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Oct. 12, 2021, 4:05 a.m. -  Sean Chee

A company like trek is lucky as they will have a dozen or so major suppliers to who they account for a significant amount of revenue. Their ability to impact the practices of those upstream suppliers is great.  I work for an aerospace engineering firm and sustainability of our composites manufacturing is a key focus of our environmental impact policy. We are a small fry in the global (and often highly specialised) composites market, so that creates some challenges for us. If our volume was larger we would be able to impact the behaviour of upstream suppliers. We have to get prepreg shipped in freezer containers from Asia. Even if we had the equipment to make our own, we would still be relying on the same upstream fibre and resin suppliers, and transporting it to site would only have a marginally lower emissions than present. I think we’re close to carbon neutral atm.  Recycling our epoxy tooling has been one of the toughest challenges, bike makers are more likely to be using billet tooling at least.  More challenging has been water use neutrality. Its been almost as expensive to implement but for less relative benefit. Electronics and electrical propulsion (my areas of expertise) has a huge water footprint. We do our best to offset our use but if the water is being used on a large scale in Taiwan, Europe or the USA, how much of a benefit is offsetting that use in Australia? I only raise this point as the guts of what I use are the same as e bikes. Semiconductors, batteries, brushless motors. A single MCU of which an ebike will have six or seven at a guess (my systems can use over 100!) can take 40-300L of water to manufacture, depending on the manufacturing processes involved. That’s just one of hundreds of semiconductors that will be inside an ebike system.  Ultimately upstream suppliers in both composites and electronics have little incentive to place principles ahead of profitability because margins are tiny, and competition fierce. Pressure from consumer electronics, aircraft and automotive manufacturers has been having some positive impact, but they are still very cost sensitive markets so it’s nowhere near as large as it should be.

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