NET ZERO CARBON: TRANSPORT

This week is the fourth part of a series that I am doing looking into Net Zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was really good, so over the last couple of weeks I have been picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Solutions for Transport

I was surprised to learn that transportation is responsible for over 1,200 MtCO₂ per year, which is 30% of total emissions in the EU.

There were lots of great transport solutions in the report. The first that stood out was the idea of scale up green n-liquid ammonia production and logistics infrastructure for long-distance shipping.

The issue is that ammonia is a promising zero-emissions fuel for shipping, but is still produced mainly from grey hydrogen and remains much more expensive than traditional fuel. The solution the report proposes is to test and deploy at scale production facilities of green ammonia for use as e-fuel for maritime shipping.

There has been a lot of interest in ammonia as a fuel recently. This is driven by the fact that its use does not emit CO₂ due to the lack of a carbon atom in the NH3 molecule. However, to achieve net zero, ammonia production needs to be carbon-neutral, using green hydrogen obtained from electrolysis. Nowadays, ammonia production heavily relies on fossil fuels and is far from carbon-neutral.

This was calculated to be a powerful solution, with the potential to avoid 54.3 MtCO₂e and create 12,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution that stood out was the idea of developing hydrogen usage for heavy-duty road freight. The issue is that widespread implementation of hydrogen in road transport is limited by poor infrastructure penetration and reliability. The solution the report advocates for, is building a ‘spine’ based on high-utilization freight, which would  lay the foundation for expansion into passenger transport.

These freight hydrogen corridors will consist of large stations ensuring hydrogen refuelling as well as production on site with small electrolyzers and photovoltaic panels.

For this solution to work, the early engagement of relevant stakeholders is essential. These include developers and manufacturers of hydrogen generation and fuel cells products, trucking specialists, as well as shipping, rail freight and renewable energy providers.

Amazingly, currently there are only 120 hydrogen refuelling stations in Europe. So, initiatives such as the one outlined above are necessary in order to jump start the adoption of this technology. This would also be an impactful solution, with the potential to avoid 166.3 MtCO₂e and create 176,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution that stood out was to electrify short-distance truck transport, including waste collection and urban buss fleets.  

The issue is that over 70% of goods used daily are transported within and between cities via heavy duty trucks that are large CO₂ emitters. The solution proposed is to develop heavy-duty electric vehicles, such as  trucks, busses, waste collection vehicles and to demonstrate the feasibility of reliable deployment to gain scale and reduce costs.

One of the strategies would be to pioneer inspirational technologies, such as Volvo’s FL truck, which has a 16 tonne capacity and a range of 300 km. Cities must also begin to initiate tenders to replace ageing HGV fleets and incentivise vehicle manufacturers to increase supply. This is especially important for urban areas, as this would be a solution that will improve local air quality and address climate change at the same time.

This could have a big impact, with the potential to avoid 23.9 MtCO₂e and create 222,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution stood out for me as being really important. The idea is to create a 100% circular battery economy in Europe. This is essential, as it is important that the electric vehicle industry that replaces the internal combustion engine industry learns from the lessons of the past to address environmental issues before they become problems.

By recycling EV batteries, this will reduce the environmental impact of the production of new batteries. The solution is to create large scale battery recycling facilities across Europe to ensure reuse of these components and limit environmental impacts.

The project aims to create an additional annual recycling capacity of 3.6 million tons of car batteries in major European regions by 2030, tis compares to a current capacity of  around 46,000 tons.

By recycling EV batteries, this decreases the need for the extraction of valuable raw materials, such as: lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel. Thus reduces the cost and environmental impact of their extraction for the manufacturing of future batteries and avoids the pollution of landfills.

This solution has the potential to make a big impact, with the possibility of avoiding 57.7 MtCO₂e and creating 300,000 jobs by 2050.

The final solution that stood out to me, highlighted the incredibly important role of technology in solving pressing environmental challenges. The solution involves leveraging shared autonomous vehicles to reduce the number of cars in an increasing number of European cities by 30%.

The aim is to promote the use of shared autonomous mobility in medium and large cities. The solution is to launch pilot projects of shared autonomous vehicles (taxis or minibuses) across ten one-million-inhabitant European cities by 2030.

The pilot projects would have an aim to reduce individual car use by 30% in 2030. A key enabler of this is to ensure the redesign of the urban realm necessary to reach the adequate safety standards for autonomous vehicles, this includes factors such as: local regulation, high-fidelity 3D mapping, optimised infrastructure and traffic rules.

This solution could avoid 4.0 MtCO₂e and create 163,000 jobs by 2050.

What you need to know

This article was the fourth part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the solutions for transport.

Transport is a key feature of the race to Net Zero, making up 30% of total emissions in the EU. It is therefore a crucial arena for breakthrough technologies to decarbonise this sector.

The high energy density and portability of fossil fuels made them ideal for transportation. The fuels that look to replace fossil fuels for transportation will need to have these same properties.

It is encouraging that there are a number of emergent technologies that look like they have the potential to scale up and meet this challenge.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make Net Zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s