Traffic: soon cleaner…but no less annoying
By the Solar Impulse Foundation
Going to work in the morning often means…endless traffic jams. Well, not quite endless – there was one in Beijing in 2010 that lasted for 12 days, so you will hopefully get off easier than that – but it’s never much fun.
So while we are probably some way from consigning traffic jams to the scrap heap of history, we seem to be moving that way for fossil-fuel powered vehicles and dirty mobility options. So we need alternatives, and that’s why the Solar Impulse Foundation has committed to select 1000 clean, efficient and profitable solutions to protect the environment.
Clean transport implications
And while our scope goes beyond mobility, the implications of clean transport are about much more than just how we get around. For example, in Europe, transport accounts for more than a third of our total energy use, and while electric vehicles are central to decarbonizing the transport sector, it will also cause the demand for electricity to skyrocket. So, how that electricity is produced, and the efficiency with which it is used, are key factors. Indeed, the amount of electricity needed could actually hold back the uptake of these clean technologies.
The point espoused by Bertrand Piccard, the chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation and someone who knows a thing or two about clean – if unconventional – mobility – is that solutions exist that protect the environment and are economically viable, and that these solutions, rather being seen as an expensive cost, should be seen as opening up new industrial markets and creating jobs and profit.
So what do some of these solutions look like?
Well, there’s a great variety; consider petrol vehicles, which are going to be with us for some time yet. Anti-smog have created a hydrogen fuel enhancement kit which injects hydrogen into the engine allowing for a more complete combustion of fuel in cars, thereby reducing engine emissions by up to 80% and increasing fuel efficiency by up to 20%.
Finding ways to improve efficiency are all over the place, and certainly includes the physical design of the vehicle. Airshaper are providing tools to help constructors figure out designs to reduce aerodynamic resistance, which accounts for more than half of the energy required to keep a heavy vehicle moving at 100 km/h, and reducing that resistance by 20% can cut overall fuel consumption by a tenth. Across the EU, lorries, buses and coaches are responsible for around a quarter of road transport carbon emissions. Or what about Solvay, who have found that by adding SIlica to tires, they are able to reduce rolling resistance significantly, leading to a 7% improvement in fuel efficiency, and therefore reduced emissions for the same trip.
It’s not just for cars and trucks, though; the phrase “innovative and sustainable railway sleepers” may not be the stuff dreams are made of, but GreenRail have made just that; a sleeper that lasts longer, cost 40% less to maintain, and cuts down on noise pollution. Most remarkable though is that for every kilometre of train track, some 35 tons of recycled plastic and rubber are used in their manufacturing! They were selected as the Best Startup of 2017 at the second edition of Startup Italia Open Summit this past December.
And if we rethink urban mobility, let’s consider all those cities with rivers and lakes that can be used to reduce congestion, which is costly; Paris loses some 10Bn EUR in lost productivity each year because of it. That’s where Seabubbles comes in with their low-cost, energy-efficient electric water-taxi service. It’s quick, comfortable and runs off energy produced cleanly at its docking station. As you’ll see from the video below, it seems a lot more pleasant than sitting in traffic.
So it’s clear that a great many solutions, in addition to the electric and hydrogen vehicles that will increasingly populate our roads, are part of this transition, and we are looking to help bring them to the fore. So as you sit, stuck surrounded by your fellow drivers pondering why you decided to take this drive in the first place, consider submitting your solution to be included for consideration as one of our 1000 Efficient Solutions.