Q&A with Nathalie Capati – Evolectric’s Chief Engineer

Evolectric is excited to welcome Nathalie Capati to the team as Chief Engineer! A Forbes 30 under 30 laureate, Nathalie brings several years of experience in electrical engineering, batteries, and automotive powertrains. She is a proven leader in rapid battery product development, battery safety, product validation planning, qualifying suppliers, and managing test houses. She held technical leadership roles at GM, Apple, and SF Motors. We interviewed Nathalie to learn more about her journey. Check out her answers below:

Tell us about your overall journey. How did you arrive at Evolectric?

I got recruited out of the Formula Hybrid competition to join GM. Funny enough, I was interviewing at the time for oil and gas companies. At the time, Electric Vehicles (EVs) were not really a hot commodity, so I decided to go to Michigan to pursue this type of technology. It was interesting to see the growth that Detroit had from going to traditional cars to electric, which has been something I saw since the very beginning and wanted to continue. GM was a good place for me to have a foundation in EVs and vehicles in general. However, I really wanted to think outside of the box, so that is what led me to Apple. I was part of a special projects group there, working with battery systems, brilliant scientists, and engineers that helped me combine design thinking with rigor of automotive testing and manufacturing. I then brought it all together at SF Motors and was able to lead a team and do all those things under one umbrella.

I was consulting, but I am now happy to have joined Evolectric. What was important to me is that we are trying to help underserved markets and if we really want this technology to move forward, we want to be able to impact and educate great battery designs.

How or why did you choose Engineering as a career path/area of study? What inspires you from it? Overall, what is your passion and reasoning behind choosing this technology?

It all started when I got involved with Formula Hybrid. Having the feeling of seeing the car you helped build on the racetrack – something you designed and built for the first time, and seeing it run – was one I still remember to this day and still get goosebumps. I really want to have that feeling every single time I design something knowing I did my best to make this thing work and meet the customer’s expectations. So, I wondered, ‘How can I do this for the rest of my life?

Have any women in technology influenced you throughout your journey?

My mentor, and one of the greatest women in engineering, Alba Colon, head of Formula Hybrid activities influenced my journey. If you want to highlight a very profound and impactful woman in engineering, it’s her. I got scouted to join GM through her. Alba is one of those unforgettable women in engineering that cares so much about the community and technology and is able to bring them both together in a very genuine way.  I remember working with her and the way she interacts with people is very addictive. She is good at balancing being firm and tough but also having the soft skills to be able to understand people and their needs and build a community around her. I immediately took that, and I strive to have that influence. I look for that in the people I work with, especially now that I consult and work with Evolectric and have the same core mission of working with people who really have the want and desire to help others.  I always say, “Good people connecting good people,” and if good people can build technology, it’s going to be good technology.”

What do you hope to accomplish at Evolectric? How do you hope to make an impact for our clients?

I joined Evolectric because I know the team has a strong foundation in vehicle systems and integration. I think with our synergy and combined skills, I can bring battery systems to the table in terms of full product development, because I was able to see that process at GM and Apple and combine it at SF Motors working with a global team.

I can also add value to Evolectric by being able to take a client’s needs and wants into consideration regardless of application, even if they do not know what they really want. Not only do they get something that they are hoping to solve a problem with, but they understand the problem they are trying to solve. I think what I pride myself most on is being able to take very general requests and make them into something very specific and deliverable that a client will be happy about. There is not enough strong training and understanding in battery system designs. It is great that there is a lot of interest in it, but we also want to make sure that we are competitive in terms of cost and have safe and quality designs.

Evolectric’s mission is to advance global electrification by enabling and providing services and products that unlock current and new electrification technologies to underserved markets. How do you see yourself adding to this mission?

Being able to provide fundamental battery training in terms of one’s minimum requirements for design and help the client understand why it is important to their application is how I will add value to Evolectric’s mission. I will help create a product that not only looks good in a window but that makes sense to the customer and is something they can whole-heartedly believe in and sell. What we can also do is not just give them a design but provide long-term solutions by helping form local networks and relationships in those underserved markets so those companies can eventually become autonomous. The goal is to be part of the process and a partner in their entire development. But what we ultimately want is for underserved markets to be able to stand on their own in their own governments and local agencies, enabling us to move forward to help other underserved markets. The faster and better and quicker these underserved markets can help themselves, the faster the technology can move forward globally.

What are some of your plans/goals set out for this new journey with Evolectric?

I know we are such an early-stage company, and we are focusing on services, but I would love to have an Evolectric product out there that is being used in underserved markets and by our partners in different areas. One of the biggest things is having a pack for micro mobility in all these areas that would utilize more of these fleet vehicles. Also, I would like to focus on how to involve the local community to use this technology to impact their lives day to day. I hope we can come up with some 48-volt solutions for micro-mobility. There are a lot of good ideas for the ecommerce platform, and having kits ready for people to use to increase the enthusiasm for DIYs in those areas and having people really excited about doing their own conversion kits would be cool. Overall, I really want to focus on getting a product that is Evolectric branded and say, “This is our core technology that these markets can use.”

What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the tech industry?

I don’t really know if we are going to go into a transformation, but I want to see us get to a point of sustainability. I want to see technology stop making so many changes and instead come to a competitive solution that is standardized. We are kind of in this space now, and here everyone is throwing out all of these great ideas, but we are not focused. I would love to see the EV industry focused on what really is a quality well-designed battery pack that we can all agree on. I would like to see a little more securities in terms of cell selection, cell volume, and being able to funnel a lot of these. For example, battery cell suppliers are focusing on the big companies, and I hope with Evolectric we can encourage these companies to go to smaller markets and underserved markets and be able to help those networks as well. I believe Evolectric can highlight the need for volume in these underserved markets where they are not getting attention right now.

What do you want to see in the future for women working in tech? What challenges do women face in the Engineering professions/academia?

I encourage women in engineering through action and not rhetoric. I never talk about being a female engineer, but I lead by example, and I believe that is the most powerful thing as women we can do. If our belief, our work, and the amount of effort we put into our work matches our belief, then the message will be strong. We don’t need to really talk about being females, because in engineering everything is data driven. Yes, I have experienced some challenges, but at the end of the day, why I was able to overcome it is because my work was able to speak for itself. It was undeniable – regardless of my gender or my background – that the data and the work that I did was strong, of quality, and of good engineering practice.

Evolectric’s mission is to advance global electrification by enabling and providing products and services that unlock current and new electrification technologies to emerging markets and underserved segments.

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