Harnessing energy efficiently is amongst the biggest challenges of our times. Interestingly, energy conversion could hold some promise to mitigate this challenge. If we think about it, managing energy conversion can help improve battery performance that powers pretty much everything around us. Calgary-based Exro Technologies Inc. is innovating in this area by coming up with new ways to improve performance, efficiency, and longevity of batteries, electric motors, and generators. Its work with coils could revolutionize electric motors forever.
We got in touch with Exro Technologies CEO, Sue Ozdemir, to get a better understanding of Exro’s Coil Driver technology and more. She gave us some unique insights on how it may be of help to multiple industries.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background and your philosophy as a CEO.
I have had a wonderful career, working across Canada and internationally. I spent over nine years at General Electric, learning the ropes, and eventually became Chief Commercial Officer and then CEO of GE’s Small Industrial Motors Division. I was part of the executive team to sell our Small Industrial Motors Division to one of China’s largest motor manufacturers, Wolong Electric. We did that in 2018, and Wolong asked me to stay on as CEO of their newly formed global business unit GE Industrial Motors division (a Wolong company).
My time at GE taught me that you can’t succeed without a great team around you. So, that’s core to my philosophy, and we embrace that idea of attracting and retaining world class talent at Exro. People like our Commercial Development Officer Josh Sobil, who worked at GE and Siemens, and our advisory board member Darryl Wilson, a retired officer of GE Power are a reflection of the team we have and are building.
As a CEO, it’s important to have a vision but it’s equally important to have an innovative and experienced team that delivers on the vision. Exro is changing the way the world looks at energy consumption. We are creating our footprint in the power electronics market as we accelerate a new way of optimizing powertrains.
Q. What made you spend so much of your career on electric motor innovation?
I grew up working at my parents’ industrial motor repair shop, so, motors are part of my DNA.
I went on to build my career in the industry working for some of the top motor manufacturers in the world. Working for GE for over nine years, progressing my career up to the position of CEO of the GE Industrial Motor Division.
The industry needs innovative technology that can support what the market needs as we make transition to more electric vehicles and equipment. That is why I decided to join Exro as the CEO, to bring new innovative technology to market.
Q. What are the limitations of an electric motor? How is Exro making a difference in them?
Today, electric motors-and the systems they are used in, account for about 40% of the electricity we use. So, they are huge in our economy and lives, yet the design and technology have remained largely unchanged for decades. We’re changing that at Exro.
In the mobility space, limitations of the traditional electric motor and power technology available today are not being able to support the segments’ need for torque and speed. This means that manufacturers are compensating by adding additional motors, heavy two-speed gearboxes or oversized motors and gearboxes.
Exro offers a new power electronics solution to system optimization through implementation of the technology which increases drive cycle efficiency, reduces system volume, reduces weight, and expands torque and speed capabilities. Our power electronics technology provides a new brain for motors and batteries.
Q. Tell us about EXRO’s breakthrough technology. Explain to us what a “Coil Driver” is?
Exro’s technology is creating a new category of power electronics. The Coil Driver inverter is a technology that provides two machines in one; one optimized for high-torque and one optimized for high speed. Our technology has created an electric gearbox of sorts. This Coil Driver enables two separate torque profiles within a given motor. The first is calibrated for low speed and high torque, while the second provides extended operation at high speed. The ability to change configuration on the fly, allows efficiency for each operating mode, resulting in overall reduction in energy consumption. The coil driver selects the appropriate configuration in real time so that torque demand and efficiency are optimized. In essence through this technology, Exro allows you to achieve more with less energy consumed.
Q. What is Exro doing to improve the current battery technology?
In our research and development we continue to strive for innovation that supports minimum energy, maximum results. Whatever we’ve learned from our Coil Driver, we have been applying to our battery technology.
We have developed a new battery software management technology called the Intelligent Battery Management System (“IBMS”). Utilizing our battery technology in stationary storage applications, I’m optimistic that we can become a market leader in second life battery technology.
Our IBMS technology applies the principle of managing “energy” as it converts at the individual level to batteries. Essentially, we can optimize many individual cells within a battery to make the entire battery as a whole – perform better and have an extended life. It’s very exciting technology, still under development, but it has great commercial applications.
Q. How is Exro doing in the global market?
I am happy to say that Exro is now firmly in a global commercialization mode. In fact, 2020 has seen us reach commercialization projects in Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe and Mexico.
What I am very excited about is that we are finding traction in the mobility space, from heavy equipment to last-mile technologies. To date, Exro has entered into commercialization deals in heavy farm equipment, electric snow machines, fleet delivery vans, garbage trucks, e-motorcycles and e-bikes. We are also actively pursuing additional opportunities globally with a focus on mobility but are open to all sorts of variable torque equipment applications.
Q. Tell us about the deals you are involved in to get Exro into the marketplace?
Well, we have some very exciting partnerships and collaborations. Our most recent one is with SEA Electric, an Australian company. They are expanding globally and have a NA head office in LA. They are one of the global leaders in the electrification of commercial fleet and municipal vehicles. SEA Electric and Exro are co-developing and testing powertrains based on Exro’s Coil Driver and the SEA-Drive technologies, which are exceptional. SEA Electric was founded in 2012, and they have successfully commercialized their SEA-Drive® electric power-system technology in 5 countries, with collectively more than 1.6 million kms (approximately 1 million miles) of independently OEM tested and in-service operation.
Another company that we are working with is Zero Motorcycles. They are working with us to utilize patented Coil Driver technology in Zero’s SR/S powertrain platform. This is exciting because Zero Motorcycles is a leading developer of electric-powered motorcycles, which is a rapidly growing market.
On the farm front, Clean Seed Capital Group is integrating Exro’s technology into their high-tech agricultural seeder and planter platforms, which are designed to advance the electrification of the world’s heavy-farm equipment. This is exciting, because Clean Seed has SMART Seeder™ that reduces the power requirements to operate its tools to put row-by-row, variable-rate seeding technology into the hands of farmers. That puts farmers — and Exro — at the forefront of agricultural innovation and sustainability.
I also want to mention Potencia Industrial, Mexico’s global producer of electric motors. They are using Exro’s technology in the new Pronto Power flexible powertrain. The Pronto powertrain is utilized to convert an existing combustion engine to electric. With focus on fleet and municipal vehicles, the Pronto is proven technology that is accelerating LATAM transition to electric vehicles. We’ve already delivered the first stage of that project and pilot tests are going very well.
Q. Where do you see Exro in the coming years?
Exro is entering multiple multi-billion dollar markets, where there is an enormous demand for technologies that help the world move towards greater use of electric motors and their associated systems. Since Exro’s technology improves performance and reduces energy consumption in powertrains, we are obviously attractive to those sectors as a technology that will put more dollars on the bottom line. But there is also our environmental benefits to consider. Many electric motors are powered by energy sources that create GHGs. So, by helping electric motors use less energy, we are also going to significantly help reduce GHGs, which will be good for the planet and our ecosystems.
Leading from the Front
Sue Ozdemir, CEO
Sue is a distinguished sales executive with over 20 years of expertise in industrial equipment sales. She joined Exro Technologies Inc. in 2019. Prior to Exro, she was the CEO of GE Industrial Motors a Wolong company. She has serveda long stint at GE, where her last role was CEO/CCO of GE Small Industrial Motors.