Sunday, February 11, 2018

Green Transport 2

In part I of our review of transport issues we focused on road transport.  As was noted, there are a range of technical fixes- new fuels and new vehicles. With worries about air pollution rising, the pace of change is dizzying, with a lot of new options emerging e.g. hydrogen fuel for cars: In the UK, ITM Power’s PEM electrolyser is already being used to provide hydrogen derived from wind for some at a hydrogen powered vehicle refueling centre off M1 Junction 33:  And Shell is on the case too:  The UKs River Simple is also in the hydrogen car game: So of course is GM, who are also backing hydrogen/fuel cells for trucks. But some say hydrogen has limits as a vehicle fuel: Others say that methanol or even ammonia (NH3) may be best while some look to synthetic fuels from waste to Fuel
However, although a role may be played by biofuels and synfuels like this, as we noted in Part I, electric vehicles are seen as the main way ahead for now. With batteries getting cheaper, we have been bombarded with optimistic prognoses. 160 million EVs globally by  2030, or even 530 million by 2040:  
Certainly, clever cross-links to wider energy system storage capacity are possible, possibly  making EVs even more viable. UK Vehicle to Grid (V2G) battery links might add 11GW of storage capacity:
But not everyone is convinced by EVs: Some say that the grid system will not be up to delivering enough peak power for all the EV expected- though views differ: If EV are only going to add 10% more power demand by 2050,  as has been suggested,  and EV charging can be delayed to later in the night, then the grid may be able to cope:
However, some point to Lithium resource limits if Li Ion battery powered EVs boom as expected could be other material limits too:
Moreover, will EV’s, or any sort of car, ever really be green? Few greens think so. Even the Mail had doubts:
Public transport is clearly better in environmental terms.  So we should be focusing on trains buses and trams, and all the other arguably better ideas:
There are certainly some cleaver technical fixes which can make public transport even greener. Several countries are now using renewable electricity for powering trains:
However, all this means getting people out of their private cars. And that may require wider changes, in urban planning and much else- with walking and cycling still being the best option of all! We need to rethink mobility. That becomes even clearer when we looks at the other transport issues- ships and, especially, planes. Emissions from the later continue to rise and as global trade booms, so do emissions from shipping. We need a rethink about the costs of globalization and global mobility and who pays them.
Most aviation fuel is untaxed at present, so demand keeps rising. Though there are some partial technical fixes. Air transport can be greened to an extent. For short haul flights, electric power is an option, assuming the battery power come from renewable sources: Easyjet say they will be flying electric planes within a decade: Norway has set 2040 target for all short haul electric planes: For longer flights, biofuels are being looked at. See these US plans for bio-jet fuel: and this EU aviation bio-fuel review: and this recent trial with a 10% mustard seed blend, cutting emissions by 7%:
Of course, as that report indicates, biofuels do have major land-use implications, and, in most cases there will better uses for land than growing airplane fuel, though there may be marginal  locations and waste streams that can be used. Costs are also an issue: On that, a proper tax on aviation fuel might help. If we must fly, we must pay. And in some contexts and locations, flying, including by helicopter in urgent crisis situation, provides the only viable access. But thinking laterally, PV powered airship may have a role- for slow transport with good access for cargo/equipment delivery to remote, undeveloped sites.
For ships, there are some using PV for some ancillary power and Norway is looking to (green) hydrogen powered ships. Or just plug-in battery-electric ferries using green power from the mains supply:
Wind augmented sailing is also being looked at, via kite towing of bulk carriers:  Or using on-board vertical axis Flettner wind rotors and the Magnus effect: and It would certainly be good to see wind powered tankers while there is still some oil or liquid gas to transport-and perhaps green syngas delivery from solar project in desert areas in the future: and
Biofuels might also play a direct role for ships, including, in a nice symmetry, algal crops grown at sea:
However, there is still a long way to go in all sectors: cars, planes and passenger transport is are obviously big issues, but freight transport accounts for 42% of transport CO2 emissions, so that needs more attention in the increasingly globalised economy. Though in all sectors technology can only do so much. Even looking positively, IRENA only sees renewables supplying at most 15% of overall global transport energy by 2030:
We ought to do better than that, but progress is limited and patchy. For road transport, there are some bright spots, at least in terms of enabling the technology change. Iceland has been a pioneer in hydrogen: Germany is seeking a ban on the purchase of new petrol/diesel cars after 2030. Norway, France and the Netherlands have similar plans. And now the UK too – but not until 2040. But some say that unless these countries expand their renewables a lot more than is planned (or even possible), it may be hard for EVs to lead to reduced emissions:
That may be overly pessimistic, but it is clear that, given the limits on biomass, phasing fossil fuel use out of all road transport fast, as well as from power and heat supply, could be challenging. And if we want to also do it for all the other transport modes, including aircraft,  it will be even harder. We need to rethink transport and mobility. For good overviews see Concept of SUT and integrated land use planning.pdf  and
*For a more optimistic take on cars (all electric by 2030!) see Tony Seba's book ‘Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation' and this challenging presentation: And on the impact of autonomous cars, which some say will reduce overall fuel usage, see this: