Q&A: Why we need a diverse approach to decarbonisation

Achieving net zero is critical but how can economically vital industries continue to operate during the transition? The answer involves providing the right power solutions at the right time, explains Jennifer Rumsey, president and CEO at Cummins
Pexels Photoscom 93398

Many businesses see decarbonisation as too big a challenge, at least in the short term. As a global power technology company, how are you turning these challenges into opportunities?

We recognise that the markets we serve play a role in contributing to the problem of climate change, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to be part of the solution. Our strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Destination Zero, is a growth opportunity and our entire business plays a role in executing it. We have a dual path approach, focusing in parallel on reducing CO2 emissions from engine-based solutions while also advancing alternative solutions that can reach zero CO2 emissions. Cummins’ estimated impact on the planet of progressing this plan means an additional 1.4 gigatons of cumulative carbon reduction – the equivalent of removing all trucks from the road for three years.

We’re leveraging the key capabilities that we’ve built up over decades, from innovative technologies to collaborative relationships with stakeholders and partners. We’ll use these skills to lead the industry and our customers through the energy transition, offering them the right solutions at the right time. We can’t do it alone. It will take all of us working together to address a challenge of this magnitude, as decarbonisation of our economy is critical to our way of life and a sustainable future.

What are the biggest barriers to making progress on climate-change goals? What are the solutions?

First, significant infrastructure, charging and refuelling capabilities, are key for adoption, and that infrastructure must be decarbonised. Second, pure economics – the costs today are high. This requires both scaling up as well as advancing technology further in many cases. Third, acceptance – most customers understandably want assurances that these new solutions can meet their needs reliably and allow them to continue to operate their business and meet payroll for their employees. Lastly, regulations will drive progress across these areas, both with stricter emissions rules, but also by potentially narrowing the economic gap, helping to make zero-emissions solutions more affordable for the customer and the manufacturer.

What should your customers be doing now? Can you give some examples from your own portfolio of products and services?

We power some of the world’s most demanding and economically vital applications, from large articulated trucks moving products across the country to delivery trucks bringing packages to your front door and buses taking our kids to school and our neighbours to work. We also power trains and ships moving goods around the world and provide critical backup power to hospitals, data centres and banks. Our customers look to us to leverage our expertise and provide them with the right solution to power their needs throughout the energy transition.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all our diverse markets, which is why with Destination Zero, we’re investing in a broad portfolio of power solutions

To provide economic value to our customers, we offer a combination of solutions that can both serve their needs today and pivot in the future as technology and infrastructure evolve. We recognise that Euro 7 advanced diesel engines and hydrogen internal combustion engine technology can be part of the solution to reducing emissions.

We have been awarded significant government funding through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) programme for the development of a zero-carbon, hydrogen-fuelled engine in Darlington. This technology will be a critical, early and practical step towards decarbonising the commercial vehicle and construction machinery segments that we serve.

There’s currently a lot of focus on emerging hydrogen technologies – how do you see this translating into practical solutions?

We’re in a period where these pacing factors really impact the viability of emerging technologies. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all our diverse markets, which is why with Destination Zero, we’re investing in a broad portfolio of power solutions, leveraging our deep understanding of our customers as we work to decarbonise our industry in a way that is best for all stakeholders. We’ve developed a company with the broadest combination of zero-emissions technologies dedicated to the commercial vehicle industry: fuel cells, battery systems and fuel storage technologies – a vast global footprint and world-class talent.

Partnerships will be essential to reach net zero. Can you tell us something about your recent partnerships or acquisitions? What’s been the thinking behind these collaborations?

Achieving net zero will require all parties – government, non-profit and civic organisations and industry – to work together. We need governments to incentivise zero-emissions solutions to drive their adoption. We also need the investment to build out and decarbonise the infrastructure that is required for these zero-emission solutions. We’ll leverage our partnerships with our suppliers, our customers and other stakeholders to create this change. We’re building partnerships with prominent original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Daimler, Versatile and Tata Motors and end customers as we focus on new technologies and infrastructure to support the decarbonisation journey. We have made significant investments to rise to the decarbonisation challenge, including the recent acquisition of Meritor and connected, subsequent acquisition of Siemens’ Commercial Vehicles business, a leading global supplier of high-performance electric drive systems for commercial vehicles.

Our business is only as healthy as the communities in which we operate, and Cummins creates impact by identifying opportunities in which we can use the unique knowledge and skills of our employees. Through our Water Works programme, for example, we are working to address water stress, one of the primary effects of climate change, by partnering with leading water experts and investing and engaging in sustainable, large-scale, high-impact water projects around the world.

We have an opportunity and the responsibility to leverage our expertise to develop sustainable solutions that positively impact our communities and protect our planet for future generations.

To learn more, visit cummins.com