Decarbonising transport

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Transport in all its various forms, land, sea and air, produces almost a quarter of the world's energy-related CO

The IPCC in its 5th Assessment Report (Chapter 8: Transport) finds that there is a high potential for mitigation through:

  • avoided journeys and modal shifts (e.g. road to rail, private to public transport, car to bicycle, etc) due to behavioural changes,
  • uptake of improved vehicle and engine performance technologies, low-carbon fuels, anmd investments in related infrastructure, and
  • changes in the built environment.

Direct (tank-to-wheel) GHG emissions from passenger and freight transport can be reduced by:

  • avoiding journeys where possible—by, for example, densifying urban landscapes, sourcing localized products, internet shopping, restructuring freight logistics systems, and utilizing advanced information and communication technologies (ICT);
  • modal shift to lower-carbon transport systems—encouraged by increasing investment in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure, and modifying roads, airports, ports, and railways to become more attractive for users and minimize travel time and distance;
  • lowering energy intensity (MJ/passenger km or MJ/tonne km)—by enhancing vehicle and engine performance, using lightweight materials, increasing freight load factors and passenger occupancy rates, deploying new technologies such as electric 3-wheelers;
  • reducing carbon intensity of fuels (CO2eq/MJ)—by substituting oilbased products with natural gas, bio-methane, or biofuels, electricity or hydrogen produced from low GHG sources.

In addition, indirect GHG emissions arise during the construction of infrastructure, manufacture of vehicles, and provision of fuels (well-to-tank).

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Backfire effect / Jevon's Paradox

More efficient cars may be one of the causes of increased greenhouse gas emissions from road travel Paul Anderson; Bristol University Cabot Institute; 6 Jul 2016

New computational modelling work suggests that, despite improving transport efficiency, the increasing accessibility and popularity of road travel is actually leading to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The research, carried out by University of Bristol Cabot Institute members Drs Rachel Freeman, Chris Preist and Mike Yearworth at the University of Bristol’s Systems Centre, focused on developing a new approach to a problem that has been identified by many but for which the causes are not very well understood - the ‘rebound effect’ or ‘Jevon’s paradox’. Jevons’ Paradox suggests that more efficient technologies actually lead to increased usage of a resource. For example, modern lighting technologies have become over nine hundred times more efficient at converting energy to light, yet overall energy consumption for lighting has increased by forty times overall. The ‘cheaper’ a resource is to use, the more popular the technology becomes, eventually increasing demand and overall resource use. Dr Freeman’s study indicates that in the past increased travel consumption completely offset any gains from more efficient vehicles and that this is likely to be true in future unless a systemic suite of interventions are introduced. To achieve the EU goals of a reduction in emissions of 40% by 2030 in the UK’s road transport system, there would need to be much greater increases in technological efficiency, costlier travel and significantly reduced travel consumption than are currently being planned for.

Ride sharing

Uber and Lyft Are Convenient, Competitive and Highly Carbon Intensive by Phil McKenna in Inside Climate News on 25 Feb 2020

A new study finds the ride-hailing companies emit nearly 70 percent more carbon thanks largely to a practice known as “deadheading.”

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are transforming urban transportation and eclipsing competitors with convenient, on-demand service. But that convenience carries a distinct climate cost as ride-hailing vehicles emit nearly 70 percent more carbon dioxide on average than the other forms of transportation they displace, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report, released Tuesday, zeroes in on a little-known aspect of ride hailing known as "deadheading"—the miles a vehicle travels without a passenger between hired rides—that is responsible for much of the emissions and increased congestion. It also highlights policies that could significantly reduce emissions from the rides.

"While ride hailing trips today are higher emitting than other types of trips, we were encouraged by the fact that they can be significantly lower polluting with efforts to electrify and pool rides," said Don Anair, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Transportation Program and an author of the report. "The outlook could be positive with some concrete steps by the companies to move forward, as well as policymakers to support that."

The report, an analysis of previously released data from ride hailing companies and a synthesis of prior academic studies, first compared the average emissions per trip-mile of private passenger vehicles to those of ride sharing vehicles across seven major U.S. cities. While ride-hailing vehicles were typically newer and more efficient than the average private vehicle, they had significantly higher associated emissions due to deadheading. Approximately 42 percent of the miles driven by ride-hailing vehicles were miles traveled between hired rides with only the driver in the vehicle.

When ride-hailing trips are pooled, simultaneously transporting two or more unrelated passengers headed in the same direction, emissions from ride sharing were roughly equivalent to private vehicles. Electric ride-hailing vehicles had significantly lower emissions than the average private vehicle, emissions that dropped even further when rides were shared.

The report also compared ride sharing to other lower-carbon modes of transportation, including public transit, walking and biking. A prior survey of ride-hailing users across California asked what mode of transportation they would have used had they not used ride-hailing. Approximately 30 percent said they would have used mass transit, walked, biked or not taken the trip at all.

When compared to the average emissions of all other modes of transportation, including private cars, mass transit, human powered transit or simply staying put, emissions from the typical ride hailing trip were an estimated 69 percent higher.

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Ride-Hailing’s Climate Risks: Steering a Growing Industry toward a Clean Transportation Future by Don Anair, Jeremy Martin, Maria Cecilia Pinto de Moura, and Joshua Goldman; published by Union of Concerned Scientists on 25 Feb 2020

Ride-hailing is an attractive option for many travelers, and can increase mobility for households who lack a private vehicle. Yet in communities across the country, ride-hailing is increasing vehicle travel, climate pollution, and congestion.

The explosive growth of ride-hailing services, including Uber and Lyft, is increasing climate pollution and urban congestion. As the climate crisis becomes even more urgent, it is more important than ever for the ride-hailing industry to contribute to a lower carbon, more sustainable transportation system.

Our analysis shows that ride-hailing trips today result in an estimated 69 percent more climate pollution on average than the trips they displace.

Fortunately, the industry can implement several strategies to address the negative impacts of ride-hailing and contribute to a low-carbon transportation future. It must move rapidly to electrify vehicles, increase pooled trips, and complement mass transit. Governments can support those efforts with smart policies that reduce pollution and support efficient, equitable transportation systems. And individuals can make informed choices among transportation options to reduce congestion and pollution, and encourage companies to offer cleaner options.

[article] [report (PDF)]

Cycling and buses in cities

The World Could Save Trillions With Buses and Bikes Alex Davies; Wired; 8 Sep 2015

THE ARGUMENT THAT embracing a low-carbon future is a road map to economic ruin is bunk, say a band of economists who argue that investing in more efficient transportation, buildings and waste management could save cities worldwide at least $17 trillion. One way to unlock that savings is to promote bikes and buses.

The savings come from stimulating economic activity, decreasing health care costs, reducing poverty, and cutting the costs associated with urban sprawl, like time and productivity lost to traffic congestion. That's according to a report, Accelerating Low‐Carbon Development in the World’s Cities, released today by New Climate Economy, a group of economists formed to examine the costs and benefits of addressing climate change.[1]

"For too long, there's been the same old argument used to prevent bold action on climate change, which is there's some sort of tradeoff between economic prosperity and climate action," says Nick Godfrey, an author of the report and the organization's head of policy and urban development. "In cities, that is a false choice. Actually, there is a significant confluence between promoting economic growth and prosperity, and climate action."

Transportation comprises as much as one-third of the emission reductions the report says cities can "unlock." That's good for 3.7 gigatons of carbon reductions, which is up to 20 percent of the CO2 emissions needed to keep the global mean temperature from increasing by more more 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In other words, changing how we get around could save money, and maybe the environment.

But changing how people move through a city isn't easy. More mass transit is great, but time consuming and expensive to build. Cities in the developing world will account for 90 percent of urbanization in the coming decades, and many of them will be strapped for cash. That's why the report emphasizes two particularly cost-effective modes of transportation: cycling and buses.

There are "compelling economic, social and environmental reasons for cities to invest in safe and well‐connected cycling infrastructure," the report says. Biking eases congestion, reduces health care costs, and cuts air pollution. It's an "equitable transport mode," since it's far cheaper to own and maintain a bike than a car.

And there are proven ways to promote pedaling any city can implement. Provide bike lanes, and connect them. Lower speed limits and increase penalties for drivers who hit cyclists. Distribute maps of bike paths. Start a bike sharing system—something more than 700 cities have already done.


We need cycling infrastructure to flourish Robin Heydon; Cambridge News; 4 Mar 2016

Electric motorbikes

Motorcycles Are A Big Deal In Kenya, & Fika’s Plan To Electrify Them Is Progressing Well Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai; CleanTechnica; 22 Dec 2020

Fika Mobility wants to electrify Kenya’s boda bodas and is confident that the unit economics will convince riders to transition quickly to Fika’s electric motorbikes. Rishi Kohli, Fika’s CEO and co-founder, reckons riders can save $609 per year by switching to Fika’s electric motorbikes.

Motorcycles are a big deal in Kenya. 210,103 motorcycles were registered in 2019, bringing the total number of registered motorcycles since 1968 to over 1.6 million. Motorcycles are mainly used as public transport vehicles. These motorcycle taxis are popularly known as boda bodas. The motorcycle taxi industry is a vital segment of Kenya’s economy. These motorcycle taxi riders enable 22 million rides per day. Average daily earnings for the riders are close to 700 shillings ($6.60). Boda boda operators collect Sh980 million daily ($9.2 million) and the sector’s annual earnings are estimated at 357 billion shillings ($3.3 billion).

Despite playing a critical role in the economy, supporting 5.2 million Kenyans directly or indirectly, which is about 10% of Kenya’s population, boda boda riders’ earnings are throttled by high overheads. High fuel, maintenance, and service costs are a heavy burden for the riders.

Fika Mobility wants to electrify Kenya’s boda bodas and is confident that the unit economics will convince riders to transition quickly to Fika’s electric motorbikes. Rishi Kohli, Fika’s CEO and co-founder, reckons riders can save $609 per year by switching to Fika’s electric motorbikes. This will have a huge impact on their standard of living and will help them build up some savings. The majority of the riders do not own their bikes. Most are employed by someone who owns the bike, while some riders lease bikes. These savings could put them in a better position to buy their own bikes on a rent-to-own model.

Fika plans to sell its electric motorcycle at around $1200, including the battery pack. The current version Fika has been piloting in Kenya has a 3 kWh lithium-ion battery and a range of around 100 kilometers. The next iteration of the Fika motorcycles that is launching in 2021 will have a mid-mounted motor that has a peak power of 3 kW. Fika is rolling out battery swap stations and riders will pay $0.77 per swap, which will give them 100 km range compared to 60 km for one liter of fuel. Fika’s batteries are GPS-linked to enable real-time tracking and monitoring. Fika also hopes to woo riders with this “refueling” experience similar to its current petrol models in terms of wait times, by adopting a battery swapping model. Standard battery charge time ranges from between 4 to 6 hours for these motorcycles. Riders need to always be ready to go and cannot afford to wait this long. The battery swap model will allow the riders to get a fully charged battery in minutes.

Fika is finally launching in Q1 of 2020[sic?]] after extensive research into the Kenyan motorcycle taxi industry over the past 2 years. Fika has tested its bikes with SafeBoda, Uber, and over 100 boda boda riders. Fika planned to launch in mid-2020, but its plans have been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Whilst Covid delayed us, it allowed us to test and iterate and make improvements,” says Rishi Kohli.

Kenya definitely needs cleaner vehicles on its roads as soon as possible, since 39 % of CO2 emissions in Kenya are from the transport sector. A 2015 study by the Energy Regulatory Commission, ERC (now called the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, or EPRA), on the “Global Fuel Economy Initiative Study in Kenya (GFEI),” cites that emissions from motorcycles of less than 150 cc are about 46.5 g/km of CO2. Increasing the penetration of electric motorcycles will make a big difference in the abatement of CO2 emissions. Kenya’s grid is already powered by a generation mix that is 93% renewable thanks to significant contributions from geothermal, hydropower, wind, and some utility-scale solar plants. Then there is also the option of charging these motorcycles with onsite solar, further reducing the cost of charging. EVs and PV are a match made in heaven, and the synergies between these industries will help drive growth in both sectors, especially in rural and off-grid communities where motorcycles are also a key pillar in enabling mobility and accessibility. Electric motorcycles powered by solar make it easy to operate in places where bringing in diesel can be a nightmare.

There are an estimated 5 million motorcycles across east Africa, so the total addressable market (TAM) for electrification is huge. Several startups in the east African region are also looking to scale in 2021. These include Ampersand in Rwanda, Bodawerk in Uganda, Ecobodaa, and Opibus in Kenya. 2021 looks like it will be the year where this transition really takes off. We will keep following developments in this space very closely.

Non-fossil fuels

Low-carbon transport could save billions Tereza Pultarova; The IET Engineering & Technology Magazine; 20 Apr 2016

Abandoning fossil-fuel powered transportation in favour of cleaner resources like hydrogen and electricity would not only improve the environment, but also reduce the cost of transportation by billions of pounds a year, a study has found. According to an analysis by Cambridge Econometrics, the world would save £232bn a year between 2020 and 2030 if it pushed for more renewable transportation. This push would lead to lower demand for oil, which would subsequently translate into lower prices. Money saved for oil could then be invested into the development of even more sustainable systems.

Compressed air

Tata AirPod Compressed-Air Car To Launch In Hawaii This Year: Report Green Car Reports; 13 Feb 2015

Compressed air isn't really dense enough to provide much energy storage, making it difficult to adapt for use in even a very small, very light-weight car.


Why Automakers Keep Beating Government Standards Annie Sneed; Scientific American; 1 Dec 2016 {{Quote|The reason is likely a combination of regulations, technology, and historic gas prices—as well as a possible loophole]]


Daimler Trucks is connecting its trucks with the internet Daimler press release, Düsseldorf; 21 Mar 2016

Today, on the A52 autobahn near Düsseldorf, Daimler Trucks presented an impressive example of the possibilities opened up by the digital connection of trucks: Three WiFi-connected, autonomously driving trucks operated on the autobahn with authorisation for public traffic as a so-called platoon. Such a combination can reduce fuel consumption by up to seven percent and the road space requirement on motorways by almost half - while improving traffic safety at the same time. Based on the Daimler Trucks Highway Pilot system for autonomously driving heavy trucks, the three trucks link up to form an aerodynamically optimized, fully automated platoon. Daimler Trucks calls this advanced system development Highway Pilot Connect.

Analysis of fuel consumption and pollutant emissions of regulated and alternative driving cycles based on real-world measurements

Discrepancies between real-world use of vehicles and certification cycles are a known issue. This paper presents an analysis of vehicle fuel consumption and pollutant emissions of the European certification cycle (NEDC) and the proposed worldwide harmonized light vehicles test procedure (WLTP) Class 3 cycle using data collected on-road. Sixteen light duty vehicles equipped with different propulsion technologies (spark-ignition engine, compression-ignition engine, parallel hybrid and full hybrid) were monitored using a portable emission measurement system under real-world driving conditions. The on-road data obtained, combined with the Vehicle Specific Power (VSP) methodology, was used to recreate the dynamic conditions of the NEDC and WLTP Class 3 cycle. Individual vehicle certification values of fuel consumption, CO2, HC and NOx emissions were compared with test cycle estimates based on road measurements. The fuel consumption calculated from on-road data is, on average, 23.9% and 16.3% higher than certification values for the recreated NEDC and WLTP Class 3 cycle, respectively. Estimated HC emissions are lower in gasoline and hybrid vehicles than certification values. Diesel vehicles present higher estimated NOx emissions compared to current certification values (322% and 326% higher for NOx and 244% and 247% higher for HC + NOx for NEDC and WLTP Class 3 cycle, respectively).

Fuel economy testing of autonomous vehicles

Environmental pollution and energy use in the light-duty transportation sector are currently regulated through fuel economy and emissions standards, which typically assess quantity of pollutants emitted and volume of fuel used per distance driven. In the United States, fuel economy testing consists of a vehicle on a treadmill, while a trained driver follows a fixed drive cycle. By design, the current standardized fuel economy testing system neglects differences in how individuals drive their vehicles on the road. As autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is introduced, more aspects of driving are shifted into functions of decisions made by the vehicle, rather than the human driver. Yet the current fuel economy testing procedure does not have a mechanism to evaluate the impacts of AV technology on fuel economy ratings, and subsequent regulations such as Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets. This paper develops a method to incorporate the impacts of AV technology within the bounds of current fuel economy test, and simulates a range of automated following drive cycles to estimate changes in fuel economy. The results show that AV following algorithms designed without considering efficiency can degrade fuel economy by up to 3%, while efficiency-focused control strategies may equal or slightly exceed the existing EPA fuel economy test results, by up to 10%. This suggests the need for a new near-term approach in fuel economy testing to account for connected and autonomous vehicles. As AV technology improves and adoption increases in the future, a further reimagining of drive cycles and testing is required.

Marine transport


methodology for assessing CO2 emissions of shipping, CO2 reduction options, future strategies, wind power, nuclear power

This is an incredible visualization of the world's shipping routes Brad Plumer; Vox; 25 Apr 2016

snapshot from visualisation - click on image for live website

About 11 billion tons of stuff gets carried around the world every year by large ships. Clothes, flat-screen TVs, grain, cars, oil — transporting these goods from port to port is what makes the global economy go 'round. And now there's a great way to visualize this entire process, through this stunning interactive map from the UCL Energy Institute:



Meet Ellen, the world's largest E-ferry, connecting two Danish islands without emitting any CO2 Cyril Fourneris & Myriam Copier; euronews; 25 Nov 2019

For a few months not, Ellen has been connecting two Danish islands. But what's different about this ferry's passage is she does this without noise or smoke.

Inaugurated in august, Ellen is the most powerful 100% electric-ferry in the world and is paving the way to a concrete transformation of maritime traffic.

At her home port on the Danish island of Ærø Ellen loads her passengers and recharges her batteries.

Once disconnected, the 750-ton ship leaves for one of its five daily trips to a neighbouring island.

This project was co-financed by the European Union in cooperation with islanders eager to achieve carbon neutrality.

She's not the first electric ferry but, as E-ferry project coordinator, Trine Heinemann explains, there are two reasons why she is so special:

"Firstly, we’re fully-electric, so there is no oil on board to run anything on the ship. And secondly, it’s the distance that we cover, which 22 nautical miles. That’s seven times what existing ships have covered. And the longer distances you start covering, the most usable your technology becomes. And I think in Europe it’s about 80 % of the ferry transportation that can be covered in a 22 nautical miles range."

Another notable feature is that Ellen is injected with the surplus from wind turbines on Ærø, which produce 130% of the electricity needed on the island.

Ferries are today the largest polluters on the island and Ellen will save 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

A tour of Ellen

Under her hull are four quiet engines and 56 tons of lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 4.3-megawatt hours.

But there is no backup oil generator.

"We reserve at all-time a certain amount of energy in each battery room," says Heinemann. "So if you lose a battery room or have to shut it down for some reason there will always be enough energy left on the other room to sail back to harbour or do all the emergency procedures that could be involved in an emergency at sea."

Upstairs, she has all the comforts of a classic ferry, with the additional benefit of no noise or smell, ensuring a quiet crossing for passengers.

Captain Thomas Larsen, says the crew have quickly become familiar with this new tool:

"Actually, electric motors are more powerful because we have the full torque from the bottom so that’s quite nice. You can almost drive it like a speed boat!"

From the Baltic Sea to the Swiss lakes.

The Leclanche factory in Yverdon-les-Bains as selected to power the ferry.

The battery manufacturer developed several innovations to meet the requirements of the project, in terms of safety and efficiency.

Its CEO Anil Srivastava believes that lithium-ion batteries will play a central role in achieving the electrification required by the international maritime authorities.

"Nearly 12% of CO2 emission comes from marine traffic in the European economic area. It’s 13% for cars. We need to focus on the maritime sector. This is the fastest route to tackle CO2 emissions in Europe," says Srivastava.

Ammonia fuel cell

Norwegian energy major Equinor to run ship fitted with ammonia fuel cells Anmar Frangoul; CNBC; 24 Jan 2020

The European Union has awarded 10 million euros ($11.05 million) in funding to a scheme that is aiming to install an ammonia-powered fuel cell on a ship.

The beneficiary of the money, the ShipFC project, is a consortium of 14 firms and institutions co-ordinated by NCE Maritime CleanTech.

The project will involve the modification of Eidesvik Offshore’s “Viking Energy” ship. The vessel has been used by Norwegian energy major Equinor for 17 years.

“Together with Equinor, we are now launching a full-scale research project to test a propulsion solution based on fuel cells running on pure and emission-free ammonia,” Jan Fredrik Meling, who is the CEO of Eidesvik Offshore, said Thursday.

“The goal is to install fuel cell modules with a total power of 2 MW (megawatts) on board Viking Energy in 2024,” he added. “This will make the vessel the world’s first emission-free supply vessel.”


NS Savannah.jpg

Nuclear energy has been used for some civilian ships - see the section of Wikipedia's article on Civilian nuclear ships for more details. These include the Otto Hahn and the NS Savannah (pictured right)

The ‘Peace Ship’, powered by nuclear energy, launched in 1959 on this day (21st July). Officially known as the NS Savannah, it was the world’s first nuclear-powered merchant ship and second-ever nuclear-powered civilian vessel. Former US President Dwight Eisenhower liked to call it the ‘Peace Ship’, as it was built as part of the 1950s ‘Atoms for Peace’ initiative for demonstrating the potential peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

This vast 600-foot (182 meter) long, almost 80-foot (24 meter) wide ship was powered by a pressurized water reactor. It had seven cargo holds and could accommodate 60 passengers in its 30 staterooms, dining hall, swimming pool, library, and even cinema. After six years of carrying passengers and cargo, the Savannah was converted into a freight-only vessel until it was retired in 1971.

MUTSU nuclear powered ship.png

Nuclear Powered Ship Mutsu Designated as Special “Ship Heritage” Kaoru Ohno; Japan Industrial Atomic Forum; 7 Aug 2020

On July 31, the Japan Society of Naval Architects and Ocean Engineers (JSNAOE) announced that it had selected eight vessels for certification for this fiscal year under its “Ship Heritage” project, including the nuclear-powered ship “Mutsu” (retired in 1992).

Mutsu was selected for its technological value as “Japan’s first nuclear ship, which generated significant technological knowledge and information.” JSNAOE will present the certificate for Mutsu to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), successor organization to the Japan Nuclear Ship Development Agency, which initiated R&D using Mutsu.

Enjoy this video featuring an enormous, nuclear-powered icebreaker Rob Beschizza; BoingBoing; 13 Jun 2019

75 000 h.p. The Biggest Nuclear Icebreaker / Атомный Ледокол Ямал

The Soviets built a bunch of nuclear icebreakers: overbearing, overpowered, faintly absurd, and completely awesome.

This video was shot in the Arctic Ocean in March 2018. For 7 days the film crew passed through the Barents Sea to Karsky around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago on the nuclear icebreaker Yamal - we saw the northern lights and polar bears, watched the ships stuck in the ice being towed and were very cold.

Directed by Andrew Efimov. Andrey Rodin piloted the drones. Ivan Golubkov and Yaroslav Kuryanovish worked the footage.

Video: 75 000 h.p. The Biggest Nuclear Icebreaker \\ 75 000 л.с. Атомный Ледокол Ямал Timelab Pro; YouTube; 12 Jun 2019

Project 22220 icebreaker Wikipedia

Project 22220, also referred to as LK-60Ya, is a Russian designation for three nuclear-powered icebreakers under construction at Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg. Once entering service, the ships of the class will be the largest and most powerful icebreakers ever constructed, surpassing their predecessors, Arktika class nuclear-powered icebreakers.

RITM-200 Wikipedia

The RITM-200 is an integrated pressurized water reactor being developed by OKBM Afrikantov and is designed to produce 55 MWe. It would use up to 20% enriched uranium-235 and will be refueled every 7 years for a 40 year planned lifespan.

The RITM-200 has a compact integrated layout placing equipment within the steam generator casing, halving system weight compared to earlier designs and improving ability to operate in rolling and pitching seas.

It powers Project 22220 icebreakers, the first of which is expected to enter service in 2020. and Project 23000E supercarrier.


Cheap oil killed sailing ships. Now they’re back and totally tubular Emma Bryce; Wired; 29 May 2018

Somewhere between Finland and Sweden, a ship surges through the icy Baltic Sea with a strange white tower protruding, totem-like, from its deck. It may not look like it, but this tall spindle is a sail: the same winds buffeting people about on board channel through the 24-metre-high tower, providing clean, auxiliary power, just like the canvas sails of yesteryear.

Tuomas Riski, the man behind it all, stands at the base of the totem, introducing his invention to a group of note-scribbling journalists. He wears a light, navy suit, seemingly oblivious to the blasting Baltic winds. Above him the tower whirrs in the wind: at its peak it can reach 225 rotations per minute, pushing the ship past the tiny, pine-sprouting granite islands that pepper the Archipelago Sea. “You don’t think it’s making too much noise?” Riski asks, briefly furrowing his brow. In any case, the humming of this slender sail seems a small price to pay for the promise that it will cut fuel use by 300 tons a year, and significantly reduce the ship’s emissions in the process – helping to make this one of the cleanest passenger vessels in the world.

Called the Viking Grace this 2,800-person passenger ferry runs daily between Turku in Finland and Stockholm in Sweden across the Baltic’s Archipelago Sea: the 25th of April marked only its 13th day travelling with the sail, which is known as a Flettner Rotor Sail. Riski, the CEO of Finnish cleantech company Norsepower, has spent the last six years fine-tuning its design to make it worthy of this ship. But this modern sail has roots in an idea that’s actually almost 100 years old: Norsepower is the first company to successfully resurrect the historic concept for the modern age. Now, as pressure intensifies for the global shipping industry to decarbonise, Norsepower plans to bring back these fuel-saving mechanical sails to the decks of huge tankers that roam the seas today.

Sweden's new car carrier is the world's largest wind-powered vessel Jacopo Prisco; CNN; 16 October 2020

Oceanbird might look like a ship of the future, but it harks back to ancient maritime history -- because it's powered by the wind. The transatlantic car carrier is being designed by Wallenius Marine, a Swedish shipbuilder, with support from the Swedish government and several research institutions.

With capacity for 7,000 vehicles, the 650 foot-long vessel is a similar size to conventional car carriers, but it will look radically different. The ship's hull is topped by five telescopic "wing sails," each 260 feet tall. Capable of rotating 360 degrees without touching each other, the sails can be retracted to 195 feet in order to clear bridges or withstand rough weather.

The sails, which will be made of steel and composite materials, need to be this size to generate enough propulsive power for the 35,000-ton ship.


Is it all over for the age of cheap air travel? Jillian Ambrose; Telegraph; 8 Oct 2016

The aviation industry has crossed a threshold. After almost two decades of talks, 191 countries gathered in Montreal last week to adopt a global market-based system to tackle the rise of carbon emissions from international air travel. The deal has been welcomed by governments as an unprecedented diplomatic success, and by green groups as a hopeful starting point for further environmental progress. But for some embattled airlines, it could deliver a fatal blow to the gilded decades of low-cost flights.

NASA will test distributed electric engines on a two person plane in 2017 NextBigFuture

Tecnam P2006T

Battery electric

"The number of electrically propelled aircraft developments grew by ~30% in 2019", Robert Thompson, Roland Berger 15 Jan 2020

An industry-wide shift towards developing electrically-propelled aircraft is ongoing, and recent developments have only increased the momentum. Over the past 10 years, we at Roland Berger have been watching developments in the field closely. Our latest Think:Act publication on the subject - Aircraft Electrical Propulsion – Onwards and Upwards - covered recent developments and evaluated how the aviation and aerospace industries stand to change. Roland Berger is continuing to chart the trajectory of progress in aircraft electrical propulsion - below is our interactive map for you to discover which countries are in the forefront of research and development, who the key players are, and what the major ongoing projects are.

Google’s Larry Page is getting a two person plane drone hybrid approved as an air taxi Brian Wang; Next Big Future; 13 Mar 2018

Meet Cora YouTube

Kitty Hawk is a flying car funded by Google co-founder Larry Page and it will begin the regulatory approval process required for launching its autonomous passenger-drone system in New Zealand.

The firm’s two-person craft, called Cora, is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid that can take off vertically like a drone, but then uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time. The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 meters (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 meters, and has been eight years in the making.

Harbour Air completes world's first electric aircraft test flight Amy Smart; The Canadian Press / Vancouver Island News; 10 Dec 2019

The 62-year-old Beaver was outfitted with a 750-horsepower electric motor, which gives it capacity to fly about 160 kilometres before needing a recharge.

Weight, altitude and storage remain the biggest barriers to flying electric. A mid-sized passenger plane weighs 100 times as much as a mid-sized car and the battery technology hasn't quite adjusted to the aviation market.

Fuel also remains about 40 to 50 times more power dense than batteries

The brief but successful test flight marked a significant win for Harbour Air and partner magniX, which designed the electric motor, in the race to electrify commercial aviation fleets.

Dozens of companies are working on electric planes, including Boeing and Airbus. Israeli company Eviation unveiled a nine-seat, all-electric plane named “Alice” at the Paris Air Show in June, which also happens to be a magniX project.

"Rolls-Royce Claims Its Latest Electric Airplane Battery Has The World’s Highest Energy Density" Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica, 29 Jan 2020

Making electric airplanes is hard. You need a lot of batteries to make an electric airplane fly. Batteries tend to be heavy and bulky — exactly the opposite of what aircraft designers want. No wonder electric airplanes have a much shorter range than conventional aircraft.

But just because a problem is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible to solve. Engineers at Rolls-Royce are hard at work designing the fastest single seat electric airplane in the world, according to IEEE Spectrum. The current record is 210 mph (338 km/h). Rolls-Royce has a new airplane that is expected to take to the skies this spring that could crack the 300 mph (483 kph) barrier and be able to fly up to 200 miles (322 km) — the distance between London and Paris — on a single charge.

That’s thanks to “the world’s most energy-dense flying battery pack,” according to Rolls-Royce. The aircraft has three 72 kWh batteries, each with 6,000 lithium-ion battery cells and weighing 450 kilograms (992 lbs.). That’s more than a ton and half of batteries — quite a lot for a small plane.

"The Battery Design Smarts Behind Rolls Royce’s Ultrafast Electric Airplane" Prachi Patel, IEEE Spectrum, 28 Jan 2020

Dozens 0f electric general aviation projects are underway around the world, not counting the urban air taxis that dominate the electric propulsion R&D scene. The first all-electric commercial aircraft, a seaplane intended for short flights, completed a 15-minute test flight in December.

Shortly after, luxury icon Rolls Royce unveiled what it hopes will be the world’s fastest electric aircraft. The current speed record for that type of plane is 335 kilometers per hour (210 mph). The new one-seater craft, slated to fly this spring, will top out at 480 km/h (300 mph). It should also be able to fly from London to Paris, about 320 km (200 miles), on a single charge.

Hydrogen electric

World’s First Four-Seater Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plane Has First Flight Evan Milberg; Composites Manufacturing; 17 Oct 2016

The HY4 – the world’s first four-seater hydrogen fuel cell plane took off for the first time at the Stuttgart airport in Germany. The plane, which impressed visitors at Hannover Messe earlier this year, was developed by researchers from the German Aerospace Center (known in German under the acronym DLR) with help from Hydrogenics, Pipistrel, H2FLY, the University of Ulm and Stuttgart Airport. DLR made the hydrogen fuel cell power train, which consists of a hydrogen storage system, a low-temperature hydrogen fuel cell and a battery. The hydrogen is carried in two high-pressure tanks, made of carbon fiber, located in each of two fuselages by the passenger cabin.

Solar electric

Harnessing solar energy whilst in flight may be an option for niche applications such as lightweight slow-flying craft required to stay aloft for long periods e.g. for surveillance or communications.

Solar-powered plane completes journey across Pacific Ocean (Update); 24 Apr 2016

A solar-powered airplane on a mission to fly around the world landed in California, completing a risky, three-day flight across a great expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Airbus to provide solar cells for MicroLink Zephyr UAV GPS World; 18 May 2016

The Zephyr platform is a new class of unmanned air vehicle that operates as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) enabling affordable, persistent, local satellite-like services. The aircraft runs exclusively on solar power, and the Zephyr aircraft is at the forefront of the HAPS arena, holding world records with regards to absolute endurance (more than 14 days) and altitude (more than 70,000 feet).


David Mackay - Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air metaFAQ [link now defunct]

There has been quite a lot of work done on using bio-fuels to power aircraft. All three major engine manufacturers have recently had successful flight trials. The suggestion is that these can be produced by either algae or jatropha. Given the willingness of aviation to pay a relatively high price for its fuel, is this unrealistic?

I think that using biofuels for aviation is one of the few sensible applications of biofuels. I think algae and jatropha are interesting, and standard crops such as oil-seed rape. The land area or water area to sustain today's level of aviation from biofuels can be computed using the numbers in my book. My book includes data for jatropha. It would be a substantial land area. For the UK to power its own flights from its own biofuels, for example, would require roughly one fifth of all agricultural land in Britain.


Other ways of staying up - Airships David MacKay; Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air

Let’s assume we desire to travel at a speed of 80 km/h (so that crossing the Atlantic takes three days).... To get the best possible transport cost, what is the longest blimp we can imagine? ... If we say L = 400 m, ... If useful cargo made up half of the vessel’s mass, the net transport cost of this monster airship would be 0.06 kWh/t-km – similar to rail.

Helium Dreams - A new generation of airships is born JEANNE MARIE LASKAS; New Yorker; 29 Feb 2016

Three hybrid airship projects are currently attracting the most attention:

  • the Airlander 10, which just launched this month, in England;
  • Lockheed Martin’s LMH-1; and
  • Pasternak’s Aeroscraft

Footnotes and references

  1. Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities ANDY GOULDSON, SARAH COLENBRANDER, ANDREW SUDMANT, NICK GODFREY, JOEL MILLWARD-HOPKINS, WANLI FANG, XIAO ZHAO; New Climate Economy; Sept 2015