A year on the road to fossil freedom

One year ago, CAKE and Vattenfall committed to make the Cleanest Dirt Bike Ever, removing carbon emissions from every single link in the value chain for the electric CAKE Kalk OR bike by 2025, without carbon offsetting.

The mission of the Cleanest Dirt Bike Ever project is to inspire as many other industry pioneers as possible to go truly fossil free, by showing what’s possible and sharing our challenges, results and setbacks along the way.

We always knew that reaching our goal would be really tough and the first year has presented us with significant challenges. For the last 12 months, we’ve been exploring opportunities for decarbonisation. Now it’s time to share our experiences and learnings with you. We’ll be doing that on a regular basis from now until 2025.

We want to inspire all the industry pioneers thinking about going truly emission free, and hopefully give you a head-start in taking the first step. Because, for our society to become fossil free, we industry leaders can make a huge difference, whether we’re at the start, the middle or the end of a value chain.

We invite you to join the ride, as we aim to remove fossil fuel sources from the CAKE Kalk OR’s value chain, reducing emissions to an absolute minimum. Follow us on our journey, learn from our success and failures, collaborate with us or start your own decarbonisation journey.

What it takes to calculate a carbon footprint

To guide our decarbonisation journey, we performed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on the CAKE Kalk OR bike. This sounds obvious in hindsight, but to be honest, it wasn’t in our original plan. We began by researching the market for the cleanest solutions available, but quickly realised we couldn’t benchmark the solutions against each other or properly evaluate how most figures had actually been calculated.

Our founding ethos of “let’s get moving, see what we learn and be open to change” served us well, and we quickly rerouted our plan, to dig much deeper into the bike’s value chain. Little did we know of the 9 months of calculations that lay ahead.

We started the LCA with the ´bill of materials´ for the CAKE Kalk OR bike, with more than 200 parts to track and evaluate. Following the standard LCA process, we sent our global parts suppliers a questionnaire to gather data on emissions from the full length of the strands of intertwined supply chains. With a response rate of less than 10%, we quickly realised we weren’t going to get the detailed data we needed. Our suppliers simply weren’t able to deliver. Most of them failed to report on manufacturing processes and energy consumption, two fundamental data points to calculate carbon footprints.

A comprehensive and inescapable picture of the true challenge we were taking on

This meant we had to rethink our path forward, leading us to a simpler set of questions to gather the missing data, on the level of raw materials used, the raw materials’ country of origin and the source of energy for the factories. In parallel our sourcing team and engineers managed to piece together all the manufacturing processes needed to make up each part of the bike. This detective work ultimately helped us to calculate the energy consumption, by knowing what amount of raw materials had undergone which manufacturing processes.

As you’ll see, we completed the LCA. What it gave us was a comprehensive and inescapable picture of the true challenge we were taking on.

What’s in a number?

1186 is a critical number for the Cleanest Dirt Bike Ever project, and the first official figure we communicated in Spring 2022. 1186 is the number of kilograms of CO2 equivalent released into the atmosphere to produce one Kalk OR – a bike that society considers to be clean.

This was the first ever in depth CO2 footprint to be calculated for a CAKE bike. It gave us an invaluable insight into our product’s actual emissions. More importantly, it gave us a tool to tackle them, including where we should start.

The LCA threw up some surprises as well confirming some things we suspected. For example, plastic made up no more than 3% of the bike’s total footprint, less than we’d anticipated. The drivetrain unsurprisingly accounted for the majority of the footprint: 57% of the emissions (676 kg CO2e) of which the battery accounts for 29%, suspension 7%, motor 9%, controller 5% and brakes 7%. The rest of the bike divides into mechanical aluminium parts 27%, mechanical steel parts 4%, plastic parts 3%, rubber 1%, electronics 7% and others 1%.

To fully reveal the source of emissions, the carbon footprint of each part was broken down further into smaller and smaller components, steadily shaping our decarbonisation roadmap. For example, we learned that the motor represents 9% of the bike’s total footprint (107 kg CO2e), of which 29% originates from manufacturing, 25% is from the permanent magnet, 24% is aluminium, 12% is steel, 7% is copper and 3% others. By digging down to this level of detail for all the parts which make up the Kalk OR, we built a clear picture of exactly where to focus.

With this conclusive data in our hands, searching the market for clean solutions became a less daunting task. We were able to benchmark suppliers against exact numbers and a robust calculation methodology.

With this conclusive data in our hands, searching the market for clean solutions became a less daunting task

The insight into all the components which the LCA gave us, helped kick-start discussions with existing and potential suppliers, by making the concept of decarbonisation tangible, for example the possibility of exchanging materials inside the motor for cleaner ones.

There’s clearly a lot more to say on the topic of decarbonising parts and materials. We’ll bring you more on that – including further background on our LCA methodology, the challenges we faced along the way and deep dives into aluminium and other materials – in the next updates.

Making emissions tangible

Hoping to inspire industry to go fossil free, we need to create impact which reaches beyond this project, raising wider awareness and provoking action. While the figure of 1186 kg CO2e means a lot to us, we knew that on its own it wasn’t going to inspire anyone into action. To make the bike’s footprint tangible, we transformed our abstract figure of 1186 kg CO2e into a cube measuring 637m3, showing the total volume of the bike’s emissions when released into the atmosphere. This helped us demonstrate the scale of emissions created to produce a relatively small vehicle.

Yet the reality is that every single product in the world has its own emissions cube, most of which are significantly bigger than the product itself. To put this in perspective the cube for a pair of jeans measures approximately 18 m3 and the cube for a 46” LED TV measures approximately 713 m3. We need to talk more about those cubes as they are a major contributor to climate change. Many consumers don’t even know they exist, as most companies fail to calculate or communicate the production footprint of their products.

Visualising our emissions in 3D has become a big asset for the project, helping to raise awareness about production emissions far beyond our own product, both inside and outside the automotive industry. It provides us with a tangible and urgent symbol to rally around. Every part of the CAKE Kalk OR has its own emissions cube as well.

We’re determined to shrink the size of our cube, and all the different parts within it, showing every kilogram of emissions removed from the supply chain as we progress towards our goal.

It’s possible – and cheaper – to act now

There’s no debating the severity of the climate emergency. Yet, in 2022, global emissions from fossil fuels hit new record levels.

The good news is that it’s possible to decarbonise heavy industry before 2050, both from an economic and technical perspective. Not only that, it’s also a staggering ten times cheaper than not acting. Research shows that the investment needed to decarbonise heavy industry accounts for around 2% of global GDP, while the cost of doing nothing and tackling the effects of climate change (like migration, war, water problems and flooding) will require 20% of global GDP. With this project, we’re aiming to show it’s possible to act and decarbonise industry today.

We need you

Follow us as we continue our journey to decarbonise the Kalk OR bike, to get as close as possible to zero by 2025. We’re constantly looking out for partners to manufacture parts and supply materials in the cleanest possible way. We also want to connect with industry experts, researchers and other pioneers to join us and guide us on our mission.

Right now, we’re looking for collaborators on the motor, the PCB and cabling among other parts. Feel free to reach out to us at cdbe@ridecake.com to join the ride.