Out with the old. The 2020s are producing visionaries with a new attitude to sustainable thinking. Their promise: to effect change both radically and – we can hope – rapidly. ‘Make do and mend’, ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, the mantras of the sustainability movement may be enduring in every sense, but at this stage it’s clearly not enough. With a bold new generation of business, technologies and awareness comes the realisation that sometimes things are too old, too broken, and too outdated to fix. What we really need is bigger, braver, and better funded new ideas. From how we travel to the way we build, sometimes it’s best to start afresh.
After six years of development, Arrival is now just months away from production on its potentially world-changing electric vehicles. The technology company – which has reportedly already reached Unicorn status – credits the success of its vision to its creation of a low carbon strategy for our vehicles and platforms from scratch, leaving the legacy of the combustion engine behind from the very start.
“The development of equitable, safe and clean public transport is crucial for the success and survival of our cities”, says Howard Lichter, Arrival’s VP of Special Projects. “We want to create an integrated transportation ecosystem that can assist cities in meeting their zero-emissions goals and bring clean air to their communities.” Through continuous innovation of hardware, software and materials, Arrival has developed a radical new method for manufacturing that hinges on a network of microfactories. “Arrival’s vehicles – including the major components and materials – have been designed specifically for assembly in these low CapEx, small-footprint production facilities, that can be placed locally to serve the cities that need them.”
It’s this decentralised production strategy that will allow Arrival to make EVs and platforms designed for each city, in the city itself, upskilling local talent in the process and providing modern 21st century jobs. “Most other companies creating EVs are wed to the traditional production line method of manufacturing, and you cannot build a traditional vehicle or EV in a microfactory – our vehicles have been designed specifically using our proprietary enabling technologies and platforms,” explains Lichter.
Meanwhile, eBike start-up Cowboy Bikes is making progress as it looks to grow as an impact business, aligning profit with city and civic impact. Measures include returning bike assembly to Europe, automating many aspects of production, and developing a circular initiative. How does design contribute to effective change? “We work hard at finding the right design solutions,” says co-founder and CEO Adrien Roose, of Cowboy’s mission to create simple yet intelligent, intuitive products. The bike is connected, it’s equipped with built-in sensors that provide Crash Detection, Theft Alerts, Air Quality updates and much more. Cowboy’s software is at the heart of the experience. “We want to remove any possible friction point for users and provide the simplest ride, with help and information along every step of the way. Design is a way to provoke change when it facilitates one’s life and provides a healthier alternative to the status quo.”