Possible to plug-in air planes within a decade, according to EasyJet. Photo: Marco Werch - Flickr.com/CC BY

Electrification of road, air and sea transport

Industry is fast developing visions for an electrified transport system.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last summer signalled support for an eventual ban on combustion engines, as planned by other European countries, such as France and the UK. In a televised interview with a public broadcaster Merkel said that the German car industry had to “see the writing on the wall” regarding the future of mobility. “Otherwise, foreign companies will come one day and show how it’s done, how e-cars are made. I would like to avoid that,” she said. A researcher connected to German carmaker Mercedes has evaluated worldwide sales figures for electric cars and their possible future growth. Figures have been recorded since 2011. At that time the Nissan Leaf was the first mass market electric car. Since then, the number of battery-powered electric cars sold has doubled every 15 months. This natural growth is described by an exponential function. If you select a logarithmic scale, the function appears as a straight line whose values can be read for the coming years. At this rate of growth, production would reach 100 million electric cars annually in 2026, which is expected to be the total global production.

But at present it is mostly combustion-engined cars running on fossil fuels that are sold in the EU. Sales of gasoline-powered cars have overtaken diesel in the first half of this year for the first time since 2009, industry association ACEA said. The shift saw gasoline car sales rise by nearly 10 per cent from the first half of 2016, compared with an approximate 4 per cent drop in diesel car sales. Diesel’s market share fell to 46.3 per cent of new-car registrations from 50.2 per cent in the first half of last year. In absolute numbers, 152,323 fewer diesel cars were sold, ACEA said.

The drop was offset by an increase in gasoline car sales which accounted for 48.5 per cent of sales, up from 45.8 per cent. This translates into 328,615 extra gasoline cars sold year-on-year. Sales of “alternative” vehicles – hybrid, electric, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and natural gas-powered cars – also rose by more than 35 per cent to account for 5.2 per cent of total car sales. ACEA also called on governments to do more to promote “alternative” cars. Sales of hybrid electric vehicles rose 58 per cent in the first half, and electric car sales rose by 37 per cent, but these groups still account for just 2.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively, of total car sales. “More needs to be done to encourage consumers to buy alternatively-powered vehicles, for instance by putting in place the right incentives and deploying recharging infrastructure across the EU,” ACEA said.

Concerning electrification of air traffic, EasyJet announced last September that it could be flying electric planes powered by batteries rather than petroleum to destinations inside Europe including Paris and Amsterdam within a decade. The UK-based airline has linked up with US firm Wright Electric to build battery-powered aircraft for flights under two hours. EasyJet said the move would enable battery-powered aircraft to travel short-haul routes. Wright Electric is aiming for an aircraft range of 335 miles, which would cover the journeys of about a fifth of passengers flown by EasyJet. EasyJet said the aerospace industry would follow the lead of the automotive industry in developing electric engines that would cut emissions and noise.

In the marine transport sector, one of the world’s leading technology companies, ABB, is now proposing an electric, digital, connected approach to shipping. With this new approach, ABB focuses on harnessing the full potential of its power, control and automation solutions through a programme of digital integration that will bring about a step change in vessel and fleet management, ABB said. “We believe the next generation of ships will be electric, digital and connected as the industry moves towards the use of new energy sources and automated ship operations.”

The automotive industry’s wider adoption of hybrid electric systems and autonomous control sets the stage for the anticipated developments in the maritime industry. Based on greater efficiency and sustainability, electric propulsion will become a maritime imperative rather than an alternative. Electric power plants on board vessels optimise fuel consumption, maximise operational flexibility and allow for new energy sources, such as batteries and fuel cells. There is already evidence of this in place. ABB just announced the delivery of the first fuel cell system for Royal Caribbean.

Compiled by Reinhold Pape

Sources:

Automotive News Europe Home 29 Sep 2017,  http://europe.autonews.com/article/20170929/ANE/170929758

Spiegel Online 17 Sep 2017, http://www.spiegel.de/auto/aktuell/elektromobilitaet-der-durchbruch-komm...

ABB, 15 Nov 2017, http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/fca3b9aaf58f70f1c12581d90017b5b3.aspx

The Guardian 27 Sep 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/27/easyjet-electric-planes...

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27 Sep 2017, https://www.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/easy-jet-will-in-zehn-jahren-mit-elektrofl...

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