My Climate Journey

Ep 97: Kurt House, Co-Founder & CEO of KoBold Metals

Episode Summary

Today's guest is Kurt House, Co-Founder & CEO of KoBold Metals. KoBold Metals is a minerals exploration startup, applying data science to the discovery of deposits of minerals such as cobalt, a key component of EV batteries. Backed by notable VCs, Andreessen Horowitz and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, KoBold Metals’ business is predicated on analyzing troves of geologic data to ascertain the presence of economically-viable concentrations of sought-after ores. With a PhD in Earth & Planetary Science, Kurt founded C12 Energy, which developed enhanced oil recovery projects using CO2 from industrial sources. He has also spent time at Bain & Company as a consultant and at MIT as a research fellow. Concurrent with his role as CEO of KoBold, he is an Adjunct Professor at Stanford. This was a great discussion, which I was able to do in person at Stanford. Kurt has deep knowledge of the science of cobalt and its applications in EV batteries, as well as drilling, in general. Moreover, his company is a great example of the integration of software-oriented Silicon Valley talent with industrial mineral/mining expertise. I hope you find this discussion as thought-provoking as I did. Enjoy the show! You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at info@myclimatejourney.co, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.

Episode Notes

In today’s episode, we cover:

Links to topics discussed in this episode:

Episode Transcription

Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.

Today's guest is Kurt house, CEO of KoBold Metals.

KoBold is investing in battery materials projects across the globe by combining basic or deposit science. Big data and scientific computing with patient private capital. The company's backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures. We have a great discussion in this episode about Kurt's origin story as an entrepreneur, the origin story of the company, how it came about, why came about.

And what they're hoping to achieve. We talk about KoBold in general and battery technologies and components where things stand there and where things need to go in the future to support the ultimate electrification of everything. And we also talk about some of the barriers that are holding back this transition and some changes that if brought about would help things accelerate.

Kurt House. Welcome to the show.

Kurt House: It is great to be here. Thank you, Jason.

Jason Jacobs: Thanks for having me. Or, well, not at your office technically, but maybe this is your satellite office or something here on Stanford's campus.

Kurt House: Always good to meet in person and yeah, great to be with you on this beautiful day.

Jason Jacobs: So why don't we jump right into it? What is KoBold Metals?

Kurt House: KoBold yeah, K. O. B. O. L. D. so KoBold actually, I'll start with the name because it's kind of cool and then I'll talk more about the company of course, and where it came from and what we're doing. So KoBold yep. Is German for goblin. It is the namesake for the metal cobalt. Cobalt the metal was discovered in 17th century German nickel mines, and it was associated with arsenic in the particular minerals that it was found in. So it did two things. One, it distracted them from finding nickel, which is what they were looking for, and they didn't yet realize there was cobalt was valuable on its own, and then it released arsenic.

And so they called it the goblin metal. KoBold actually evolved its meaning a little bit from straight goblin to a specific goblin that lives under earth and controls the mineral wealth of the earth. So that's where our name comes from. And so it's sort of a double entendre. KoBold metals. The company is a battery metals exploration business.

If you look at our personnel, our org chart, about a third of the company, a little less maybe are what you described as a small, very high quality mineral exploration team. So we have people that have been in the mineral exploration business for decades, collectively, probably over 200 years of mineral exploration experience.

And they've made major discoveries all over the world, and the largest copper discoveries of last generation. Largest zinc discovery of in the last many decades, several very important nickel discoveries. Those were all made by people on our team, and they have deep expertise in geochemistry and geophysics and geology broadly in mineral exploration.

Then the other sort of majority of the company is sort of two thirds to three quarters of the company. You would recognize as almost any Silicon Valley startup, right? They are software developers, data engineers, data scientists who come from all the name brand companies, Twitter and Slack, and people have worked at Google and Stripe, you name it.

So they're experts at developing software and doing data science. But there's actually a key distinction if you look at their CVs, is that not only are they world-class software developers, but they also all have training in the physical sciences to a person. We have people that have studied condensed matter physics, astrophysics, geophysics, quantum computing, material science, atmospheric physics, nuclear chemistry.

And that's really, really important because what they are doing there at KoBold is designing software to solve a scientific problem in the physical world, right? They're not sort of doing traditional Silicon Valley things of optimizing sort of consumer behavior online or maximizing clicks and likes and things like that.

What they're trying to do is make statistically valid predictions about compositional anomalies within the Earth's crust. And so they work hand in hand with the people with deep expertise in the geosciences and mineral exploration to try to build a platform, the, we call it the machine prospector.

That's our set of algorithms to build a platform that improves the efficacy and efficiency of mineral exploration.

Jason Jacobs: So what was the epiphany that led to the formation of the company and what was the problem that you set out to solve?

Kurt House: So I guess it might be worth it to tell you a little bit about my background here. I have been in this sort of climate energy world since about 2003 I studied physics in undergrad. I spent a little bit of time. In business consulting at Bain, which I found quite boring. And then I went to grad school to study applied math geoscience, and I chose the discipline and the focus of my doctoral work.

Actually, I was inspired by a physics today cover published in 2002 which was the first time I ever saw the earth at night photo.  That's an iconic photo. Everyone's seen it now, but this was before Google images. Or Google Earth and that kind of thing. And so it was quite striking to sort of think of civilization in that manner.

And so then I went to grad school. I worked on carbon sequestration as the topic of my doctoral work. Out of that, I actually started a carbon sequestration company that evolved into being enhanced oil recovery business and where we took CO2 from industrial sources and stuck it into mature oil fields to get extra oil out of the ground and also to store the CO2.

I ran that company for about six years, and then I spent some time at a private equity fund building a big data platform to make investments in unconventional drilling, fracking wells, things like that. And did that for several years. We worked on large number of deals, lot of value, but actually kind of woke up one morning and just sort of quite literally thought, what am I doing?

Spending my time getting reduced carbon out of the ground, right? I've got to spend my brain cells doing something that directly contributes to the solution, not to the problem. So I sort of figuratively walked the Tibetan trail. And a thought long and hard, uh, you know, left about what to do and spent a lot of time thinking about battery chemistry, had some ideas about maybe novel battery chemistries, things like that.

And as I was thinking deeply about battery chemistry, a couple of interesting observations sort of leaped out.

Jason Jacobs: And don't lose that. I want to hear those observations, but what was it to lead you to think about battery chemistry in the first place?

Kurt House: This would have been when I was doing this deep dive. It was sort of early 2018 I guess, and the world had just changed a lot in my 15 years in the energy climate world when I started in the energy climate world, and it's kind of hard to imagine now, but renewables weren't really on the table.

I mean, coal was the cheapest source of electricity by some large margin. Natural gas was quite expensive. Throughout my grad school, gas averaged over $10 a gigajoule. Now it's less than two and has been for a decade. Solar was somewhere like $12 a watt panels when I started. That was the world. And so we sort of solving climate through doing something with CO2 from fossil fuels.

It seemed like an inevitable thing to do. And the world's changed so much now. So now we really have a path, I think, for the first time, or it's very clear to me that we have a path to decarbonizing the world. That doesn't really involve fossil fuels. If it involves stopping using fossil fuels over a reasonable period of time.

And so then and within that you think of what are the key technologies for which accelerating innovation and deployment would kind of be the most levered? And it was fairly clear, and this could certainly be a point of contention, I guess, but it was fairly clear to me that energy storage for both mobile and stationary sources was going to be critical as we can generate so much low cost power now with renewables.

But there. We can't dispatch them without storage. So broadly, that's so sort of so obvious that I thought want to do a deep dive into batteries.

Jason Jacobs: What were the insights that you learned as you did that deep dive into batteries?

Kurt House: So this is really interesting, right? So you look at the periodic table and you'd say, well, gosh, there's, you know, there's over a hundred elements and there's so many combinations of elements to make various molecules and crystals.

There's this enormous compositional parameter space to make great batteries with, and clearly we haven't explored anywhere near, we've only explored a tiny fraction of that parameter space. So that was the idea of like, let's think novelty about battery materials, but then as you actually think about it more carefully, that's actually not true because.

And when you're thinking about looking at anything in the so-called S block, the kind of left hand side of the periodic table, those things have very large binding energy changes when they give up electrons. And same with the P block that's on the right hand side. So those become very irreversible generally.

And I'm actually thinking for the technologists on the line, I'm thinking about cathode materials in particular, and. The D block in the middle those are the so called transition metals. Those are the metals that give up and accept electrons somewhat readily because they have only partially filled out or D orbitals.

And so as a result, they're very amenable to have reversible chemical reaction, which is what you need for rechargeable battery, obviously. You have to reverse the chemical reaction. So when you're looking at captain materials, you kind of focus in on the deep block and then the first row of the D block, as people may remember from high school chemistry electronegativity, which is the sort of measure of how much an Adam wants. It's an electron, highly electronegative atoms really want electrons. They pull them toward themselves. And so the cathode materials are something that's pulling the electron through the circuit to match up with the mobile ion, which is lithium.

So you want an electronegative atom. But as you go down the rows of the D block, electronegativity goes down and mass goes up, which means it's free energy change of production goes down and it's mass goes up, which means the energy density goes way down. So actually you're really stuck to the first row.

And then for complicated reasons, which I won't go into now, you're actually stuck to just a few atoms actually in that first row. Nickel, cobalt, manganese, to some extent iron, if you pair it with phosphate. So it's a small number of materials that really make the best cathodes and they make substantially better cathode materials.

Nickel and cobalt in particular are way, way better than the next best cathode material. And similarly on the anode side, lithium is just staggeringly better than the next best anode material. Lithium is the most electropositive element. It highly wants to give up its electrons. It is highly soluble, which means it can move across the electrolyte very effectively.

It's incredibly light. It's only the third heaviest element. So it's got everything going forward. And so actually, lithium, cobalt, nickel to some extent, manganese, cadmium, these sort of vanadium, they may be around the really, it really have a very small number of materials that are really, really good for making what I would describe as lithium layered intercalation batteries.

And so it's like when you have that realization, you realize what the world needs is a lot more of those materials. The world needs a lot more lithium, a lot more cobalt, a lot more nickel. That's key. And so I thought, well, let's go out. Let's start a business to go find those materials and help supply the world with the  critical material for the electric vehicle revolution.

Jason Jacobs: So I guess one question that brings to mind is that I've heard people call cobalt the blood diamond of metals in that there's child labor, often involved with finding cobalt and things like that. I would have thought that I would hear from you that you're going to go and find it in a way that helps avert that and therefore it is a net positive.

But what I just heard from you, it was like making the case that we should want more cobalt to begin with. Is the reason why conventional wisdom has been, and again, correct me if I'm wrong, that we should move beyond cobalt because of that blood diamond aspect, or has it been more from a performance standpoint or both?

Kurt House: So you're 100% right, that our objective is to find cobalt in regions in excellent jurisdictions with high labor standards that can supply the world with ethical material. That is the...

Jason Jacobs: That part makes sense. But the performance part is the part that I was surprised about because I would've thought. That people knew that cobalt was performant to begin with but it sounds like you're saying that's not the case.

Kurt House: I'm confused.

Jason Jacobs: Yeah. So we were talking about key insights, right? And so one insight is that we need your cobalt, right? And we need it in more ethical ways. Right. But then the, the other insight is that we actually want more cobalt versus these other materials.

Kurt House: If you can supply it ethically. Yes. Now I see what you're saying. So I didn't, shouldn't overstate the case. When I say insight, it wasn't an insight necessarily that the world that other people didn't know. It was just that I realized myself how, what a good cathode material.

Jason Jacobs: Did you realize it, but was it known to people working on it and not to you? Or did you have some epiphany that was against conventional wisdom?

Kurt House: No, no, no. It's well known that it's a fantastic cathode material, and in some ways it's incredibly easy to prove it because the only transition metal in your iPhone and everybody's iPhone that's listening to this is cobalt. There's actually no nickel in there at all.

And the reason for that is because there's a sufficiently small amount of metal that the cost difference between cobalt nickel don't matter is there's only about 50 cents or so of cobalt in your phone. And so this sort of increased costs, you only save 30 or 40 cents if you changed from cobalt and nickel and your phone, and that doesn't matter.

You just want the absolute best material for your phone because your phone costs 800 bucks or whatever it costs. And so it doesn't matter. It's only when you go to electric vehicles where the mass of the material, there's so much mass a thousand times as much on the phone. Then you start actually worrying about the cost savings.

Nicole's key advantage of our cobalt has a couple of key advantages. Number one is cost. Number two is diversity of supply. Nickel sourced in a lot of countries. Cobalt supply is highly concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost over two thirds of cobalt supply and cobalt reserves come from the DRC, and that's where the chief labor abuses come from.

Jason Jacobs: And how does the KoBold process avert some of those labor practices? Why is it better?

Kurt House: We're looking for cobalt and reliable jurisdictions, basically, and we're looking at, to be really clear, we're looking for other materials too. We're looking for battery materials broadly. That's what KoBold metals does.

Cobalt, because its supply is so constrained and because it's such a good cathode material, we're really interested in finding high value primary cobalt deposits. Primary means that the majority of the value from that mine would be from cobalt as opposed to some other metal where most cobalt producing mines, it's actually not the case.

So we're looking for primary cobalt deposits, but we're looking for nickel and we're looking for lithium and we're looking for copper. We're looking for a variety of other things, but the principle way we can do it is provide OEMs and manufacturers, a diversity of supply. Right now, the supply is so well concentrated that it's almost impossible to source it outside of places with labor abuses.

And if we find great deposits in highly reliable jurisdictions, then we will be able to provide the market with a choice.

Jason Jacobs: So forgive the newbie question here, but what is it about the Democratic Republic of Congo that makes the cobalt accessible, and then what is it about these other regions where cobalt exists that makes it inaccessible?

Kurt House: That's a very tough question, actually. Not necessarily a newbie question. You're really, you're asking a geologic question, which is why is there so much high grade cobalt in the central African copper belt. That is a debate among the experts. It's not entirely clear, actually. It's very hard to tease out.

I would take a step back actually and think about what a ore deposit actually is, so you could dig down underneath Stanford's campus right now and you'll find cobalt guaranteed. No question about it. You'll find cobalt probably around 20 to 50 parts per million. Okay. No question. Almost anywhere in the world that will happen.

So there's absolutely no scarcity of cobalt, right? There's ten to the something like 10 to the 18th kilograms of cobalt nearest crust or something close to that is a huge amount of cobalt. The problem is it's in this low, very low concentration background concentration, and so to try to extract it from that background concentration would be way too expensive.

You could do it technically, just be way too expensive. So what a ore deposit is an economic ore deposit is when you find a chunk of earth that doesn't have 30 or 40 parts per million cobalt, but rather it has 20,000 parts per million cobalt. That's what you want. But that's a really interesting thing, right?

How does it happen that the Earth's processes will have concentrated in a natural way, will have concentrated something like cobalt from 30 parts per million up to 10 or 20,000 parts per million in a naive sense. That's sort of like against entropy, right? Interpol tends to not concentrate things. It tends to disperse things.

And so the answer, of course it does happen naturally because we do have mines, and this is for all things, is that there's a set of geochemical reactions that's selectively dissolve the particular metal of interest from a source material and then selectively precipitated out in a different source material.

And this is true for everything we mined copper, nickel, you name it. And there's the actual specific geochemistry is different from metal to metal, but that's how ore bodies form. And so to your question, Democratic Republic of Congo has these enormous copper mines, copper deposits that have many percentage points, concentration of copper, and then anomalously high cobalt grades.

They have cobalt grades from up to one, even 2% cobalt along with an even higher concentration of copper. And I would, I guess leave it for the time being, it'd be a long, long conversation outside the scope of this podcast about why it is that that place is special. Lots of theories exist, but it's not entirely well known.

But what is also the case is that we're confident that there's high grade cobalt deposits elsewhere in the world.

Jason Jacobs: So here's a question, a followup to that, which is, is there a supply constraint in the amount of cobalt available. Relative to needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or is it a monopoly constraint that has unethical child labor practices?

Kurt House: Both are problems. The chief problem is the ladder, the labor abuses and everything else, but it's not enough. If that went away, at least in the near term, you wouldn't have sufficient cobalt supply. We need to grow cobalt reserves globally by a few multiples before we can readily supply the world with a billion electric vehicles.

Jason Jacobs: So then what's the innovation here?

Kurt House: Let me just, so people don't misunderstand. There is a huge amount of cobalt in the DRC. If all the labor abuses went away tomorrow, you'd be able to supply a enormous number of electric vehicles with COBOL from the DRC. I don't have the number of the top of my head. I don't think it gets you to a billion electric vehicles, but it gets you to several hundred million.

It gets you a long way there.

Jason Jacobs: So what's the innovation that makes it now possible with cobalt to expand beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo for cobalt mining? That was not possible before you came to be?

Kurt House: It's a great question and I would broaden it a little bit and just say, what are the innovations we're doing for battery metals exploration broadly without necessarily specific to cobalt, but it is specific.

There are elements that are specific to cobalt, but what we're doing broadly...

Jason Jacobs: And then the elements that can carry over to other market adjacent markets as well.

Kurt House: Nickel, lithium, you name it. Right. And that's important because the innovations are mostly commodity-independent. Cobalt's, just a strategically important metal.

So we spent a lot of time on it, but it's not the only thing that it's important. Our technology is not limited to it. What we do is there's really two major components to our technology. Component one is our database that we call the terror shed, which is a very large, extremely large repository of information.

There's every scrap of information that we can find about the chemistry and physics of the Earth's crust. And there is a enormous amount of this data in the public domain because in most jurisdictions, when companies do exploration efforts for anything, for metals or even for oil and gas. They have disclosure requirements, they have to publish things that they learn, and so they do it.

So there's this enormous men of information out there. There's also a lot of proprietary data too, but there's an enormous amount of publicly available data. And then there's stuff like satellite hyperspectral imagery and things like that that's very valuable too. But the problem with most of the data is that it's disparate and it's highly, highly unstructured, unbelievably unstructured, so called messy data problem.

We are dealing with sort of kind of an end member case of messy data. That's why we have amazing team of software architects and data engineers that build these data pipelines to ingest, index, normalize and structure all of this data in a usable way so that rather than existing in myriad independent forms in myriad sort of government repositories all over the world, we have it in a single location where we can then systematically search all of that chemical and physical information.

The second part of the technology is what we call machine prospector. And that is the set of algorithms that interrogate the database. And they do that along a spectrum of physics driven models, which are basically us coding. So as we described, the process of our formation being a set of geochemical reactions.

Those reactions leave a geologic signature that they've occurred. And so if you understand what the geochemistry of the ore formation, then you can code that up so that you're looking for coincident factors that indicate the occurrence of that particular or process. That's sort of one end member case of the algorithms.

We'd call them physics driven models. And the other end member case are sort of, we'd call it machine learning or statistically driven models, which are where we actually don't specify the physics and chemistry. We simply look for, we let the computer tell us, we let the data tell us what key factors correlate and indicate the presence of anomalous compositions.

And then we use sort of along that spectrum. We really do all in both simultaneously because the statistical models end up constraining the free parameters within the physical models. Ultimately, the whole goal of this is to decrease the false positive rate in exploration. You know, the exploration business is marked by a very high false positive, right?

Because you don't necessarily know where to drill to find discoveries. The rate of discovery has been decreasing. It's been decreasing materially. It's very low to begin with. And so this is our game is to decrease the false positive rate and to have a higher success rate on drilling for materials.

Jason Jacobs: And so you're essentially enabling it to be more efficient and thus more profitable to mine for these materials in regions where they previously had more false positives and were thus harder to get right and prohibitively expensive.

Kurt House: That's exactly right. Yeah.

Jason Jacobs: Okay. But you're not actually doing the mining yourselves?

Kurt House: That's right. We are an exploration company, which means we try to make discoveries and prove through direct measurement that subsurface contains an economic ore body. Then at that point, once we've made those discoveries, we either sell or partner with a mining company to construct and operate the mine.

Jason Jacobs: Got it. And so the business model then, is it licensing the technology or ...?

Kurt House: No, it's not. We do not license our software and we don't ever intend to. We use it for our own account. And then we invest in locations that we think are perspective.

Jason Jacobs: Oh, interesting. Got it. So this is not a service that you're providing.

Kurt House: Absolutely not. Full, full stack exploration.

Jason Jacobs: And then as the nature of those deals, and you might want to not want to go into this, if you don't, that's fine, but is it cookie cutter from partner to partner or is there a wide variety in terms of the structure and economics and things like that?

Kurt House: Everything under the sun, as you can imagine.

Once you've made a discovery, then you own a valuable asset, and so then you're a seller of a valuable asset and you're in a good position.

Jason Jacobs: I know you're backed by Andreessen Horowitz. Is there any history of venture capital investing in this type of business before?

Kurt House: That's a great question, and I would argue that venture capital started in the exploration business, and in fact, that's not my argument.

That's Connie Chan's argument. Connie represents Andreessen Horowitz for our board of directors and in her blog post on our board of directors and our in her blog post announcing this investment, she described early exploration in the true sense of sending explorers out to find new lands and new valuable natural resources being funded by royalty as sort of the start of venture capital.

It's very high risk, very high reward, fantastic economics if you're successful. Andreessen, of course their; we all know their tagline, right? Software is eating the world. The point of that statement so far as I understand it, is software is changing the way every industry runs. It's not necessarily that every good business sells software, and so we are absolutely a software play in the sense that, like I said at the beginning, over two thirds of our company are software developers and we spend most of our resources building this technology to improve the efficiency and decrease the false positive rate of exploration.

But then the way we're capturing the value is by acquiring the properties that we think are great. It's like if you have a treasure map, should you dig for treasure or should you sell the map? And our view is we should buy the land around the treasurer first and then sell the rights to dig for the treasure after we show that it's there.

Jason Jacobs: And so when you started the company, you mentioned that you did this kind of figurative walk in the woods and you were working on fracking and other technologies and that you wanted to, and if I'm putting words in your mouth. Please correct me, but you want it to work on something more purposeful and leanings of the clean energy transition.

Did I get that right or not quite right?

Kurt House: That's really close. Yeah, that's basically it, right. Basically, I started in clean energy, sort of wandered to the dark side, and now I'm back.

Jason Jacobs: Well, and you also mentioned that your technology and capabilities has applications for other types of battery materials, not just cobalt. Correct?

Kurt House: Absolutely.

Jason Jacobs: And so. I also read that it also has applications in oil and gas exploration, and I couldn't help but notice they also raised money from Equinor. And in the blog post on your website, they talked about, or you talked about how they were excited to get involved so that they can improve their practices for oil and gas exploration. I'm just curious how you reconcile those two things, given your initial motivation to start the company.

Kurt House: So our business is, we are looking for battery metals. That's what we're doing. And we're interested in data about the Earth's crust from any source we can get at. Oil companies have tremendous datasets about the Earth's crust.

They know how to find things underground very effectively, and that's what they do. We're never going to look for oil and gas. We have no intention to do so. But partnering with people that understand the subsurface in a really deep way is a valuable thing to do. It's a very sensible thing to do, both in terms of getting access to their data and sharing knowledge about how we look for things underground, because that's what they do.

And so part of our strategy is porting some of the sophisticated approaches that oil and gas has to explore the subsurface into battery metals exploration.

Jason Jacobs: But it sounds like vice versa as well. Right?

Kurt House: There's knowledge sharing, but that's up to them to do what they want with whatever they learn. But for us, our business objective is how to be the best battery metals exploration company we can be.

Jason Jacobs: And so when you look at the landscape, assuming that we are going to need a lot more of this material, as you say, and that obviously the child labor abuses and things that are, are not acceptable. And so we want to find ways to do so more ethically, where are the bottlenecks as you look at the landscape. So not necessarily to KoBold specifically, but just in general to this transition to EVs and batteries, and is it a policy constraint? Is it an R and D constraint? Is it a mining constraint? Like when you kind of take a step outside of your own manic focused world and look at the big picture here. Where are we held up and what would help us move faster?

Kurt House: Definitely, I think raw material constraints could be a problem, which is why I'm in the business I'm in, obviously, and so I'm hoping if we're successful and companies like us are successful, hopefully the raw material challenges will not be a big deal, but they have been, I mean, there's several companies that have.

Changed their production planning because of raw material sourcing in terms of, you know, EVs and batteries. That is a mild constraint now. It could become a severe constraint. Other issues, I mean, I think the public is moving in the right direction at a pretty remarkable rate. Right now, we don't really have an electric vehicle, sort of appropriately priced that sort of $25,000 electric vehicle that is for the middle  quartile or something.

Yeah, we don't really have that yet. Right. The model three is not that it's a great car, but it's really a 40 you know, mid $40,000 car or something like that. They don't really have that, so we need the Honda civic of EVs. We need something that . That you can get into for twenty thousand twenty five thousand maybe a little less.

I think that's important. I'm not quite sure when or how that all arrive. I know people are working on it. I think that's a big one. I think charging rate is a big one. Range anxiety is actually a valid thing. Like a lot of people will criticize consumers for saying, Oh, you want a 400 mile range, but. You only drive 10 miles a day or 20 miles a day.

And they say, that's silly. But actually I think that's totally wrong. I mean, we size capital, we always oversize capital equipment or put another way we size capital equipment to fit edgecase needs. We always do that. We do that for everything. I mean, you sell, seldom run your air conditioner at full blast.

How many seatbelts do you have in your car and what's the median number of people that ride in your car? Right? It's you always, you have more seats in your car than you need for the average use, but you want to be able to fit three or four or five people in your car. So I think that's reasonable. And I think right now, even at a hundred kilowatts, it's just not quite high power chargers and they're limited to a significant degree by what the battery materials can handle. I think getting to 300 kilowatt charging rates so that you can kind of eliminate range anxiety, even on a modest sized battery, make an enormous difference.

I think they make an enormous difference. If you could do that at the Honda civic price level, I think you really hit mass adoption.

Jason Jacobs: And what's the blocker for that occurring?..

Kurt House: For super rapid charging. Yeah. I mean it is chicken and egg in terms of no one's building that level of charger yet, but it's also because the battery materials can't withstand it, but there's promising R and D I think that would enable batteries to be charged at that rate, and if they can, then I think...

Well, the batteries will be produced, the cars will be rolled out, and then the charters will follow. I guess the key blocker is, is the R and D about a on a battery that can be charged with 300 kilowatts or more and have that not degrade performance.

Jason Jacobs: I could easily see that we can go double the amount that we've gone today, but given that we had a little bit of logistical constraints at the beginning, we need to cut this a little short, but two final questions for you.

Kurt House: You got it.

Jason Jacobs: Need to do like the dramatic pause. So one is just, if you had a $100 billion and you could allocate it towards anything to accelerate the transition, where would you put it? How would you allocate it?

Kurt House: It's a really good question. I'm going to try to think of something on the fly and I may get it wrong.

So $100 billion is actually a little bit of an odd number cause it's a huge amount, but it's not enough to just build everything we need to build. Maybe it's a clever question. So I think, I guess I'm a big believer in R and D in general, but I think it mostly misses the point. I think energy is first and foremost about infrastructure.

Second, it's about natural resources. And third, it's about technology. And there's kind of a big drop between second and third. Now, from a capitalist standpoint, number three is fun because that's at the margin, and that's where you make a competitive advantage and all kind of stuff. But really in terms of the societal transition, it's you should be thinking in terms of energy and natural resources. And that's why the breakthrough with solar wasn't an R and D breakthrough. It wasn't a brilliant new material. It was a roughly a hundred billion dollar deployment of silicon capacity manufacturing, mostly in China. That massively, massively reduced the cost of silicon PV production.

So I think I would probably pointed toward a particularly  leveraged set of infrastructure and just get that to scale. What exactly is it? I'm not quite sure. It might be battery manufacturing, but I don't know. I'd have to think a little bit harder about that. It might be, I might just say, let's build 20 gigafactories.

Jason Jacobs: And last question is just, as I mentioned before the show, the audience is kind of half people like me who are coming in from other places primarily, but not exclusively Silicon Valley that are trying to better understand the challenge that we've got and what potential solutions will be impactful, and then figure out what their own skill set, kind of where to anchor. And then the other half is insiders who've been working on maybe one aspect and trying to get a fuller picture of what's going on. But given the nature of that audience, speak to them for a moment.

What advice do you have for people that are trying to figure out where to anchor and what to do to help with this problem?

Kurt House: I have two pieces of advice on this one. The first one is to take your responsibility to understand the science somewhat seriously.  Take it very seriously. As an individual citizen, I am generally struck by scientific illiteracy broadly, in particular on climate, and I don't think it's enough to just say all the climate scientists believe it or the experts believe it, because actually this, the basic physics is sufficiently simple and straightforward that it's within the compass of the ordinary person.

So to start with, look at the most recent IPCC report. And look at the chapter on the basic science and actually read the thing. It is totally readable. It's totally approachable, and there are many other references. Many, many people have written climate science just for nonspecialists kind of books, but understand the basic science because, yeah, because this is, we're talking about rebuilding the world's energy infrastructure because of this problem.

Understand what the problem actually is. That will help in all kinds of rhetorical ways. That's number one. And then number two. Buy an electric car.

Jason Jacobs: I like it. I'm due for one. We drive so little that I'm embarrassed to say I have a fossil fuel car now, but it's like three years old with 5,000 miles on it, but it's the last one we'll buy and I'm going to get an into an EV.

Kurt House: Well sell it now before the appreciation accelerates. Just get rid of it buy yourself and EV, and I will say, actually this is maybe a thought to end on; recently, I did, and the performance, it is a step up in every way. It's a better car.

Jason Jacobs: Awesome. Well, Kurt, thank you so much for coming on the show and I'm glad we managed to squeeze this in as well.

Kurt House: Thank you, man. Thanks for having me.

Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at My Climate Journey dot C O. Note that is dot C O not dot com. Someday we'll get the.com, but right now dot C. O. You can also find me on Twitter @jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.