Transportation is one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). With more and more countries tightening emission regulations over the period from 2017 to 2025, automakers are under high pressure to produce cleaner vehicles. Due to an increase in emission equipment costs, automakers have to invest heavily. Hence, the biggest challenge for automakers will be to figure out what approaches are most cost-effective to meet the newly set emission standards.
Given the current trend, the transport energy use and CO2 emissions are likely to rise in the future. By 2030, they are projected to increase by nearly 50 percent because vehicle ownership is expected to double worldwide.
For the transportation sector alone, the objective has been set to cut GHGs by 60 percent in 2050. The European Commission introduced two regulatory proposals to set mandatory CO2 standards for new cars and vans in 2020. Similarly, in the United States, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set new standards over the period from 2017 to 2025.
Given the need to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption and a severe economic downturn, the outlook for both the automotive sector and its consumers is troubled. Due to an increased equipment costs, automakers might have to scale back productions and consumers might be forced to spend more money on new vehicles.
Role of automakers towards developing a sustainable transportation
The major factors affecting transportation GHGs are the type of fuel and vehicles used, distance traveled and the overall mobility infrastructure.
As a first step towards reducing GHG emissions, automakers are in the process of transitioning to low-carbon energy sources such as electric or hydrogen-fuelled vehicles (referred to as Zero Tailpipe Emission Vehicles (ZEVs)) with very low or no direct CO2 emissions.
Despite all the challenges to electric charging and hydrogen infrastructures, auto manufacturers are continuously researching the feasibility of commercially producing ZEVs. Governments are keen to support the commercialization of such technologies and automakers are ready to support the government to develop the required infrastructure.
One such emerging technology is a dynamic wireless charging system. The vehicle is charged while moving on a strip embedded in the road. This strip creates a magnetic field that is picked up by a receiver available in the vehicle. This provides vehicle users the convenience and the capability to automate the charging process and also enables longer journeys.
Secondly, automakers are improving the vehicle efficiency by using more advanced designs and efficient equipments that can help lower CO2 emissions.
One of the well-known auto manufacturers will be soon introducing a car completely built from a new grade of high strength aluminum. This material features a high amount of recycled material. Due to its construction, it is extremely strong and light, contributing to fuel efficiency and significantly reducing emissions to 99 g/km.
Public-private partnership initiatives to reduce GHG emissions
Lastly, together with private partnerships, governments are introducing programs to enhance public transportation, sidewalks and bicycle paths to reduce GHG emissions.
The Netherlands is one of the best examples for implementing some of the above suggestions. They experimented with innovative projects to make the country greener and introduced the world’s first solar-powered bike lane which provides power not only to street lights but also to houses.
Another example is New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland. Auckland Transport (AT) issued a worldwide call for investors to submit a proposal for a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) carsharing scheme in an effort to support its transformation of transport. The implementation of such a scheme will provide the opportunity to enhance the environment by reducing GHG and other emissions and improve the overall transportation efficiency.
To help comply with the new emissions standards, many countries in Europe alone, more than 70 cities – operate or are preparing Low Emission Zones (LEZs). To limit the amount of CO2 and NO2 emissions, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) have put forward a proposal to introduce the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in an attempt to improve air quality and in turn the quality of life.
Some governments are working with private companies to improve the overall efficiency of the transportation system with advanced traffic monitoring and signaling. Using intelligent traffic management systems where traditional signals and traffic lanes are not required or where vehicles can communicate with each other – could eventually reduce the number of starts and stops, reduce the need for acceleration and deceleration and increase the overall average speed, thus reducing CO2 emissions by about 3 percent globally.
In order to improve the sustainability of urban personal transportation, automakers have to come up with cost-effective business models, make the best use of current available technologies, carry out long-term investments and develop new innovative technologies. It will also require the government to implement strong policies to ensure full utilization of these technologies.
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Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.