Beam Global is a company dedicated to providing clean energy for the transportation sector. The San Diego, California-based group has said its “mission is to lead the world to clean mobility. We believe that every person deserves access to clean sustainable transportation. That every community is safer with a resilient microgrid. That every state can build energized roads rapidly and cost-effectively. That every nation can provide an abundance of free energy to mobilize its goods, services and citizens.”

Desmond Wheatley, the company’s chief executive officer, joined Beam as a consultant in 2010 when it was Envision Solar. He became CEO in 2011 and has been chairman of the board since 2016. He recently provided POWER with insight about what he sees as major trends in the energy sector for 2023.

Desmond Wheatley

“Following California’s lead, 2023 will see more states adopting a ban on the purchase of new gas vehicles,” said Wheatley. ” I’ve always said, ‘So goes California, goes the nation.’ I am confident that in the next year, we’ll see even more states adopt some version of California’s ban on the purchase of new gas-powered vehicles.” California last year moved to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in that state by 2035. Nearly 20 other states have followed California’s lead and adopted tailpipe emissions standards, and many of those also support zero-emission requirements for vehicles.

“In 1970, [California] adopted the nation’s most stringent air quality regulations in the wake of the EPA’s [Environmental Protection Agency’s] Clean Air Act and officially cemented itself as a bonafide trendsetter in addressing ecological concerns. In the years since then, other states have continued to follow its lead in ensuring our world is sustainable for generations to come,” said Wheatley.

Wheatley said, “Historically, consumers have led major transportation and infrastructure revolutions, and this one will be no different. Greater EV adoption and ensuring the market delivers the necessary charging infrastructure to support it will be thanks to consumers putting necessary pressure on each other, the market and government leaders. Why am I so confident? Once you’ve driven an EV, there’s simply no going back to gas-powered vehicles. EVs are truly fantastic pieces of machinery.”

Transmission Grid Upgrades

Energy analysts agree that the U.S. electricity transmission grid is in need of an upgrade, and reliability and resilience of the power supply is critical to the nation’s economy. “Relying on a centralized grid is so 2022. We’ll see an increased emphasis on off-grid and microgrids as a solution,” said Wheatley. “It’s no secret that we need to move away from a centralized grid vulnerable to centralized failure. There is an increasing recognition that 25% of EV charging infrastructure should be off-grid so that it continues to operate during centralized grid failure. Thus, I know that to succeed with electrification, our nation will need many more off-grid solutions that are scalable and rapidly deployed. This is the only chance we have at better readying ourselves to withstand increased weather-related threats and bad actors targeting our grid’s vulnerabilities.”

Wheatley said upgrades to the grid also are needed to support increased demand for electricity, particularly as more EVs are added to the nation’s roads. “The nation’s centralized grid also has a major capacity problem, lacking sufficient capacity to supply ample electricity for the ever-growing number of electric vehicles to come down the road,” he said. “Amid worsening extreme weather conditions and the existential threat of attacks on the grid, the need for off-grid solutions is made even more clear. Resulting charging infrastructure must be able to withstand extreme weather conditions to eliminate threats caused by reliance on the grid.” Wheatley noted that Beam Global’s off-grid charging solution, the EV ARC, “is flood-proof to 9.5 feet and wind rated to 125 mph, and has successfully proved its endurance against even greater wind speeds.”

Drones and Robots

Wheatley said he expects to see more electrification of “last mile” delivery services, where drones and robotic devices take on delivery tasks historically performed by drivers of gas-powered vehicles.

“The U.S. last-mile delivery market is forecasted to reach $123 billion by 2030, due to the demand for faster and more cost-effective last-mile deliveries. Using last-mile delivery solutions, such as electric-powered drones and robots, ensures last-mile deliveries are as efficient as possible, keeping both the retailer and consumer happy,” said Wheatley. “For example, a last-mile delivery drone eliminates the need for a human worker and avoids delays caused by exigent circumstances like traffic or road construction. Electrifying last-mile delivery brings a multitude of benefits such as negating the need for workers amidst labor shortages and cutting overhead costs while delivering orders on time. It’s important to note that 60% of global carbon emissions come from a company’s supply chain. Electrifying solutions throughout the supply chain brings immeasurable benefits to our environment and will provide relief and mitigation of the negative impacts gas-powered delivery methods have caused for decades.”

Wheatley added, “While last-mile delivery solutions have not been prioritized in the past, it’s critical that we prioritize them now. Not only will 2023 see exponential growth in this market, but it will also see enhancements and improvements to onboard energy storage capabilities. Therefore, I am confident that by the time we’re winding up the year 2023, drones and delivery robots will have seen capacity improvements to enable longer and more reliable battery life.”

Electrifying Watercraft

Electrification of the transportation sector also means more marine vehicles will run on batteries. “We will see a spate of new clean recreational watercraft come to market as electrification of micro-mobility goes marine. Gas-powered watercrafts will feel the pinch,” Wheatley said. “A coming surge in personal recreational watercraft will start to emerge as an active segment. Anyone who has vacationed on a pristine lakeshore to be jolted from that vacation slumber by the chainsaw buzz of boat motors at 7 a.m. will rejoice. Water play is getting quieter, cleaner and more accessible. With new battery formats and technologies, more lakes, rivers, bays and reservoirs will start to see funky new watercraft make show-stopping appearances.

“Graceful electric stand-up surfboards [eSUPs], eye-catching e-foil boards flying over the water, sleek sea scooters, eerily quiet jet skis, charming little pleasure boats—all without pungent fumes piercing the crisp clean air,” said Wheatley. “This new slew of toys will help with cleaner air, cleaner waterways and cleaner fun while protecting the waters for future generations.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).