Headquartered in Zurich, and listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange, Nasdaq Stockholm, and the New York Stock Exchange, ABB has a long history of innovation. Sustainable Business Magazine’s George Bell recently caught up with the President of ABB Europe, Frank Duggan, and the CEO of ABB Egypt, North, and Central Africa, Naji Jreijiri. They talked about ABB’s sustainable partnership with Formula E, a history of innovation, and new projects in North Africa.
“Going into Formula E and any major global sporting event like this is a new venture for ABB,” says Mr. Duggan. “Brand recognition is really important here, and that’s something we have only really come to do in recent years. We’ve traditionally been seen as the engineer’s engineering company. You might not know, but we invented synthetic diamond. The first three-phase transformer was ABB. High-voltage DC was invented by ABB in the mid-1950s, which is really a foundation stone for sustainable energy and renewables. We invented the first electric robot in the mid-70s. But we’re more a B2B company, and so the name wasn’t known.”
ABB have a longstanding involvement with electric vehicles. “We were the first ones to develop the fast DC charger,” explains Mr. Duggan. “The latest charger, we can charge a car for 200km in 8 minutes, which makes charging on highways viable. Later this year, the first car that will be able to take the charge at that speed is the Porsche that’s coming out. If you go to Geneva, you’ll see the buses on the airport route, when they come into the bus station to take the passengers on, we flash charge the bus in fifteen seconds so it gets enough charge to go to the next station. We also do a huge amount in trucks and rail. That’s how FIA and ABB came together, marrying what we wanted to do with what they want to do, which is using Formula E to drive technology and electric vehicles.”
For the past three years, the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan, a temporary street circuit in Marrakesh, has hosted the second ePrix in the Formula E season, most recently on 12 January 2019. Morocco is the first African country to host a Formula E race – and the country also recently entered into an agreement with ABB to begin an e-mobility project. “We signed a memorandum of understanding with the Morocco Agency for Energy Efficiency six months ago, under the patronage of the Swiss and Moroccan Ministers of Energy, to develop the concept of e-mobility in one of the cities here,” says Mr. Jreijiri. “Before we can start to massively move e-vehicles into Morocco, you need to get the people to understand, and also the cities themselves. We need to work with the mayors to build an infrastructure and to understand the savings for the city. Morocco wants to be an example in Africa, and also as part of the world community, as leading in renewables.”
This ultimately necessitates the development of new infrastructure, to allow a greater share of the energy consumed in the country – including for transportation – to be electrical without overwhelming the existing grid. “This MoU will help us to start a pilot project in one of the cities, mainly on buses,” says Mr. Jreijiri. “We can use the public transportation system as an example, to reduce CO2 emissions and also to introduce the concept of e-vehicles into the country.”
“Renewables help us to make a more sustainable world,” says Mr. Duggan. “There’s no question about that. Morocco is one of the most advanced countries in Africa, and there’s good infrastructure here. The government is very clearly pushing the Moroccan economy to become a leading economy for all Africa, particularly for Francophone Africa. For us it gives us a real opportunity to build on that.”
This partner update will be followed by a full-length feature on ABB in North and Central Africa in Sustainable Business Magazine later this year.