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Green = Go: How the transport sector is innovating in the face of climate change

With national governments and transnational coalitions taking urgent action in the mission to conquer climate change, transformation in the transport sector is crucial to cut emissions and prepare for a more sustainable future. Here, touch technology innovator Zytronic considers some of the most exciting developments in the transport sector…  

Key findings:

  • Transport is the single largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, constituting 24% of all output in 2020.
  • Electric cars accounted for 6% of all new car registrations in the UK last year.
  • According to a Frost and Sullivan study, electric is the most rapidly growing powertrain technology. Global sales are expected to hit 34 million by 2025 and 636.7 million by 2040.
  • Cheltenham design company Duku is responsible for creating innovative, accessible EV charging points that collapse and are stored under the street when not in use.
  • Michigan start-up May Mobility is augmenting public transport in five cities around the world with electric, autonomous shuttle bus services that are tailored to the city in which they’re operating.
  • Strengthened touchscreens optimised for outdoor use promise to play a key role in enabling EV adoption, as well as encouraging informative, eco-friendly updates to public transport systems, like the smart bus stop from Japanese company Disign.

With electric cars accounting for 11.6% of all new car registrations in the UK last year, the next development in the EV world is ensuring that widespread access to EV infrastructure is possible. Innovation in these areas is currently helping facilitate further adoption of electric vehicles.

EV charging access

It’s no secret that the electric car market is experiencing a period of rapid growth. With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars outlawed from 2030, demand for electric cars is growing. However, one of the main barriers to adoption is the lack of available infrastructure, such as charging ports, to support electric cars.

In parts of Europe and Asia especially, access to home charging ports is not always possible due to limited parking availability. In the UK, however, trials are underway for pop-up charging points. Developed by Cheltenham-based design company Duku, these units are stored underground when not in use, reducing street clutter.

In order to enable the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, charging points must be easily accessible. The UK is beginning to follow in the steps of the US, with growing numbers of publicly-usable charging points.

Increasing charging speed

Another potential barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles is their speed of charging. Today, 50kW EV chargers are the most common form of public charger, and usually take around 30 minutes to fully charge a vehicle.

Technology that charges your car in just 5-10 minutes does exist, reducing the amount of downtime for EV users. Most electric vehicles available on the market, however, are incompatible with these faster chargers; the Porsche Taycan is currently one of the fastest electric vehicles on the market, charging to 80% in just 22 minutes.

Convenience is key to the further adoption of electric vehicles; with a growing number of petrol stations installing EV charging facilities, traditional fossil fuel stations are expected to eventually make the transition to full-time electric vehicle charging points.

Build costs continue to be a barrier to the installation of these charging facilities; the potential for digital advertising to be implemented on EV charging stations may allow some of the cost of installation to be recouped. Innovative, specially made exterior touchscreens promise to revolutionise advertising in this arena, making EV charging centres a realistic prospect for the future.

Autonomous driving cars

Tesla may be dominating news headlines when it comes to self-driving cars, but there are plenty of other companies around the world working to make autonomous cars a reality. For example, Michigan-based start-up May Mobility is augmenting public transport by operating autonomous shuttle bus services.

By actively involving local communities in the planning process for their cars’ routes, May Mobility is creating publicly available autonomous driving solutions that are tailored to each location’s unique infrastructure. This tailored process helps improve the route efficiency of the self-driving cars, and should, in theory, help alleviate some of the safety concerns surrounding some autonomous vehicles.

Plus, whilst Tesla’s price point is enough to prevent a significant portion of the world’s population from enjoying access to a self-driving electric vehicle, May’s offering is designed to be more affordable and accessible.

Smart public transport stops

Given the recent outcry about the energy cost of digital advertising and signage, you’d be forgiven for questioning what’s wrong with traditional, un-smart bus stops. However, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a growing sector that integrates various forms of transport and transport-related services into a single comprehensive package.

Japanese company DISIGN‘s new Busola ECO Smart Bus Stop represents the newest strides in this sector, pairing environmental considerations with the latest developments in MaaS. The smart bus stop represents an informative improvement to current services that doesn’t need to be connected to the national power grid, thereby reducing energy usage.

Completely wireless, the new form of bus stop promises to revolutionise public transport use. Powered by a roof-mounted solar system, the bus stop uses a low power-consuming electronic paper display to minimise energy usage.

A wealth of information will soon be available for bus users, from real-time bus operating conditions to earthquake and disaster information. In congested areas, daily details on air quality and particulate information will be available, with interactive maps highlighting affected zones. Safety comes first, with flooding conditions and other information also available via the interactive map.

With a wealth of improvements taking place across both personal and public transport, the future promises two things. Concerted efforts are being made to decrease the carbon footprint of the world’s transport, and with the ever-increasing adoption of electric vehicles – and easier access to EV infrastructure – net-zero targets become much more achievable.

Not only this, but with autonomous cars becoming increasingly viable, and Mobility-as-a-Service representing a growing sector, you can expect to see improvements to the user experience in the months and years to come.

Petrostates ‘need to bridge $9 trillion gap’ in energy transition

Oil and gas producing countries face a multi-trillion dollar hole in government revenues over the next 20 years as the world decarbonises, with some needing strong international support to diversify their economies and avoid social and political instability.

That’s according to a report from Carbon Tracker, which calculates that 40 petrostates could face an average 46% drop in expected revenues from oil and gas if demand falls in line with tightening global climate policy and technological advances – a shortfall of $9 trillion.

Over 400 million people live in the 19 worst affected countries where declining fossil fuel revenues could see total government income fall by at least 20%, leading to cuts in public services and job losses. Half live in Nigeria, where a 70% drop in oil revenues would cut total government income by a third. Angola, home to 33 million, could lose over 40% of government income.

Many of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers including the US, UK, Netherlands, China, India and Brazil also face major falls in revenues but they are not a focus of the analysis because their economies are less dependent on oil and gas. Worldwide, all oil producing countries risk collectively losing $13 trillion by 2040 compared with industry expectations, a 51% drop.

Report author Mike Coffin, senior analyst oil, gas & mining said: “It’s in the interests of all nations to minimise global temperature rise and this means rapidly reducing our use of fossil fuels. But many countries are heavily reliant on oil revenues – the time to act on rebalancing their economies is now. Waiting for demand to fall will be leaving it far too late.”

Andrew Grant, head of climate, energy & industry and co-author said: “Government oil revenues will shift dramatically as the market shakes out during the energy transition. Understanding the scale of the challenge and which nations are most vulnerable will help policymakers focus their efforts. Cushioning the landing for hundreds of millions will deliver better outcomes for both climate and human development.”

Beyond Petrostates: The burning need to cut oil dependence in the energy transition calls on petrostates to act now to reduce their dependence on oil and gas revenues, by cutting public spending, raising new taxes, and restructuring their economies. It warns that continuing to invest in new oil and gas projects risks creating stranded assets and wasting capital that would be better spent on developing sustainable new industries.

Saudi Arabia unveils plans for ‘zero-carbon’ city

Saudi Arabia has announced THE LINE, a zero carbon city that it says will be a blueprint for how ‘people and planet can co-exist in harmony’.

THE LINE is a 170km belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature, created as a direct response to some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity today such as legacy infrastructure, pollution, traffic, and human congestion.

The city is the work of NEOM, which describes itself as an accelerator of human progress and a vision of what a New Future might look like – it’s part of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

A cornerstone of Saudi Vision 2030 and an economic engine for the Kingdom, the country says it will drive its diversification and aims to contribute 380,000 jobs of the future and SAR180 billion ($48bn) to domestic GDP by 2030.

Walkability will define life on THE LINE – all essential daily services, such as schools, medical clinics, leisure facilities, as well as green spaces, will be within a five-minute walk.

Saudi says Ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will make travel easier and give residents the opportunity to reclaim time to spend on health and wellbeing. It is expected no journey will be longer than 20 minutes.

THE LINE’s communities will be cognitive, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), continuously learning predictive ways to make life easier, creating time for both residents and businesses. An estimated 90% of available data will be harnessed to enhance infrastructure capabilities far beyond the 1% typically utilized in existing smart cities.

THE LINE will also comprise carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy, which the state says will provide pollution-free, healthier and more sustainable environments for residents. Mixed-use communities will be built around nature, instead of over it.

NEOM’s sectors of the future, headed by global industry leaders, are already addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. They are pioneering a new marketplace for breakthrough innovations and creating opportunities to attract talent, investors and partners to become part of its business ecosystem.

Construction of THE LINE will commence in Q1 of 2021. THE LINE is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects in the world and forms part of extensive development work already underway at NEOM.