The e-Mobility Lie

e-mobility Life Cycle Assessment Greenwashing Volkswagen AG

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

National Geographic - Lithium MiningAs 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).

Safety

Tesla on FireAnother 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

Electric Car Fire - CoolingWorse, 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.

Recycling

eMobility Battery RecyclingIncorrect 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

Loading Infrastructure

Full eMobility Loading Stations
Oops. Sorry, all loading stations in use

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

The three biggest fears of our generationGerman 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.

Power Consumption

Power from the Plug GreenwashingThe 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

Volkswagen ID.3 Life Cycle AssesmentLooking 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

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)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

outside-inAs 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 OneReady 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!

Greenwashing Demon (shutterstock_1170455851)
The Greeenwashing-Demon – it’s all about Electricity

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.

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome…

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Compulsive Narrative Syndrome – SciFi or Reality?

Shepherd, Joel - 23 Years on Fire

Reading another, new SciFi (my way to relax my brain) triggered with an idea (not scientifically proven) of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Intriguing. And yes, quite in line with my own “experience”. So is it really “Science Fiction”?

Ain’t that how it works? An assumption, then the scientific proof (or disqualification)? And how much that started in SciFi do we see in action today?

If you like SciFi, maybe you find Joel Shepherd an interesting addition to your books collection. If you read German, the first part of the series is currently on sale (i.e. buecher.de). And no, no profit from such recommendation.

The Concept

Here’s the way the concept is described in the novel:

Shepherd, Joel - 23 Years on Fire introducing the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome.The human brain is trained to look for and identify patterns, but in abstract concepts, fixed and unarguable facts are hard to find. So the brain looks for narratives instead, stories that can tie together various ideas and facts in a way that seems to make sense, to make a pattern. And the human brain, always seeking a pattern as a basic cognitive function, will latch onto a narrative pattern compulsively, and use that pattern as a framework within which to store new information, like a tradesman honing his skill, or someone learning a new language.

That’s why religions tell such great stories, the story makes a pattern within which everything makes sense. A synchronicity of apparent facts. Political ideologies, too. Humans are suckers for a great story because we can’t resist the logical pattern it contains.

When you’re learning a new skill, discarding irrelevant information and organizing the relevant stuff within that framework is good. But in ideologies, it means any information that doesn’t fit the ideological narrative is literally discarded, and won’t be remembered . . . which is why you can argue facts with ideologues and they’ll just ignore you. They’re not just being stubborn, their brains are literally structurally incapable of processing what they perceive as pattern-anomalous data.

That’s why some ideologues get so upset when you offer facts that don’t match their pattern, it’s like you’re assaulting them.

From SciFi to Reality

Most my “novel” ideas ain’t mine. I just try to find practical applications.

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.1971 (yes, 40 years ago and as a kid) I became a fan of Roger Leloup, spending my pocket money on comics. And when Hyperloop became a buzz, I couldn’t help it to remember Leloup’s Vinean transport system.

We all know the Star Trek communicator. Ain’t that surprising similar to our today’s smart phones? With Google Translate, we can even talk to it, translating on the fly – and as far as I can tell, even German or English to Albanian works rather well. Not (yet) on previously unknown languages, but I believe we will get there.

ASRA 2008 brainnodes vs. internet equals AIAnd the buzz-topic A.I.? Aside the fact that all A.I. I learn of still is just I.A. – more or mostly less sophisticated Intelligent Algorithms. Back in 2008 I used that image of global nodes next to human brain synapses to question if we’re sure there’s no real A.I. yet. And if we’d recognize if there would be? By now, we talk about highly complex processors behind all of those nodes, the sheer computing power making it more likely by the day that our mighty Internet “wakes up”. Then we talk about i.e. Heinlein and Malcolm Croft or Athena?

And now comes a new, quite intriguing concept of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Just SciFi? Or quite realistic in fact?

And Kolibri?

Go Carbon-Neutral This DecadeI just recently discussed our ideas for sustainable aviation. They are not new either. And more like a logical development from my first ideas about a hydrogen-powered WIG in 2008 as a n example to senior airline managers to think about sustainability. Then making use of current developments and understanding the merits of SynFuel. And thanks to discussions with Sustainable Aero Lab (thanks Mario!) leading to my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. But it’s in line with Ndrec and my believe in “social responsibility” and “sustainability” … beyond climate!

But while yes, our ideas could be “copied”, it took us more than a year and a joined effort incorporating the help of global subject matter experts, to make this a viable business plan. Yes, it can be copied, but with a steep and expensive learning curve. And we found “classic aviation managers” to be mostly blind on real “sustainability”. Having no idea about their Road to Environment-Friendly Flying, not even bothering about Social Responsibility or Sustainability. It’s a reason we plan with a team of open minded subject matter experts and not some famous names, except as advisors. And why we don’t plan taken over an existing airline with their expensive and inflexible and traditional process and thinking heritage.

Industry Scale Impact Investing

Kolibri - disrupt aviationTo make a real change, you need a team of entrepreneurs thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. But with an experience on pioneering work, overcoming the Bumps on the Road to Sustainability, making things happen. Because to change an industry, to change aviation, we also need investors with the might and the interest to support us doing the change.

It’s a sorry fact that mostly we hear lip-services and excuses, those investors sticking to their modus operandi, just adding ESGs for their own little greenwashing projects and playing things “safe” (known), else still focusing on quick financial returns. Invest in a bit *tech, add to the energy-dilemma, but ignore any industrial-scale change? Ain’t that what the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome addresses?

While Impact Investment is about making an impact first, while also making money, we talk about turning industries climate-friendly and socially responsible. While our plans sure secure the (risk-adjusted) ROI, the plans are long-term, bold and the startup investment is to start the journey (launch the airline) but we plan on a realistic decade for our goal of carbon-neutral (climate-friendly) flying. With sustainable and social responsible milestones and investments from the outset.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome

So is the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome a source for Cognitive Dissonance? In my opinion it’s tightly linked. The Compulsive Narrative Syndrome the source for Cognitive Dissonance?

Food for Thought!
comments welcome…—

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So What Is YOUR Impact?

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

Bezos Musk Gates (c) CNBCA 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.

Role Models

Image Daily MailYesterday, 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.

#weareallinthistogether and the only safety I see in the vaccinations. And this ain’t the new measles I compared to early in the pandemic (May ’20), but more like the flu. A vaccination not available to everyone (yet). About which U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warns of #vaccinationalism. Also claiming the climate emergency. A caller in the dark?

The European Sustainability Bank

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.

Others are faster, but we have a PLANI 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?

Impact InvestingThere 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:

What is Your Impact?

Feedback welcome…

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Wind Parks and the Butterfly Effect

Following impact investing, I am recently flooded with information about wind parks. Examples from today reporting on South Korea, Ukraine, the United States. With examples aplenty from Germany and other regions flooding in. Now what triggers my concern on this is that early on, I learned the butterfly example in Chaos Theory:

butterfly effect
“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world” – Chaos Theory

If we build all those super-scale windfarms, how will that impact. We didn’t mind about the little impact our local tinkering with nature would have, starting use of crude oil, plastics, herbicides, etc., etc. – someone has a great idea how to improve our lives… Are we ever having “the bill” in mind?

Thinking about Kolibri, I already think about the contrail of synfuel. While improving the situation compared to crude-oil-kerosene, to shift towards synkerosene is just a first step. Must be a first step only. And as my network emphasized that blockchain is good and only bitcoin uses tons of CO2-resources to be mined, those supporters fail to have read about the increasing impact of “data centers” and discussion on how much CO2 a mere e-Mail we keep stored produces.

The other issue I see on “classic” impact investment is the focus on quick solutions. Is it better to “delist” entire industries or is it better to invest into disruptors and changemakers?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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The Road to Environmentally Friendly Flying

Kolibri - disrupt aviation

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

Zunum 50 seat electric plane
Zunum Electric Plane

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

Airbus Zero EmissionThe 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 …?!

[Added 28.Jul.2021]

The Road to Carbon Neutral

Biofuels greenwashing

Rape seed monocultureDeveloping 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

Hydrogen powered Wing in GroundFrom 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…

Synfuel

Synkerosene, Powerkerosen, eKerosene, synfuel, powerfuel efuelTwo 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.

World Climate ZonesAside, 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

Others are faster, but we have a PLAN

Guess what, there is a Workshop “Mission Hydrogen” this week in the EU with some focus on Germany. At the same time, Saudi Arabia announced to invest 700 billion to become the global leader in hydrogen … While European players still make plans, others stake their claims. And to transport that hydrogen, syngas offers the advantage to be using the same logistics infrastructure.

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

Kolibri - disrupt aviationSo 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.

Food for Thought
Investors welcome!

Go Carbon-Neutral This Decade

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Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal

The Future of Clean Aviation is Now

I’ve started to write this as a part of my post on Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing, but I decided to take this into it’s own article and only summarize and refer to it. This article addresses the known ideas about clean flying and why I believe there is a lot of whitewashing and intentional delaying. But if you want to go carbon-neutral for a start, the technology is there. Even with the bureaucratic hurdles, we can start flying carbon-neutral within a matter of three to five years. The challenge is the speed we can secure the funding to build the necessary facilities.

Investors interested to turn aviation carbon-neutral, here is our reasoning which technology you should look at. And why helping us making this happen will be disruptive. Not because noone else could do it, but because to succeed you need the right people who want to do it, not the ones considering it disrupting their plans…

Electric Flying

Zunum 50 seat electric plane“But how about electric flying?” you might ask? Yes, how about it? In December 2013, a battery on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire. It was later attributed to a “design flaw”. Yes, Boeing had quite some trouble even before the MAX-disaster.
In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 batteries happened to explode. It was found that a manufacturing defect in the phones’ batteries had caused some of them to generate excessive heat, resulting in fires and explosions. And as much as they research possibilities, there are no ideas yet how you can “minimize” batteries (size and weight) further without risking them overheating. But given existing battery size and weight, the battery will only allow for very short flights with relatively few passengers. Commercial flying over two, three hours? You got to be kidding…

I find Zunum’s story (their jet pictured here) quite interesting. From Wikipedia: “In November 2020, Zunum Aero filed a lawsuit against Boeing alleging that Boeing tried “to gain access to proprietary information, intellectual property” and then used its dominance “to delay and then foreclose” Zunum’s operation, “in order to maintain its dominant position in commercial aviation by stifling competition”, using this proprietary information “to provide a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a different aircraft design” with Safran. Zunum said that Boeing tried to poach Zunum’s engineers.”

Electric Flight is a nice idea, but without a breakthrough in batteries, in my opinion it’ll be too inflexible a niche market and in best case need 10-20 years of active development to come up with a sizeable aircraft for mass transportation. And then there is the devastating ecological footprint of the mining of the needed Lithium, Nickel, “rare earths”, that experts expect to become a likely killer issue for Tesla – now thinking about battery-powered flying?

Hydrogen

Hydrogen powered Wing in GroundMany of you remember that back in 2008 I worked with investors and potential climate-sensitive customer we worked on a hydrogen-powered WIG (wing in ground). Combining the then existing research platform SeaFalcon with a common hydrogen-engine and refining hydrogen from solar power. Back in the days, we got a viability study funded to work out the business case based on Maldivian Air Taxi. Very successful business case in fact. Then came Lehman and we never further followed up on it, something I regret to date. Back 2009/10, we could have proved the business case for carbon-free flying.

Airbus Zero EmissionBut I also learned the downsides of Hydrogen, disabling it for large aircraft. Say what? Didn’t Airbus not just promote their vision of hydrogen-powered planes? Just the required cooling and/or pressure tanks for any sizeable aircraft sure is a challenge.

On the picture I found it interesting to see the focus on small aircraft and how much of that they already assume to be used for the hydrogen-tanks… Given Corona, I doubt they will give this the focus to keep the development timeline at 2030 (ten years). And I believe this is just another case like Boeing on e-flight, a means to proof failure to justify continuation of “dirty flying”. I doubt their managements real interest in clean flying!

Synkerosene, Powerkerosen, eKerosene, synfuel, powerfuel efuelSynkerosene – Hydrogen reloaded

Since I learned about Synfuel in early 2019, I understood that quickly as true impact, a disruptive technology. Given it’s “circular” nature, it will not provide “clean flying as quickly. But carbon-neutral flying and substantially less side products in the exhaust. Then I was surprised recently that Sunfire had secured a joint venture as Norsk e-Fuel, building an “industrial-sized facility” in Oslo. Okay, their annual output I learned is rather small, only 25% of what we assume as need for an all-synkerosene fleet at our bases, enough for seven regional aircraft.

But yes, we believe that given Synkerosene can transform all existing fleets in a matter of years. Starting with Synfuel for company cars, energy generators beyond emergency, but also as a buffer for the solar power needed for a 24/7 operation will require a large sized facility at our headquarters. Developing the plans and securing the funding for the large-sized facilities needed at the bases, we expect first bases to be 100% carbon neutral realistically within three to five years. But only, if we get it started. If we overcome lip-services, white- and greenwashing but join forces with investors interested doing the real deal.

Now back to the investor who told us this week that we’d not be innovative enough. I don’t care to be innovative. I want to use innovation available to make a change. A real one.

Challenge: Three years to the first carbon-free base. Ten years for all bases to be carbon-free. And looking at 10 years, this will be profitable development! Real IMPACT INVESTING.

The Truth About ZERO-Emission

ContrailSynkerosene is not emission-free. But even Airbus “Zero-Emission” is a lie! Sure there will be emissions, though using hydrogen, it will mostly by H2O, simple water.

Synkerosene is refined from hydrogen and carbondioxide (CO2 + H2). The chemical components of the engine exhaust must be researched and we expect a journey to further optimize the exhaust. Amateurish ideas are a catalyzer. I was also introduced to a team working on a contrail-free engine. If I understood that right, they use ammonia (NH3), but how that then impacts the high altitude atmosphere?

Yes, there are questions that will demand answering. But Synfuel is an answer available now. And it is definitely much better than the crude-oil product. Not only for aviation, but also for all those used cars with combustion engines around the world! And be real, the number of e-powered cars is rather limited, both e- and hydrogen-powered cars are quite a bit more expensive if you don’t build your own infrastructure.

Aviation Beware?

Ryanair precarious staff salariesThere is a very strong force of inertia in aviation about turning “green”. Like other problems in aviation management, such as their disbelieve in branding, the resulting focus on “cheap” as the sole difference and a missing loyalty for partners and employees alike. that, plus missing USPs made airlines a running gag about ROI. But as in all other industries, you cannot expect change and disruptions with blind managers. You need vision.

A real impact investment, with managers that breath “impact” and commit themselves “naturally” to the U.N. SDGs will be countering the greed-driven likes of Ryanair or others, saving on the backs of their employees, their customers, the airports and regions they serve to maximize their evil impact. And their profits. Especially their senior managers’ profits. Everyone complains about Ryanair, then why do people fly them? Why do airports and regions fund their “semi-legal” (illegal) subsidy schemes? Why does no-one divest to stand up to them? Why don’t they name and shame them? Why still investing in them?

Or look at Lufthansa, securing for the group more than 10 billion bailout, grounding Germanwings as they’re too expensive, firing their staff aplenty, grounding airplanes. The bailouts multiple their worth before the crisis, what is left of the formerly proud crane? And guess, one day they have to repay all those debts. At least they use those with professional care. Will they invest into anything “sustainable”? Their government did not bother to require something like that. And accusing the pandemic, I was told they oppose the development of the Synkerosene-pilot in Hamburg. That being likely the reason the German-lead Joint-Venture to develop a first industrial-sized facility chose Oslo instead…?

But yes, at KOLIBRI.aero we have the understanding of the necessity to make an impact. To disrupt aviation to force them to become “green” and sustainable. And keep in mind that for decades, aviation was a growth market. And will be. The demand is there.

Impact Investment or Whitewashing – What is it?

I do believe that we will find family offices and may even trigger the interest of some of the institutional investors. Maybe even EU monetary bodies might understand the impact we can make. And different from existing players, we neither have Corona debts, nor do we have “hidden agendas” or different plans. We want to do this. Do you?

And if you’re no (real) impact investor reading this, but one of my many friends and followers, please share this.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing

Impact Investing

Impact Investing

I am very, very happy that I started speaking to Family Offices and regret that the Pandemic forced a reschedule of one event and kept me from attending another this week. But I am grateful to be allowed attending the first Family Office virtual conferences. It’s a rather steep learning curve. I am grateful for any event reference or invitation that I got and hopefully will still get.

European Climate Goals

Given today’s jabbering by the EU Commission (Mme. von der Leyen) that they – wow – will reduce the CO2 to 55% of the 1990-level … Oh wow? Shall I be impressed? Or cry? EU parliament would have been okay with 60% the news say. But even as is, this “deal” is full of small-print and not really worth the paper it’s written on.

We must be better to make an impact. And we better stop lip-services, white- and greenwashing but address the issues we can address today. Or this expert saying we’re way too late is right.

Though this is totally in line with my initial experience about “impact investing”. Lots of talk and lip services, with little substance too. Hard to find the ones that believe that this is something real.

And what industry is more in desperate need for a sustainability makeover. And having the chance for it?

Aviation Impact Investment
… a Barrel Burst?

Zunum 50 seat electric planeWhile we have clear plans to become Carbon-Neutral in realistically in three to five years, you got to start. And an “impact investor” told me this week that we are too little innovative. Really?

The EU plans give airlines 15 more years to fly dirty. Yes, that is a barrel burst! You got to be kidding me. But sure, it’s completely in line with German and European aviation lobbying, managed well by Lufthansa, Ryanair and the likes. Lufthansa, the airline with the single-largest bailout package in Europe but with virtually no ties attached, especially none about job saving or evolution into turning “green” and flying clean(er). And in Hamburg I heard the synkerosene pilot suffered from disinterest by Lufthansa, aside of a single carbon-neutral flight by Lufthansa Cargo. A nice example of greenwashing!

I’ve summarized the possibilities to turn aviation carbon-neutral for a start (and what comes then) into another article Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal, which I publish simultaneously with this article. But the Future of Clean Aviation is Now. It just needs someone with a real interest to start the process. No talking, no lip-services, no whitewashing, but the real deal! With a real ROI.

Impact Investment in IT & AI … What Impact?

AI Impact InvestingThere is a lot of buzz ongoing about Impact Investment in IT and AI. Whereas I just wrote about Big Data & AI, feedback from family offices principals recently confirm my assumption. Of one emphasizing that ESG “tools” are usually a means to white- and greenwash family offices’ IT investments. And as I posted that on LinkedIn, got a lot of feedback from other family office principals that IT hardly makes a real impact by itself. It’s simply a profit-focused investment, mostly just improving existing processes or digitalizing them.

There also was a discussion this week about “decision making AI” or “decision support IT”. From my aviation background, I see IT as an important support tool. One that improves productivity, but more important safety. I do not see an IA-tool taking more than a supportive role at the time being. But I see a lot of claims that direction, which I can only consider white- and greenwashing.

It’s a Trust Thing

Use a magnet to find the needle in the haystack
Oops. Didn’t we tell you? We seek the toothpick…

In my opinion, there is no “impact investing” if you don’t find the right managers with a mindset to leave the beaten path and find profitable developments in the industry. For KOLIBRI.aero we don’t just think about carbon-neutral aviation. Or some solar parks. We think beyond! We understand it’s our duty to make an impact. Investing into our people and the regions we serve. To foster gender equality, diversity and to develop a future beyond our own. In turn, KOLIBRI.aero addresses not two or three, but all 17 of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals.

In the overall plans, there is one issue being in the U.N. SDGs and EU’s TEN-T, regional connectivity at affordable price. Going carbon-neutral is more important on that in our opinion, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, that is a journey. Decently paid, qualified jobs and ongoing, structured training to fight against poverty. Ideas aplenty on how to establish a disruptive airline, that shows how sustainable aviation can be. If you look outside the box. If you embrace “sustainability”, even the notoriously loss-making scapegoat aviation can change.

The Quick and Dirty

If you want to go Fast, go Alone. If you want to go Far, go TogetherOn the other side – and back to the topic of my previous article, Big Data and AI provide quick success stories. So much easier to use those for white- and greenwashing. But real impact investment may not be so sexy, it may take a longer breath. To turn around our world is a journey, no sprint. It’s why even UBS recently confirmed in a webinar that family offices are more likely the ones truly investing into impact. Because they think long-term. About family impact across generations. Not as politicos or banks or “institutional investors” and venture capitalists in quick, maximized returns, happily overlooking the negative impacts for an improved profitability.

… or The Neverending Story

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.A German investor this week told me: “There is too little change in what you’re doing.” That investor referred to either air taxi or hyperloop. Whereas I’ve often enough expressed my concerns about air traffic control taking individual mobility into the third dimension and into potential conflict with commercial (and military) aviation. Just thinking about the increasing drone-warnings disrupting airport operations the past year. That is a very long way to go.

The same for hyperloop, which may connect high-density routes, similar to (German) Transrapid in China. Will this be more successful? The concept is around for more than half a century. And I don’t like the pipes over ground, even Roger Leloup planned them underground. I’ve written more than a year ago in the #flygskam Reality Check about it and about the so much smaller footprint an airport has.

… Academic Thinking – Research Forever

Academic ResearchGlobal CO2 emissions dropped by 7%, with 11% in Europe due to Corona. Especially aviation reduced due to the lockdown by 22% global, some regions by 30%. But those are expected to come back quickly (Source).

Now the EU says it turns the European Investment Bank into a Climate Bank. And they will focus on research. Or to give the dinosaurs a facelift. Maybe it makes more sense to look for ideas to apply the research results to the real world? Why is it that German Transrapid only runs in China, European Skype is now U.S. Microsoft, the first industrial Synkerosene-facility is being build in Norway (EU associated)? Examples aplenty. We research but we’re utterly incompetent turning research into practical products.

Others are faster, but we have a PLANPeople should take rail the politicos wrote. Yeah, I can see Merkel spending a day to travel from Berlin to Brussels. An interesting LinkedIn post, and German Tagesschau reports “Strategy falls short of what is possible and necessary”. A carbon-neutral aviation we plan on existing technological solutions for 2025, latest 2027 for Kolibri and by 2030 operating +200 aircraft carbon-neutral.

It’s embarrassing! Why does everyone find reasons not to invest in large-scale change? No, it is not quick, requires industrial site funding, but it’s about real change! Which in turn would apply pressure on the “establishment” to get their butts up and move. Get out of your comfort zone and make a change.

Divesting the Bad, Investing in Sustainability

Scottish Widows For 200 YearsThere are exceptionally good examples recently, like Scottish Widows devesting “bad stocks” in the value of almost half a million Euro. Whoops?

And whoops again. But they work with Black Rock, a company with a very bad reputation, funding most of the dirty stocks in the world. But on the other side, Black Rock may have started their journey to change? Maybe the money divested may be well invested into those change makers?

Corona is a testing time for about everybody. But also an opportunity for new methods and thinking to rise.

Impact Investment for better ROI!

Kolibri - disrupt aviationThough also notable, there is a bad misinterpretation that impact investment would mean low ROI. I think our business concept for Kolibri is looking at very competitive ROI at a residual risk below other investments. But it is so much easier to accuse impact investment to justify one owns look the other direction, right?

Impact Investment ain’t Philanthropy.
Invest into the future and benefit from it!

And as real impact investment gains support and more and more investors look at their investment portfolio and clear out the dirt, suddenly your “max-ROI”-investment in crude oil, guns or other “bad investments” will turn foul on you. Investment into the main investor in “bad business”, namely Black Rock will backfire on your own reputation. So Black Rock will likely recognize the headwinds and start divesting too? Not to be caught in the fray.

Funds, Indices, Shares or what?

Change ResistanceWell, it’s always easy to invest into existing business. Buying in on indices or major shares, you don’t need to understand anything beyond their “performance” and “marketing message”. If they wash well enough, they might appear shining green or white, right?

As if we did not learn the very recent lessons from German Property Group, Wirecard? On a report that week, a Shortseller mentioned that the higher the interests and dividends, the likelier they are on a rush against the wall. So they look at those stocks first. As do greedy investors…

My very personal experience includes working for a company that became one of the “New Market winners” when they entered the stock market. Happened, after a short flash in the pan, they ended up a penny stock.

Grounded Aircraft FleetsThe “typical” aviation investment is aircraft funds. Whereas KPMG valued them at an average 4% return in 2019, look at all those assets now. Liabilities in most cases, because they had and have no USP. And even back in 2019, the big aircraft lessors being well established with the airlines made good returns, but many funds also underperformed or failed completely.

Shareholder value got a very bad reputation, didn’t it? As if all shareholders would believe in Max-ROI? How about some long-term benefits, how about impact, sustainability and a return that is above the inflation rate and what your bank pays? But that is to my experience and observations the normal “manager type” our world suffers from. Maximizing the own short-term remuneration and bonuses, leaving a wreck behind. Back to IT-investments?

… or what?

Another version has a third question: Who wants to lead the change. Whoops, all gone…

Especially thinking about impact investment, we need long-term thinking. Something bank managers, institutional investors and venture capitalists fail to provide. We need people thinking in decades, in generations. We need Family Offices, private investors. And we need company managers, entrepreneurs, founders thinking not in three years at max ROI, but in 10 years and a real ROI, including but beyond monetary. Maybe at a much better ROI than those straw-fire-startups burn up?

What Impact Do You Target?

What’s the “Impact” you want to make? Is Tesla truly the future? Or is it more hydrogen? How about impact on poverty? Why not investing in “developing countries”, poor countries? Giving them the infrastructure and tools to develop themselves. Another German history lesson. While the leading industry nations cannibalized German technology, machines, entire factories, it left a void in it’s wake. A void that was filled with the help of the Marshall Plan leading Germany into the Wirtschaftswunder.

The investments back in those days did not target the surviving companies, but enabled startups. The remains of those funds are known as KfW, Germany’s Bank for Reconstruction.

Impact vs. Whitewashing

My final topic today is to take a look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or U.N. SDGs.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Good Health & Wellbeing = biotech, right? Every biotech something claims to be SDG3, even the pharma-giants o chem-giant BASF.
Or Decent work and economic growth also used a lot for good argument to be “sustainable”. The Real Estate industry talks a lot about their focus on 9 and 11. Those are just the ones I see a lot “abused”. But also tech companies claiming sustainable under 3 ,4, 5 and 10… Be careful if someone tells you they’d be “sustainable” under consideration of the SDGs.

I like the approach of some family offices very much, that they qualify the real impact. Over time, what is the change. Targets, Milestones. And understanding that real change takes real efforts.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Thinking Outside the Box is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

Not My Cup of Tea

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.

Airfinance Journal Virtual Events

Airfinance Journal Virtual EventsI am sure you remember my recent blog about why I consider Virtual Conferences a Barrel Burst.

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

The Great PretenderWhereas 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?

Virtual Networking

Airfinance Journal 2020 Latin America Dedicated NetworkingThen 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?

Not My Cup of TeaAgain, 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.

Empty CabinA 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!

Learning Curve?

Airfinance Journal 2020 China virtual eventThe 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).


Of Nestlings and Birds of Passage

National Geographic: Why travel should be considered an essential human activity
Source and Copyright: National Geographic

Then there was that article on National Geographic: Why Travel Should Be Considered an Essential Human Activity

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

Crowded Aircraft Aisle during BoardingConvincing 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

Blame GameThere 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 never lease 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?

A320 B737 Whats Your USPWhile 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.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

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The Force of Inertia and Wagging The Dog

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)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

Spahn Travel Warning not a Ban
“A travel warning is not a travel ban – Health Minister Spahn not discouraging Spain holidays in Tagesthemen.”

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?

Wag the Dog (film)
Wag the Dog (1997 film)

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

IATA Load Factors Europe 2020-05The 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

airline money burnIs 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.

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

 

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Evolution … or why should we save the Dinosaurs?

Burning Euros

Discussing with a friend and intellectual sparring partner, why we focus to establish a new airline and not simply buy a failing airline, the reasoning was easy.

If you acquire an airline, you acquire it’s heritage.

Change resistanceTo which he replied: “I couldn’t agree more. I have seen the same firsthand when it came to [product] engineering. Initially we were going to work with an established manufacturer and have them make modifications for us. That was quite the trip down the rabbit hole, and more trouble than it’s worth. Now we’ll get [products] that were custom engineered for us, from the ground up.”

Most of the times I was asked for support in project management, the project itself was fine. What caused the trouble was the missing change management.

Air Berlin Example

Backstabber Assassin shutterstock22635031In direct conversation, one of the later board members of Air Berlin told me, the airline would not kick the bucket because the new CEOs wouldn’t have good ideas, but because they failed on the heritage. The existing “networks”, afraid of the change, afraid to loose their job, torpedizing the management.

When Stephan Pichler took the helm, he i.e. identified the “different fleets” as a concern. With little to no interaction on scheduled flights or tour operator charters. Still, when he left, there were still the different departments interacting little to none. There was a lot more to Air Berlin’s unnecessary demise, as there was to FlyBEs. Usually it is attributed to the management, but “internal resistance” can be a first-class back-stabber.

Save the Dinosaur or Fresh Start?

Disruptive Events - Meteor kills DinosaursAs addressed in To Save or not Save in the Corona Papers, The question in my opinion is mainly, how much funds you are willing to pump into the existing airlines and for how long. And if you now start to shove money down their greedy throat, will that ever end? The U.S. carriers complained instantly when they learned that they get only 30% of the bailout “for free”, but would get the other money as a credit.

To turn this around. We developed a business concept to invest € 1.6 billion into a new airline covering Europe. With a business concept based on USPs, profits, low residual risk, attractive profits, but also socially responsible and sustainable. i.e. A positive overall impact on greenhouse gases.

Triple that amount to invest into three new players instead of just one and you cover what we have today. Now airlines asking +$50 billion in the U.S., € 20 million for Germany, IATA calls for +$ 200 billion. Emirates will take up long haul, maybe challenged by a U.S. carrier and a Chinese one – connecting the long-haul world.

Dinosaurs …

The existing airlines will need to survive. Realistically downscale. At first and until a vaccine becomes available in sufficient quantity, we talk about “leave the middle seat free”. That cuts one third off the seat capacity of 189 seat A320 or B737. 126 seats. Given an inital slow start of traveler confidence to use flights agin, we realistically talk about max. 50% average load. Down from above 90%. That means that the ticket prices will likely be double. But the “administrative overhead” must be split to less aircraft, so we will have a totally different cost level.

Ryanair’s O’Leary clings to keep his “known model” and predicts even more aggressive discounting post-Corona. But in the end, someone must pay the bill. Does anyone really believe O’Leary to not plan for the stupid to pay his bills? Including airports, regions and naive passengers… I wonder how long even a Ryanair could keep  that illusion up?

… meet Evolution

evolution dino vs manDoing a staged setup and focusing to stake our own claims, select strategic bases aggressively outselves, we can establish the company for a mere €30 million. € 15 million per additional base with seven aircraft and hundreds of (secure) jobs. A fraction of the food the dinosaurs demand to survive. Condor now half a billion? What evolutionary wonders we could achieve with that money.

We’re the mammals. We’re effective, profit focused, sustainability and social responsibility driven. Evolution. Don’t pump millions and millions into the dinosaurs until the crisis is over. Invest into the future.

Food for Thought
Investors welcome!

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

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