy 2%-blending goal? Look at my whitepaper about #greenwashing if you want to find more examples.
Lesson 2: The Reality Behind Impact Investing
Now my litmus test to distinguish real sustainable investing from #greenwashing is simple: What is the Net Energy Impact? And yes. I’m kind’a sorry… But that includes many, if not most of those fancy “green tech solutions”. They are nothing but another distraction keeping us from the real challenge. And an excuse from governments and investors alike to avoid the real, industrial scale change we truly need!
Also known as #talkthetalk …
Call for Action
Part I: To investors: We are slowly running out of money on our plans for Kolibri. We have succeeded due diligences. We have a holistic approach covering the U.N. SDGs. And we plan to reach break-even within one, be profitable in three years. And to benefit from the “new normal” enforced by Corona and the Invasion of the Ukraine. But to do this we need a sizeable launch-funding and our ideas to establish the technology to fly Carbon-neutral is even more expensive. It ain’t cheap to turn an airline carbon-neutral, but it is possible! So there are three steps. Step 1: Launch a profitable new regional airline with competitive cost-levels to stand out in the shark-pond. Step 2. Expand to lower the cost and generate the revenue to fund Step 3: Establish the infrastructure to turn carbon-neutral … and our ideas for a truly sustainable airline – beyond climate.
If it’s not you, we need commitment to help us secure the funding. Less #talkthetalk
Part II: To All: And for you personally? We as a family reduced our energy consumption by 10% last year. Despite all that modern household-tech, home-office and other energy consumers. What’s your saving?
This weekend German ZDF’s planetⓔ released a documentary about the electric car myth subtitled revolution or barrel burst. In addition, there was an emphatic discussion about hydrogen and mobility on LinkedIn, with very noisy advocates for e-Mobility. So I just wanted to summarize from the documentary some findings that are quite in line with my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma and the Road to Climate-Friendly Transportation (beyond flying). And why I consider e-Mobility a lie.
Don’t get me wrong. We need e-Mobility. No better solution for a household with solar panels on the roof, a battery buffer and a range-demand that allows them to rely on the car. But.
Issue 1: The Batteries
Batterie Raw Materials
As you may remember, I keep referring to this article by National Geographic on the devastating cost of Lithium Mining. Lithium being to date the most important component for batteries. And the replacements ain’t any better! In addition, they need some rare minerals, the prices of which are exploding. Guess the “impact” if we replace not just some 100 thousands but millions of cars by electric. We talk about 56 million cars having been produced in 2019 world-wide.
Experts already worriedly question the viability of battery-powered cars and the overly optimistic believe that the battery prices will continue to fall. China is reported to secure world-wide Lithium deposits, European car makers demanding governments to do the same! It just got to public attention recently on the U.S.’s retreat from Afghanistan (source-sample).
Another issue that slowly reaches the public is the issue of batteries catching fire. First major reports were on the Samsung Galaxy 7 catching fire, forcing i.e. an entire airplane evacuation. But searching the Internet, you find also more recent reports aplenty. Also the Boeing 787 experienced a problem with it’s battery catching fire (fortunately on the ground). Attributed by experts to the attempts to miniaturize and push up the battery capacity beyond their “safe margins”. The scientific term used to distract the public attention is Thermal Runaway…
Worse, recently despite their relative low numbers, electric cars are increasingly reported to catch fire. Some at first loading at a standard, approved home loading facility, others while driving. Different from gasoline, a thermal runaway and the resulting battery explosions cause a much higher real danger to the cars passengers. And it does not help to distinguish the fire, but such car must be placed into a water tank for several days to cool down the batteries. And after a fire, such cars usually are beyond any recycling. The picture just one example of the many that can be found on the Internet.
Incorrect disposal of Li-ion batteries can have a devastating environmental impact on the environment, sparking the need for recycling (Source). But as the ZDF-report also questions, there is virtually no recycling yet and the recycling comes with a bunch of issues. Like non-standardized components and liability issues, that currently result in a very limited recycling. As mentioned in safety, those liability issues are expected to be quite an issue for anyone attempting recycling. And the missing standards resulting even in different battery packs within the model family of the car makers. Making it even harder to recycle them!
Issue 2: The Energy Consumption
Again, now today we have the loading stations for electric cars and they are not enough. With the family in “Car City” Braunschweig (Volkswagen), at our owned apartment, there neither are possibilities to load the cars, nor even nearby. Publicly accessible loading stations are usually for 1-2 cars. But what if all cars are electric. You simply got to be kidding, right?
I have personal reports from friends frustrated about their electric car about unavailable loading stations and long waiting times, but there are also many on the web, like this one. Now let’s imagine a parking house that must be equipped with electric vehicle charging stations for all cars? Then imagine, one of those cars catches fire from a thermal runaway…
And here we talk about an industry country like Germany. Now think about less privileged countries…?
Range and Refuel
German Automotive Club ADAC just recently reported the average range of electric cars being about 350 km (220 miles), up from 250 km (150 miles) five years ago. Thinking about my role as an airline sales manager some years ago, for a road trip, I traveled frequently more than 500 km a day. Then I shall load the car after a half day, sitting around while waiting? Keep in mind, that corporate fleets and rental cars are the main buyers of new cars! And they don’t buy them because they park them most of the time…?
As mentioned before, then we talk about the loading infrastructure i.e. on highway truck stops. Just been stopping at one on one of the busiest German highways. With 8 lanes and 16 loading columns for fossil fuel, and two for electric cars. With two more already waiting in line.
It goes very much in line with the 3 biggest fears of our generation and the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma… Just in case you’re wondering why people still buy (and rent) mostly gasoline-powered cars.
The new Volkswagen ID.4 uses 22.8 kWh per 100 km (Source ADAC). Considering a “typical” average range for a car of 10-15,000 km, we talk about 300 MWh/a. Given 48.2 million cars registered in Germany (German source), we would need about 15 Petawatthours (15,000 TWh/a) one year alone. Any green energy source for that? Germany used 545 TWh/a in 2020… In 2020, about 252 TWh/a were produced from “alternative sources” (aka. green). That would be enough for the power requirement for about 850,000 electric cars…? Reminder, there are 48 million cars roaming German streets.
And sure, all that power comes from the Jack. And sure, it’s all green? Just like German Rail.
The CO2-Saving Lie
Looking at Volkswagen’s own Life-Cycle Assessment, planetⓔ just compared the CO2 on a single car. And how they used a European basis to lower their CO2 impact, instead of using the German statistics, where the impact is worse than on a normal Diesel. So planetⓔ also understand that in order to reduce CO2 is an energy-challenge, we must reduce the energy consumption, all else is blissful ignorance, cognitive dissonance or simply an outright lie!
The e-Mobility Lie
Like I found on the research for the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, we must look at the complete picture. Taking a look at some 50 million cars, which is excluding trucks, at 30 tons CO2 on a 15 year life cycle we talk about 2 tons a year per car. Or 100 million tons of CO2 just in Germany. Make your own maths on Europe or the World.
So to make electric cars “sustainable”, green energy is needed. Which takes us back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. And it confirms my opinion that while we must turn aviation climate friendly and start n.o.w.! There are a lot of other areas that all boil back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. Good ideas mentioned by planetⓔ at the end of the report were needs to rethink transportation. The need to reduce the number of cars. Car sharing, better public mass transport systems, etc., etc. And to develop integrated transportation that works for both, the major cities everyone uses as the role model, but also the rural regions.
The Necessity for a Holistic View
As I mentioned in my post about Flygskam, we have a very … strange? … view on aviation. As on sustainability. And I hope that journalists like planetⓔ, real impact investors and family office principals interested in real impact start more questioning those views. Stop “airline bashing” as addressed in Flygskam, stop worshipping the golden calf of e-Mobility and understand that we don’t have the luxury to do this or that, but that we need this and that!
Ready Player One? I love SciFi. There’s a lot really good ideas how we could merge individual transportation needs with “public” transportation. But that’s SciFi. We need to take the best ideas and evolve our transportation to sustainable ways in the real world. We must reduce energy. Integrate transport modes. Why does it remind me of the question why the big train stations are not at the airports? The “new” Berlin Airport being a perfectly bad example on this!
But if we don’t solve the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, if we don’t focus on ways to reduce energy, it’s all lip-services and greenwashing! And if you know investors who are interested to address this on an industrial scale and make real impact while making profit, I have a lot of ideas. Including profitable plans for myself and my industry, turning aviation environmentally friendly. But that’s only my part of the big picture. Though it covers already many complementary ideas we want to realize in other areas.
Discussing about the individual impact we make, the topic gains interest. What is your own, personal net-impact to our planet? So I decided to summarize some of the posts and comments I had on the topic on LinkedIn.
In line with previous posts about #lipservices, #cognitivedissonance and #wishfulthinking. And a #realitycheck for others, claiming “sustainability” that they do not deliver upon.
Self-Esteem over Sustainability
A clear article on it was today’s post by SEDO-founder Tim Schumacher Search: “People should only be classed as billionaires when they remove a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.” referring to the CNBC article questioning the sustainability investments of Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) and Bill Gates (Microsoft founder).
In my comment, I emphasized that we need no ESG, but #sustainabilityaccounting. And much of what I see from these and other investors is showing their response to their conscience, focusing their activities on things they understand, but also things that have an impact to their self-esteem. And there was also this Open Letter to Bill Gates, reflecting on his #cognitivedissonance or #lipservices. I believe it’s simply cognitive dissonance. Keep in mind, these people also live in their social (media) bubble.
Yesterday, there was a report about industry leader/face James Hogan, former CEO of Etihad, caught in the act, trying to circumvent the Corona rules in place. It underlined my post two weeks ago, that we have airlines skipping pre-flight corona-testing regime. A disservice to an industry trying very hard to make flying safe! I’m sure he regrets that idea now, not having considered the repercussions of being caught.
#cognitivedissonance: While flying itself may be safe, passengers aren’t! Anyone claiming flying to be “safe” shall better keep in mind that the virus spreads and new variants keep spreading by travelers. Also and a lot pre-tested passengers are infected but not yet positive, they then spread the virus in their destination.
Then, let me talk about the decision makers at European Investment Bank (EIB). Claiming to be the European Sustainability Bank. In a conference by Geneva Macro Labs, I asked their head of climate office Elina Kamenitzer on her claim that they do green investments: Are there any success stories that proof the impact, the “impact” targets achieved ever since? Well, no. They “have to look into that now.” It’s about time.
I also reached out to my now ex-point of contact in EIB, about a co-investment into our impact plans. With (a cheap) reference to their Roadmap and the decision there to not finance conventionally fueled aircraft (page 102), he disqualified any investments into aviation. In utter ignorance of what I believe he understood (I did remind him), that we have plans that are not aircraft-funding related. But i.e. development into a synfuel-ecosphere. Our plans cover all of the 17 SDGs, mostly with quantifiable targets that we sure plan to exceed on. If you’re convinced to do the right thing, that comes as a natural.
But that ain’t what the bureaucrats at EIB look at, is it?
So back to the article topic:
What is Your Impact?
There is a petition against greenwashing on Change.org I urge you to sign! Discussing on that one, we had several discussions on how to define greenwashing. Whereas family office principals told me ESG would be the role model for greenwashing. A good idea, meanwhile abused. There may be some investors who understand the meaning of it. But not many.
It is the same about claims to be “sustainable”. Another family office principal told me, that out of the 2020 impact investments, only 4% were having clear impact to improve on SDGs. 96% were disqualified as they just claimed without goals and targets but simple claims misreading the causes. Nice if you plan SDG5 Gender Equality on your hiring process, but without clear targets on how to improve. Or if you abuse SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure for your “innovative IT project”.
Only Net Impact is Real Impact
We came to the conclusion that real impact is about net impact. And that “impact” is about reduction of the strain we put on the planet. To reduce power consumption by 10% but planning to increase the total power needs by 30% is intentional abuse of the sustainability claim.
There are many good examples out there, beyond what we plan at Kolibri. But we speak a lot with investors that want to cash-in on us before we launched. And investors, investing little money into small projects, more like a philanthropy, but an impact investment. Paying for a clean conscience, paying for their other daily sins. I just told one of the family office principals. We are looking not for those classic investors. We are targeting the family office space, as there are more investors than elsewhere wo take sustainability to heart. Who focus on it. Who are understanding that an impact investment might not be as profitable as i.e. Bitcoin. But it’s the right thing to do. And
Impact Investment ain’t philanthropy. Do good and make money!
So this time, not just Food for Thought, but a clear question:
While we have sound plans to establish a profitable airline, planning to operate carbon-neutral, #greenwashing and lip-services dominate responses we get from “impact” investors, why our model cannot be supported. And the same what is heard and seen from politicians and public funds.
Now the last weeks, the “green strategy” is a big issue in the media. European Investment Bank claiming to be be the “Sustainability Bank”. The Mission Hydrogen 24 hour workshop. The reality check on to German Rail’s sustainability. Or the facts about the “global recycling champion” Germany. So let me summarize these reports. And call for any serious investors interested to make a true impact, to talk to us and learn the big impact we want to make. While establishing a profitable, future-focused airline.
German Rail & 100% Sustainable Power?
Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t new. There have been reports about this ever since they started their fake promotion about 100% sustainable power. But just this week, German Television did a reality check, with rather devastating results!
Just 61% of German Rail’s power comes from renewable energy. 28% come from coal and natural gas, where German Rail partly owns the latest built coal power plant, built against all public opposition. German Rail has long-year delivery contracts for atomic power. And only 33 out of 5,679 railway stations are powered from renewable energies, 0.5 % … And by 2038 (17 years from now) German Rail wants to increase the use of sustainable power to only 80%, targeting 100% only for 2050.
That excludes non-rail business, like Schenker logistics, clearly focusing on Dieseltrucks. Where container transport by rail is more than six times more ecofriendly than trucks. But having demolished most of the industrial accesses, parallel tracks and being delayed on major infrastructure projects like the European North-South rail axis, now backfires and cannot be remedied quickly.
ECB & EIB – the Sustainability Banks?
While we talk with impact investors, we do also understand the European Central and the European Investment Bank claiming to be “Sustainability Banks”. Talking with the very same investors being “naturally” and clearly interested in sustainable projects, we asked why they would not make use of those funds to complement an investment into Kolibri or other impact investments.
The feedback I get is painfully clear. They do not work with the EIB (or other government fund programs) for the bureaucratic process required to be “approved” as an investor. I have multiple statements that attempts to support the investment failed. Assumption being voiced that those funds again go to the big players and into unqualified “green projects” that are mostly about #greenwashing. That includes a claim that EIB funds new aircraft for the dinosaurs – without any requirement(s) for those aircraft or the airline to develop a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint.
I also reached out to one of the experts in my network, working closely with those banks and doing studies on their sustainability, asking why venture capital or family offices don’t work closer with such government funds: “But what you report from your interactions with public investors is true even for smaller and less ambitious projects and companies in that public VC funds invest only if the concept is validated by the market in one way or the other. In other words, only if someone else confirmed the commercial success elsewhere.
Germany – the Global Recycling Champion?
Reality is, that Germany is the global champion in export of plastic trash. Instead of a strict recycling regime, 80% of the trash collected from the recycling bins is being either exported or burned.
The drop in export results directly from China having stopped and banned the import of plastic trash. So now, the pictures of plastic from African countries dominate the respective stories about German “recycling”.
At the same time, the plastics industry is booming. And instead of developing sustainable packaging, the trend is clearly towards mixed-use, the known bad example being “Tetra Pak®“; a packaging made of several layers that make it exceptionally difficult to recycle. And the few recycling factories being more for greenwashing than for recycling any meaningful amounts of that stuff.
There was also a report on TV this week on Coca Cola and how they changed from the recycling glass bottles to throw-away plastic bottles and Aluminum cans. Which was the beginning of the end of bottle recycling. And how their lobbyists ever since fight any recycling requirements…
Aviation – the Scapegoat?
Now, how about “my industry”, how about aviation? And why is it constantly the scapegoat and blamed for global warming?
When the aviation industry claims that it’s only responsible for 2% of the CO2-emissions, this is also green-washing. As aircraft engines exhaust contains also other “greenhouse emissions” and many if not most not on ground level, but at high altitude. The “contrails” being a visual reflection that people “know” and can identify. Experts in a report about Airbus this week accounted the greenhouse emissions by aviation to 6%. Not much, but only 4% of the world population flies. And 6% is substantial.
So aside our plans to use Kolibri.aero to establish the infrastructure and certify the use of 100% synkerosene to fly carbon-neutral, we also understand the issue of the aircraft-engine exhaust will require further research into greenhouse-effects of the remaining exhaust. But which only can start, once we start flying “carbon-neutral”! And yesterday, I was challenged twice about synfuel and that we’d need to look at use of battery, hydrogen and fuel cells. Referring to a very academic presentation by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Josef Kallo of the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) about How to fly with Hydrogen, addressing fuel cells at the European Hydrogen Workshop by Mission Hydrogen GmbH (Ltd.).
Electric, Fuel Cells and other Aviation #greenwashing
Speaking with one of those “challengers”, he argued that in 10 years the first regional aircraft will fly on fuel-cells. Being “project planning”, I’d say better add 50% reserve to that, then we talk about 15 years. And personally I still doubt that time line. And then we will have aircraft with 10, 20 or maybe 30 seats. With a range of one to two hours. When we will have aircraft that transports 100 seat? Or ones that can replace the 150-250 seats used by the low cost airlines? When do we expect aircraft to transport 250-350 passengers long haul? Hiding behind “Research”? Science Fiction…
The argument given was that batteries and fuel cells will become more effective. Which I file under “cognitive dissonance“. What excess in miniaturization results in, we all experienced with the B787 batteries self-enflaming. Or the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “fiasco”. Trying to mend the rules of physics is a true challenge. And that does not even cover the devastating ecological footprint not only of Lithium. If you want to wait for that to be resolved, we talk about “dirty” kerosene still in use in 20, 30 years!
And if that happens, our industry is worth being used as a scapegoat…
Change Happens – NOW!
Sustainable economy and global warming are big issues today, but most that we see is lip services. An investor group just recently checked impact investments for the “real” impact. They reported about 4% of all investments having a quantifiable impact or quantifiable targets. Only 4%. All others to be #greenwashing. On the “impact programs” of the 100 largest companies in Europe they found not a single one having more than one or two percent impact to global warming. Most of them being “lighthouse projects” that are being developed inside a “bubble” that does not immediately impact the company. Mostly lip-services addressing already established programs, but don’t really change the existing processes.
One example mentioned being the Electrolyzer delivered to Salzgitter AG for delivering hydrogen to be used in their steel-making process. A “research project”, largely funded by the hydrogen program. And now, being still in research phase, trialing it’s impact, it’s a “lighthouse project”?
The Fight against #Greenwashing + Lip-Services
And today I was confronted again with “avoid flying” as the first and foremost advise to stop global warming. While people will fly, economy needs flight connections as well. What we need is to stop blaming aviation, but start changing it. And the governments and public funds won’t help, so we need bold investors with a mission to help establishing the environment that allows us to work together on the common goal. Clean flying. Flying without remorse. Flying with a conscious mind.
We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade. And do the other things. Not because they are fashionable and easy, but because they must be done. But we can’t do it alone, we need investors that are interested in more than greenwashing their conscience, but the ones supporting the real thing. Investors that understand this is a big deal, it’s disruptive, it’s a journey. A journey that needs conviction, founders with the commitment and vision to make it happen…
Electric? Hydrogen? All the aviation associations promote going “green” 2040. Or beyond. Whereas the technology for the first step is here.
Being asked on my baby KOLIBRI.aero on why we don’t wait for electric planes or hydrogen planes, my answer is simple. They are fog-screens, intentional distractions allowing the airline to hold on to them to avoid really addressing the issue! To avoid Change. This can be brought down to very easy to understand examples.
The Fairy Tale of Electric Passenger Flights
Boeing dropped out of funding Zunum, having the plans to develop an electric air plane. Because there is a simple, physical challenge that they cannot overcome. The battery size. Reducing the battery size, Boeing learned the lesson with the 787 Dreamliner. Where internal batteries caught fire. Would that have happened inflight, you can imagine the catastrophic impact. They had reduced the size vs. capacity to the point where batteries happen overheat. Especially rechargeable ones that we talk about it here. It is rumored and I heard it from Boeing, that their engineers disqualified electric passenger planes beyond 35, maximum 50 seats. The max size Zunum targeted, but with a range of one flight hour, maximum 90 minutes.
There may be developments that may one day increase battery capacity while reducing the size, but they are wishful thinking as of today.
The Fairy Tale of Hydrogen Powered Passenger Flights
The very same issue is it about hydrogen powered passenger flights, Airbus recently promoted as their “Zero-Emission Aircraft”. Again, the physical challenge.
To put into those aircraft cooled hydrogen tanks with the related cooling makes those tanks very bulky. In fact, sources inside Airbus have been cited assuming 50% or more of the fuselage (cabin and freight compartment) to be needed to build in the hydrogen needed to operate the aircraft 60 to maximum of 90 minutes. Unpressured (uncooled) Hydrogen does not have the needed energy.
That is, why those airplanes Airbus showed in the picture are also small aircraft, with about 50% less seating of a comparable aircraft those sizes today. Another wishful thinking and fog screen if you ask me.
Electric + Hydrogen Electric – a Summary
There is a very interesting summary on electric (and hydrogen-electric) flight in a 45-minute YouTube video:
Generally it confirms my opinion, that we won’t have any substantial development in time for any meaningful impact on the climate goals. With first liquid-hydrogen prototypes expected by the research experts by 2035 to 2040 and first commercial operations likely 10 years faster. See my summary from an expert panel in the comments. A bit late for a 2050 impact?
And electric will start with small air taxi-type services of 15-20 passengers. And while that is a good development, it will only replace (and enable) very small regional routes. Can you imagine 5-10 slots an hour at any of the larger airports to be burned by such small planes?
It will very likely take beyond 2050 until we will see any of the 100 or 200 seat aircraft flying commercially on either technology. Bullocks. Just more #greenwashing …?!
The Road to Carbon Neutral
Developing Kolibri, from the outset we thought about using contemporary aircraft allowing us to use bio-fuel. Though bio-kerosene must be “blended”. Must be mixed at least one to one with the classic, dirty kerosene. Often, it is mixed like “E10” gasoline, only 10% “bio”. It’s not uncommon to have a 10-20% blend only, using 80-90% classic Jet-A1. Whereas the “bio” comes mostly from rape seed monocultures (picture), having already it’s own negative impact on bioversity. That ain’t “clean”, nor “sustainable”.
Hydrogen – a volatile gas
From my work on a solar powered WIG 2008, replacing it’s diesel-engine with an hydrogen-engine, I understood hydrogen as the future. Clean electrolysis using solar power (and wind, bio mass and other sustainable energy sources) and salted water, whereas desalination facilities produce the surplus salt to augment seawater to the level needed for the electrolysis. So sunny regions with access to seawater have a “natural advantage” to develop the infrastructure to create hydrogen.
Now hydrogen is exceptionally volatile, even in special tanks, the losses are substantial, so it’s not easy to transport. Now…
Two years ago Sunfire’s Synfuel triggered my attention, from a National Geographic report – not reported in Germany, but in the U.S. … I instantly understood synfuel a perfect solution to replace our plans to invest in expensive electric and hydrogen powered ground fleet, still with the need to have Diesel-powered trucks and emergency generators in an airline, with syndiesel. And to develop into synkerosene to replace biokerosene.
Developed since, Sunfire with partners started a construction of a synkerosene facility in Oslo, Norway. No, not in their home-country Germany, but in Norway. Norway is not full member of the EU, “only” an associated country. Make your guess, why not inside the EU… Maybe Ursula von der Leyen’s implied quote below gives you a hint.
Aside, synfuel can be used quite easily as a buffer technology, using excess power to create synfuel during peak times and using it in common and tried power generators to recreate energy in low times. Until we have something better, Syngas is a clean energy source that can make us independent of crude-oil for power generation. a technology that can create a future for many “poor countries” in the “tropical belt”, the tropic (red) and subtropical zones (yellow), as their surplus of solar energy is way higher than what the northern hemisphere has in the temperate to polar zones.
The Fairy Tale of the End of the Combustion Engine
And while German transport minister Andreas Scheuer demands the end of the combustion engine by 2035, I can only interpret this as another short-sighted publicity stunt. A distraction and a fog screen! By a minister who’s not known for his realism. Combustion technology will still be around a while, cars having a lifetime of minimum 10 years. Other technologies like aviation, simply lack an alternative for now. And while privileged nations can likely afford the switch, less privileged regions will rely on combustion engines for a great number of reasons and even more years.
Making the Change
So while we make again big plans in Northwestern Europe, developing synfuel facilities in the “poor South” makes a lot of sense. Developing synfuel facilities at airports will be an incubator for the regional conversion from classic gasoline to synfuel. Developing a new “regional” airline with the large demand of synfuel, will make the development a profitable venture. A classic win-win.
So anyone believing in electric passenger planes is daydreaming, or whitewashing why they don’t invest to become clean. A distraction, a fog screen. The same is true for purely hydrogen-powered planes.
But anyone who wants to make a change, can do so today. Modern aircraft engines are ready to apply 100% synfuel. Or so Sunfire, Norsk-e-Fuel and an engine maker assure me. Synfuel created from hydrogen and carbon-dioxide. Not carbon-positive, but yes, carbon-neutral. Proven tech. Today.
And we have a business plan, and we have the interest to make this happen. Starting today and being carbon-neutral within this decade. If not faster.
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” [John F. Kennedy, 1962] “We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. For there is no Plan[et] B.” [Jürgen Barthel, 2020]
This week and last I attended two aviation financing conferences by Airfinance Journal, one in Japan, one in Latin America. Then I read an article by National Geographic, demanding that travel should be considered an essential human activity. But that is something I find so very often. Thinking Outside the Box and understanding psychologically different mindsets is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea.
Whereas a conference for me is a place we do networking, for which I am immensely grateful for Airfinance Journal (AFJ) to allow me attending the event. I sure couldn’t have afforded travel to Japan and Latin America. And thanks to their added focus on networking, it turned out some very promising new contacts to discuss KOLIBRI.aero with.
Let us have a look at the Latin America event which ended yesterday.
The Great Pretender
Whereas AFJ added a virtual networking lounge, there were the same, I’d say ten, people in there, only once the (too small) window showing the delegates forced me to scroll with more than four delegates in the networking lounge.
Saving the delegate list and not counting the dupes I came up with 720 delegates. An awesome conference. 42 of which “filled out” their profile. Only. The others failed to use a free way to promote who they are and what they, respectively their companies do.
I happen to believe from what I have seen that most of the delegates of the online conference were obviously pretenders, signing up, but not showing up. Not even taking the time to log in and fill out their profile. Do they know there are such?
Then there was a “dedicated networking”, where more than 50 registered for (I think the host said 64). We were seven (plus AFJ moderator, plus one totally unresponsive), so roughly 9 out of 10 having registered for it did not show up. For some reason, being in aviation so long, “no shows” is something I consider exceptionally rude. Not just careless, but outright rude. Because there are people, taking the effort to organize something good and then people simply don’t show? It is extremely frustrating for whoever works this out to provide you a service!
For the few being there, I believe it was better than if it would have been crowded. I just hope I didn’t talk too much!
Overall, it just confirms my assumption that less than 10% of the registered delegates showed up at all. Of which again, how many have been speakers? 21?
Not My Cup of Tea?
Again, these two events showed that there are different mindsets at play and it should be worthwhile to understand the motivation behind it.
I’ve seen that before, 20-odd years ago, when I organized the Airline Industry Stammtisch in Frankfurt. Many sign up for the event, to show their bosses, never intending to go there and spend their “valuable” time off elsewhere. Others, like me at AFJ do see the opportunity and value in networking.
A very good and valuable event, especially in Corona times. But it seems, at least from the outside, that most of the “delegates” were pretenders and never showed up on the website, never “participated”. Those people missed out on supporting a good event and torpedoed a valuable effort. From my side, I can only thank AFJ. The next step to improve the events in my opinion will be to automatically add the delegates to the networking lounge to enable messaging. Let them “opt-out”… There’s no e-Mail or other personal information shared, beyond the attendee list that delegates have access to anyway.
And they might want to promote to the delegates to fill out their profile… That’s free marketing and free networking!
The next event coming up in two weeks as Airfinance Journal China, then followed by Asia Pacific. Hopefully the “delegates” are motivated to not only register to show-off to their bosses, but to really attend? And use the networking opportunities AFJ provides?
Because else, such virtual conferences turn to be a barrel burst. And that would not value AFJ but do them a big disservice! Did I mention? Aside failing on your job (or why would you sign up?), it backfires; no-one really likes “Dateileichen” (file corpses).
Which is another example of people focusing on their own life style, ignorant to others’ needs, motivation, life style. As I commented right away on LinkedIn:
A dozen years ago, I spoke with a friend/student, trying to convince her to join the aviation industry. There’s three types of people.
Nestlings, staying all their life in one place, except for the one or other vacation. A flight of more than two hours takes them to the unknown they fear.
Precocials, leaving home to move elsewhere and get settled. They travel for vacation and VFR.
Birds of Passage. They go, where live takes them, are open to the new and for them travel is a reward and each destination an adventure they embrace.
If you talk to nestlings, they will oppose your notion that travel would be “essential”. At the same time, they tend to be nationalistic and protective about their local environment. And the first to shut-down borders and travel. It’s those, “thinking different” being “in power” we have to catch and convince. To do that, we must understand their different “gut feeling”.
That said, if you talk crisis these days, it showed (most of) us, what privilege it is to be able to travel. And how quickly such privileges can be taken from us by forces beyond our control. And the lousy standing of travel lobbyists and lobbies with the decision makers.
A Lesson for the Crisis
Convincing the People to Fly Again
In all the discussions, it seems to be common opinion that we must regain the travelers’ faith to fly again. Given the (painfully) slowly sinking-in fact that we never might have “the” super vaccine, we better adjust our communications. We must understand that there are us “birds of passage”, looking forward to new experiences and adventures, but also the ones that are afraid of the new, the conservatives, the nestlings. And some of them being politicos, in my humble experience a lot of them narrow-minded, cover-your-ass-types that do not make a move unless they have to. As seen at the beginning of the crisis. Then they overreact out of fear, understanding they made a mistake, trying to cover up hysterically to distract from the mistake. Or like Trump now was caught in the act, lying to the U.S. people to “not spread panic”. Whereas a healthy panic is good! It keeps us alert. And then we must adapt. It’s called evolution. But that’s something many people are mortally afraid of.
Think Outside the Box
There are a lot of posts and speakers emphasizing that we must adapt to the crisis, think outside the box, then in the next minute turning back on why them keeping the status quo and doing as they always did would be the right thing. As they obviously fail to understand the thinking of their customers, shutting down the crisis, falling back to “safe thinking”. Just as most investors do.
As painful as it was, in fact it was truly funny. A speaker at Airfinance Journal Japan, an aircraft lessor, emphasized the time being right for new airlines. When I approached him, he retreated to the fact that they neverlease to start-ups and would never invest in a start-up airline. Oh yes: Cognitive Dissonance at it’s best, right? This is a quite common stance when we talk to “aviation investors”, failing to understand that “aircraft investor” is not “aviation”, but just one piece of the puzzle. We represent an opportunity to place 200 aircraft in 10 years. Which is big business. Once we get the launch funding secured.
Me too … Or doing things different?
While many still focusing “blindly” on “Airbus/Boeing” aircraft investments, they lost and loose money. It’s been a shark pond before the crisis, now that bubble imploded. At Airfinance Journal Latin America event, the best speaker was Walter Valarezo of DAE (Dubai Aerospace Capital), outlining the “abnormal normal” in the market pre-crisis. Now most investors curl up into a ball falling back to “old habits”.
USP is about “unique”. You don’t have a USP if you only copy what the others did. And stick to your modus operandi.
Fortunately there are some – very few but some – who do understand the opportunity, the need to think outside the box. Those are the ones we talk with. Will they help us launch the Kolibris? I guess they will. Let’s see how quickly we can convince them and their PTBs that change is good and our business plans are safe and sound. And benefits a great deal from this crisis.
Today I had a conference call and a major topic was Spain and how our (German) governments banned travel again. And publicly justifies under gross neglect of their own rules. Those “development” showing persistence to deny change. And the “Wag the Dog” syndrome, pointing the fingers at others to distract from own mistakes.
The second topic was about the way, aviation “recovers”, the managements’ strategies.
Political Lock-Down on Travel
This week, our (German) government issued an official “travel warning” for Spain. It is legal requirement that German travel industry must enable free unplanned returns from regions a travel warning is issued for, which in turn also results in tour operators shelving all offers for regions such warnings are issued for. In line with that legal impact, TUI instantly cancelled all flights and packages to Spain.
In clear ignorance of those facts, the German Health Minister Jens Spahn claims that it is still possible to do vacation in Spain, travelers just needing to be careful… Say what?
Either this is cognitive dissonance, or – and I am afraid it’s that – Spahn and German government tries to distract from own mistakes by “pointing finger” at Spain. It’s the old “wag the dog”. Make up a crisis elsewhere.
Spain is said to be extreme in its adherence to the Corona rules. It is not “Spains” fault if German tourists party and ignore those rules intentionally. And then return with infections. So this is a cloud screen by Minister Spahn and his political cronies.
A German proverb: “Who sits in the glass house shouldn’t throw with stones.” Taken residence for the pandemicfor the pandemic with the family in Germany again, I can assure you, we have our own problems with Corona here and the politicos still fail to follow a clear strategy. Exceptions to their own rules being the rule, not the exception…
The Myth of Aviation Recovery
The past weeks, I had ongoing disagreements with my friends at OAG, ch-aviation, RDG, Routes, ANNA.aero, etc., etc. Disagreement on the media-focus on recovery of flight services as a sign of recovery of our industry. As I mentioned in my recent blog on Corona Cognitive Dissonance and Whitewashing Statistics, to bring all those aircraft back to the air while the load factors plummeted from ~85% to ~35% (April) in line with evaporating ticket prices, dropping by 20-30%, depending on the statistics source.
Now in May the load factors recovered to ~43%, though from a business travel management company I heard that those loads were “bought”, by lowering the ticket prices even further. And there was a slight decline in available seat kilometers in that month.
For years, I complain about the state of airline statistics availability. Nowhere “real time”, IATA statistics come three months after, the commercial sources report on flights and seats but have no clue about the load factors or ticket revenue. Real time? Really?
In today’s discussion, it was emphasized that airline managers try to survive using the “classic” approaches. First of all: Be cheap. Second: Push flights to the air. By doing that, they have obviously lost all track of their cost of operations. And the conference call group agreed that we will see quite some groundings in Europe ongoing for the next year. As the airlines keep piling up Corona Debt. Even Lufthansa is said to have already started on demanding further bail-out in spring, when they burned up the € 9 billion they recently got.
Time for New Thinking
Is it really “new thinking”? Last December, pre-Corona, I outlined Why Airlines Keep Failing. The reasons are still the same, just multiplied by Corona.
Any little startup understands the need for USPs, unique selling propositions. What makes them different? In the eyes of the customers, in the eyes of the investors. They understand the need for profitability. They know their cost. If you have a big war chest (or get it funded by a government bailout), you can temporarily “invest” in competitive routes. Often enough the likes of Lufthansa pre-crisis abused their market power forcing competitors, even so-called “partners” into insolvency. My own experience includes the first German Wings (the remainders then acquired by Lufthansa), Cirrus Airlines, Contact Air (Lufthansa regional partners) or more recently Air Berlin.
And when I wrote about Air Berlin three years ago, I asked “Lessons Learned?” … Hmm. Obviously not. And when I wrote about Why Airlines Keep Failing, it wasn’t any “new rules” either.
And while Jens Spahn emphasized the solidarity inside the company and that Lufthanseaten (what Lufthansa employees call themselves) stand together in crises… What a cognitive dissonance. His “shareholder value” focus is legendary – I don’t believe he ever learned what “loyalty” meant. Given “short work” in Germany, there would not be real need to fire employees. But he and his manager-cronies, the moment they got the € 9 billion warned of 22,000 layoffs being “necessary”. Hypocrite!
Doing Things Right…
If you need some help to map out a strategy to survive this crisis, I could need some paid consulting. The unpaid kind keeps me busy but not the family paid. Which is the same for so many others “made redundant”.
And if you are or know an investor interesting to do things right, we are seeking funding for an Airline 2.0 – focused on USPs and profits. But also on real aviation sustainability (not the typical whitewashing we see in aviation to date). And on real corporate social responsibility. Which starts with your own. Either contact me or come 8-9 December to the Prestel & Partner Family Offices Forum in Zürich at The Dolder Grand.
Recent developments and posts really bug me. Don’t the writers of those posts recognize the cognitive dissonance? Yes, we must think positive. But there is a clear distinction between thinking positive and whitewashing or daydreaming. We have a crisis at hand and the “positive signals” aren’t as “positive” as those posts try to make them look like. They look at the marketing messages on the surface but fail to look the slightest bit deeper.
We need positive thinking, but we must also stay realistic!
Yes, the latest statistics are not there (yet), but we have enough experience to understand that the classic statistics, that I questioned as incomplete and intentionally misleading before the crisis, now in the crisis not only proof insufficient, but even dangerous for all of us, trying to grasp the repercussions to our industry!
Many of our media friends take up the old focus on unrealistic data packages. Yeah, hurray, the airlines add flights, bring the aircraft back in the air. Are. You. Kidding me???
The reason behind is mostly that the aircraft can only be parked for up to three months without the recovery into operational readiness getting substantially more expensive: >100 manhours, replacement and thorough components checks, etc., etc.
So the “losses” from flying empty might well be a cost-saving long-term. Depending on how long the aircraft must be stowed, when the passengers “come back”. But this adds to the “Corona Debt”, that must be funded and some day payed back.
The current IATA Regional Briefing, Europe, June 2020 reports on the beginning of the crisis. Available seats for April plummeted by 95%, the load factors of the remaining flights to 32%! At the same time Gridpoint Consulting analysed the London-Heathrow figures with similar devastating results, an average load factor (2Q20) of 35.5%! And ForwardKeys published some nice figures on air fares, plummeting 20-30% in average.
Now the airlines are reported to bring flights back to the air aggressively. Whereas the German Airport Association (ADV) published in their latest (June) traffic statistics: “Privater Reiseverkehr findet nicht statt”: Private travel does not take place. So those added flights mostly cannibalize the existing, low passenger numbers. Which we will likely see reflected in the next statistics. But keeping the aircraft grounded comes with it’s own bill. Adding to the “Corona Debt”.
So aviation media, please do not simply publish those statistics on how many seats are added to the market, but also check the demand = load factors and the revenue = average ticket prices. It would be worthwhile to look behind those numbers and check the reasoning for those flights. Looking only at the first statistics (increase of available seats) is negative, if the revenue and loads drops further. We need the full statistical picture I was demanding for many years: ASK (available seat kilometers), load factor (how many seats sold) and the average revenue (ticket price). In combination with the CASK, the cost per available seat kilometer) it would allow to understand the real development. And commercial viability, success … or failure! And I do look forward to real “success stories”, a.k.a. “profitable routes”. Routes not piling up more “Corona Debt”.
The Fairy Tale of the Corona Super Vaccine
Yes, as you can see in the archive of my Corona Papers, I also believed what those lying politicos and virologists told us. Though having brought up in a medical household, I looked early behind that cloud-screen. My (published) assumptions were based on a recovery following the common availability of the vaccine – and the treatment. We’ve learned a lot on the treatment meanwhile. And now, like with the face masks they initially called “unnecessary” for pure hidden motives to cover their unavailability, they slowly let the fact surface that:
We must not expect a “super vaccine”!
Corona will turn out more to be like the flu. Okay, not so much like the Measles I referred to earlier. The first infected people in Germany have ceased to have antibodies in their blood a mere three months after their infection. Now they, along with the WHO start slowly telling us the “new truth” (like with the masks), that we will have a long journey ahead, getting used to Corona. And as I kept emphasizing for months already, the time to stop the virus is long over, all we can do – and must do – is to #flattenthecurve. Keep the infections at rates our medical systems can manage. Until the first vaccines are there – to further limit the spread of the disease. Just like we get (or according to statistics mostly don’t) get our yearly flu-vaccination. By which time we will also hopefully by able to “manage” the severe cases with standardized treatment.
But hold it, ain’t that telling, all that lock-down was for nothing???
No! The lock-downs were a vital necessity and still can be! Because the reasons to flatten the curve are still undeniably valid! As I just wrote in the previous paragraph. But we must return to a life that embraces the Corona-virus (and it’s future variants) as what they are. A new “flu”. Maybe more hostile, sure different. But here to stay. And once we will have learned to manage the recurring “waves”, just like the annual flu, we will live on. Without masks if you ask me. Without “social distancing”. And without lock-down. And with air travel and real-world conferences.
Bailing-Out the Dinosaurs
I know, being a German and having taken residence with the family in Germany for the pandemic, I am somewhat biased on what happens here and especially Lufthansa. And that makes me puke. No, I can’t say that nicely.
Lufthansa, with a pre-crisis value of four billion (Source: Fortune) and burning five billion in the first three months of the crisis receives a bailout from the German government of € 9 billion. For a 25% silent stake, not allowing them to influence Lufthansa, i.e. relating to job securities (prime CSR), sustainable developments or a less hostile behavior towards smaller airlines they kept and keep walking over, their latest “victim” Air Berlin. No, lesson not learned. The next they announce is to make 22,000 (twenty-two thousand!) jobs redundant. Quite recently, they had to admit that 25% of the refunds for unflown tickets due to Corona have still not been paid back, the media claiming a 1-billion backlog!
I was kind of shocked this week, when German Tagesthemen, one of the main news channel mentioned already that this may not be the end, but just the beginning of an expensive further bail-out series for the airline and it’s many subsidiaries. But if they burned 5 billion in three months, how long can they sustain the drought before they burned up the added nine billion?
Don’t get me wrong! I belief that aviation will recover, but that will go slow and take time. What I see now is activism and lots of wishful thinking, piling up more debt and risking the airlines’ long-term survival.
But I keep my emphasis, that bailing out the dinosaurs is not good for anyone, except the dinosaurs. At KOLIBRI.aero, we have a concept in the drawer to invest € 1.6 billion into an airline with 200 aircraft. Okay, establishing the airline in Germany would be a bit more expensive. But no more than € 2.5 billion. Give another € 3-4 billion as a reasonable amount to add a global network, we could develop a “Lufthansa 2.0” based on sustainable aviation (not the Lufthansa greenwashing), true corporate social responsibility (way beyond Lufthansa whitewashing), looking after our own, but also after the regions we serve and the overall responsibility of a major player. There are others like us out there. I’m sure, given € 9 billion, given only € 5 billion, they could make a change. No Corona debt, but a clear profitable business, paying back the debt within 10 years with (above-market) interest. € 9 billion without any strings attached? € 11 billion for Air France/KLM? And meanwhile Austrian – a 100% Lufthansa-owned subsidiary also received a bailout by Austrian government, though “only” € 600 million and with environmental demands attached. But with another € 150 million to go into equity in Austrian parent Lufthansa (Source: CAPA). Swiss received a 1.25 billion loan guarantee for its poor mother Lufthansa (Source: Reuters).
And at the same time, one airline after the other is being grounded, Level’ed. No bailouts for Air Berlin pre-, flyBE early into the crisis. None for Level (IAG), Germanwings (LH Group), Laudamotion (Ryanair). And expecting no real “recovery” of the passenger numbers this year, I foresee a large number of the small airlines with one, two, maybe even five or ten airplanes to fail this year. And I get a lot of feedback that this is the time for KOLIBRI.aero. But we struggle not for billions, to launch we struggle to get funding of a mere € 30 million.
But given feedback from “experts” out there, to start it small as a virtual airline, or “aviation investors” not seeing beyond aircraft leasing? I now have hopes that our invitation to attend Prestel & Partner later this year at their real-world conference in Zurich will open the doors of more visionary family office owners, understanding the opportunity such a crisis provides to a business concept like KOLIBRI.aero. As those bailouts must be paid back one day. If the airlines don’t go bankrupt, once KOLIBRI.aero is kicking their butts.
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