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How Mobile Carbon Capture Might Save the World

This article appeared in the July 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Remora is a Detroit-based startup pioneering a technology that could quite literally save the world by capturing nearly all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from vehicle tailpipes to be sold to companies that have a need for CO2 such as concrete makers and greenhouses.

The concept for Remora started the way most groundbreaking ideas do — with a nagging question. Why aren’t we capturing carbon emissions from vehicle tailpipes? It’s an idea that 24-year-old Remora CEO and co-founder Paul Gross was obsessed with during his senior year at Yale as a way to protect the environment from harmful CO2 emissions and potentially have a national impact on climate change.

“I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head,” says Gross. “Why aren’t we capturing CO2 from every vehicle tailpipe? Especially the heavy-duty semi-trucks that aren’t going to be electrified any time soon?”

Remora’s carbon capture device mounts between the tractor and trailer, capturing 80 percent of CO2 emissions. The gas can then be offloaded while the truck refuels and is eventually sold back to end users. Trucking companies using the device get to share in the revenue generated by Remora.

It’s a big idea from a very new company. Remora came into being just last year, but they’re already backed by some heavy-weight Silicon Valley investors.

The technology was developed using the innovative work that co-founder and Chief Science Officer Christina Reynolds recently pioneered while pursuing her PhD at the University of Michigan — making Reynolds one of the world’s leading experts in mobile carbon capture. The third member of the Remora team is Eric Harding, Remora’s Chief Technology Officer. He had been a diesel semi-truck mechanic for a decade prior to returning to U of M for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and has also built hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric semi-trucks for some of the world’s largest automotive companies.

The driving force behind Remora is to make an impact on the environment — and doing it now.

“We can’t wait 10 or 20 years for a solution to finally come to market,” says Gross. “The really attractive aspect of our technology is that it’s ready to go now. Our first units will be on our customers’ trucks in October.”

Global Impact

Installing a single catch-and-release device on a semi-truck can be carbon equivalent to planting 6,200 trees, according to Gross. Make no mistake, Gross and the Remora team want their technology to have a significant global impact.

“We want to get a device on every truck in the country. If we can achieve that, we could be capturing about 340 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.”

What’s more, Gross believes Remora Carbon can actually help semi-trucks become carbon negative. “If we pair our device with a carbon-neutral fuel, like a biofuel or renewable natural gas, we can actually make a tractor trailer truck carbon negative by capturing those emissions.”

And to think it all started with a nagging idea that led to some research, that unearthed an obscure doctoral dissertation, which facilitated a conversation, that turned into a business plan, that attracted the skills of a brilliant mechanical engineer and the dollars of multiple investors — all of which are helping to answer a serious problem threatening our entire planet.

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