12 questions to:

Zeeshan Naeem

Zeeshan, thank you very much for agreeing to take part in the ESG 12on12 project.

It’s my pleasure, Milena. It’s always nice to have fruitful discussions with you.

We are both part of the Chapter Zero Poland initiative. Tell our readers more about the initiative and why you decided to join it as an Ambassador?

Firstly, it’s an honour for me to join such amazing people in making ripples that one day will create the waves. Secondly, Chapter Zero Poland is an imperative initiative with a mission of raising awareness and tackling climate change in cooperation with industry stakeholders.

Furthermore, as we are already experiencing debilitating natural disasters globally, therefore, I’m advocating measures against climate change and taking sustainable steps to achieve carbon neutrality.

Today Humanity is using nature 1.8 times faster than our planet’s bio capacity can regenerate. That’s equivalent to using the resources of 1.8 Earths.

Hence, globally shaping a circular economy can bring our consumption and extraction within sustainable levels because most industrial processes release greenhouse gases to have a finished product.

You are also part of the Climate Leadership initiative of UN Environment. Please explain us for whom this initiative is created?

Climate Leadership is a program with a mission to build a community of leaders of real change in business for sustainable development. The program aims to inspire companies operating in Poland to undertake specific and bold challenges. To support activities undertaken by companies to achieve climate neutrality.

Looking at the IPCC AR6 reports one can draw a conclusion that as humanity we have very little time to take actions against the global warming. What actions do you think are the most critical and who the main stakeholders that should be engaged are? We as citizens or rather countries or corporates?

Just to shed some light for our audience heatwaves brought on by human-caused climate breakdown have cost the global economy about $16tn since the 1990s. The research calculates the financial impact of extreme heat on infrastructure, agriculture, productivity, human health and other areas. “We have been under-estimating the true economic costs we’ve suffered because of global warming so far, and we are likely underestimating the costs going out into the future.”  We could have used that money to make society better, for education, hospitals, better renewable energy infrastructure and so on. This is unnecessary waste caused by us and corporate greed.

These risks are why countries, corporates and then we as citizens as well must invest in adaptation as well as mitigation.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to see the interests and steps taken by countries, and corporates in tackling the climate crisis. I’d say for now the steps that we can influence faster than others are the implementation of a circular economy, renewable energy and greener transport.

One of the ways that we can help climate is by inventing so called green swans. Electric cars that you specialise in, are treated as such a solution. Please tell us the difference between electric cars, hybrid ones and these on diesel and petrol. What natural resources are needed to create an electric car?

The main difference between a hybrid and an electric vehicle is how each is powered; a hybrid switches seamlessly between electric energy and a blend of petrol/diesel and electric power, whereas an electric vehicle runs on battery power alone. Electric vehicle traction batteries are lithium-ion batteries, but they are not all the same. The three main cathode types in most EVs and Hybrids/PHEVs:

  • nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA)
  • nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM)
  • lithium iron phosphate (LFP)

THE CATHODE IS a marvel of molecular choreography. How much power a battery holds, and how long it lasts, depends on its lattice of metallic atoms—how well it can catch and release lithium ions.

After some testing, it’s been found that it’s possible to reuse atoms inside of the cathode. A metal atom is a metal atom, that element doesn’t know if it was previously in a battery or if it was in a mine. This is potentially a good thing, because many of those atoms, including metals like cobalt and nickel, are in short supply and only found in major volumes in places where mining them entails major ecological and human costs.

Large-scale recycling of the batteries will significantly reduce the prices and the pressure on the extraction of natural resources for the batteries.

Ironically, all the ICE(Internal Combustion Engine) may well go the same way as the horse; no longer an everyday means of transport, instead of a plaything, paraded at special events and raced.

In just a few decades, children will look at them, wonder at the smell of oils and fuels, and jump back when open-piped V12 bark into life.

Then we will remind them that back in 2022, in the UK, US, EU and many other parts of the world, in most regions ICE transport was responsible for more #greenhouse gases than any other sector, accounting for a quarter of global CO2 emissions.

What’s more, nearly three-quarters of those emissions came from ICE road vehicles – cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes. Thank God things changed. This is a short, yet fascinating history of the ICE.

There are some who are enthusiast of electric cars and there are some that are against them. In Poland we mostly use coal based electricity that later on fuels the electric cars. What is your take on this? 

With all the anxiety around electric and driverless cars lately, it’s worth remembering there was a time people worried about cars because they had human drivers. Therefore, it’s no different.

Currently, in Poland majority of electricity is generated by Coal power plants but there are initiatives in place e.g. 17% of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources, the recent plan of building three nuclear power plants. Of course, the higher the dependence on renewable energy the better. Nevertheless, I’m very hopeful and as we humans are tool builders for sure with time we will be much better equipped.

Do we have calculations available on the carbon footprint of electric cars and a comparison to that on diesel or petrol? What type of cars should we as consumers and corporates be choosing?

If we take into account all possible criteria such as the amount of CO2 emitted when electricity is produced or fuel is burnt, as well as the carbon impact of resource extraction for batteries or of building a power plant, we find out that electric cars in Europe emit, on average, more than 3 times less CO2 than equivalent petrol cars.

In the worst-case scenario, an electric car with a battery produced in China and driven in Poland still emits 37% less CO2 than petrol. And in the best-case scenario, an electric car with a battery produced in Sweden and driven in Sweden can emit 83% less than petrol.

We also see that electric cars bought in 2030 will reduce CO2 emissions four-fold thanks to an EU grid relying more and more on renewables.

What is the cost of such actions? Electric cars are for the time being more expensive than the petrol and diesel ones. What are these differences currently and how do you see these evolving over the upcoming years?

The mineral deposits to make EV batteries are there and relatively plentiful. However, the mining, processing and supply chains are not yet at the scale needed which means battery production is still developing and not yet mature thus Expensive lithium batteries.

Once there’s a focus on value add by encouraging ore processing and battery production down to the cell level instead of just digging it up and shipping it off.

The other main reasons for the high prices are due to the following reasons:

  • Cost of research – EVs have different systems of almost every type from regular gasoline-fuelled vehicles and hybrid vehicles, developing EVs is almost like starting from scratch.
  • They’re seen as a luxury item – Some people who buy EVs see them as luxury items or status symbols and want to pay more for them than they would for a regular vehicle. So manufacturers charge more for EVs.

It’s reasonable to expect EV prices to migrate closer to regular vehicle prices eventually as more EVs are manufactured and design costs decrease. Once we reach mass production EVs will be cheaper.

Cost is one element, the other is the current reach of electric cars. You can read some EV enthusiasts opinions and the adventures they have experienced while trying to find a charging station on their holiday route. Apparently, the  infrastructure not only in Poland is not prepared for EVs. What is your stance on that? 

It’s like in the old days when automobiles were invented. It would’ve been so much better if we had built our cities while keeping automobiles in mind and then constructed the cities so they could drive freely. This is the sort of thing we must avoid now and in the future. The same happened with the charging infrastructure therefore not sufficient charging stations.

Nevertheless, if we plan and execute already not only for the charging infrastructure but also for Autonomous vehicles only then we will be better equipped. Eventually, we will also have flying vehicles to avoid similar blockers as with charging stations we need to proactively plan our cities from now.

What can we do more as citizens to save our planet that is related to the way we commute? Business travel and employee commuting is part of Scope 3 GHG calculations. How can companies lower these?

It requires all hands on deck, the earlier we all realise our responsibility the better. Currently, EVs are expensive compared to ICE( Petrol, Diesel) however there are alternative economic solutions e.g. Hybrids. Although still not as cheap as an old diesel car however buying a vehicle emitting less CO2 is an investment and like any investment we have to wait for the returns.

The returns I’m referring to are our planet, precious human lives, economies and much more.

Your interests also encompass automatic cars. What are these? Probably many of us have some sort of software in our cars that control the way we drive or stop our cars. Can we already speak about autonomous cars?

Cars today consist of 100 million lines of software codes and it’s only growing.

Although already we have level 2+ autonomy on the roads, in technical terms an autonomous vehicle is level 4 &5 meaning it will be fully self-driving without requiring drivers’ presence.

In 2022, we are comfortable with speed, but now we’re worried about people driving with the aid of a second (artificial) intelligence. Horseless carriages took that away, and now driverless cars are bringing it back.

In Poland currently, as per law, autonomous vehicles can’t be driven on road without permission involving authorities and residents of the area meaning consent of each house the car will drive by. I’m sure this too shall soon change as a lot of amazing innovation is happening in Poland and it’s about time the government& authorities supported these by making Poland one of the early adopters of Autonomous cars.

Do you believe that as humans we will be using less fuel when the cars will be fully autonomous as they will be driving more efficiently and probably be able to communicate between themselves? Or the other way round, with fully autonomous cars these will be driving much faster, using more fuel?

Some of us do have a heavy foot and I am guilty of it, which of course results in more fuel being burnt. In the case of autonomous vehicles, they will be interconnected and follow speed protocols.

Autonomous won’t only free our brains and reduce our driving efforts, especially for the people who commute long distances daily or even within the city during core hours. This time could be used to focus on other activities while being much safer. We will have much safer roads due to the intelligent vehicles thus lesser loss of human lives caused by accidents. Driver distraction is the major cause of accidents today.

As a technology enthusiast, exciting times are on the horizon. Of course, there will be challenges but that shouldn’t stop us from moving ahead in advancements because we humans are capable of doing phenomenal.

Tell us a bit about your origins? Why did you come to Poland? How does Poland differ from your country? Is it easy for a foreign to be so successful as you are?

I was born and raised in Pakistan by my amazing parents. As a kid l was always fascinated with technology and cars. I used to take out motors from my toys and make something else out of them. I still remember the first wirelessly controlled fan l made. This was the time l realised l like building tools that could of some service, in this case, was for my baby brother. I would turn it on as soon as l would hear him cry due to the summer heat.

I wanted to specialize in Electric Vehicles while searching the studies l came across 2 countries offering it in English one was the USA and the other was my current home- Poland.

I chose Poland because my gut feeling said so. So l joined the esteemed Warsaw University of Technology and graduated from there. I still remember when my friends chose the USA for their studies they were telling me Zeeshan USA is a land of opportunities and l always responded “Poland will be a land of opportunities for me” I always felt like l was destined to be in Poland. It has proved to be true and this beautiful country is my current home.

Despite all that, like any other person in a foreign country l too came across some challenges. However, in the words of the late Steve Jobs “It was an awful-tasting medicine but the patient needed it”. I overcame all the challenges and they shaped me into the person l am today.

Furthermore, l believe l am just getting started. I have communities to serve, develop phenomenal products that add value to people lives and push the advancement of greener, intelligent, safer transport.

Zeeshan, thank you very much for you answers!

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