Sustainable Transport

Think, for one minute, about where you travel to each day. Whether that be a workplace or school, shops or parks we rely on our ability to get from point A to B as quickly and easily as possible. However, do we ever really stop and consider the impact our daily choices can have on not just the environment, but also each other? We may simply get into the car, hop on the bike or bus without considering the potential knock on effect of these decisions when viewed on the scale of hundreds or thousands of people.

All of our personal and economic needs rely on our ability to travel, the environmental costs of which become apparent when we consider that 27 % of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions occur via transport in the UK, while cars are still our most popular form of transport (Fig 1)1.

Fig 1: Passenger kilometres by type, Great Britain, 1960 – 2019.

Indeed, transport and infrastructure is a key improvement aim in the UNs Sustainable Development Goals 2 which calls on the development and innovation of new technologies to increase sustainability and economic output while reducing the environmental burden. Sustainability is a word that encompasses a range of ideas and touches upon many different topics, however, I would like to highlight just a few of the exciting current technological developments that are helping mitigate our collective impact on the environment and provide us with some much-needed optimism.

Fig 2: One of many hydrogen powered buses in London.

Hydrogen, that most simple and abundant element on Earth has been the focus of much research as a fuel in recent years. As a clean energy source, Hydrogen fuel cells rely on the transfer of energy between two gases, that of hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) to produce electricity and water. This is being used in a range of applications however here in the UK, hydrogen – powered buses (Fig 2) are becoming increasingly common in our cities from London to Aberdeen and promise to aid not only improve poor air quality but also reduce noise pollution, having the benefit of only emitting water vapour and being extremely quiet 3. This technology has the potential to reduce our reliance on fossils dramatically.

The reduced noise and new technology will hopefully encourage new passengers to consider taking these new buses, providing a more enjoyable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to travel.   

In a similar vein, the world is truly changing with the proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) making their way onto our roads. Many companies such as big-hitters like BYD, Tesla and Audi are leading the research and production in this field 3. With more than  2 million  EVs being sold globally in 2019 4 the world is slowly turning to electric, this can further reduce our reliance on traditional combustion engines.These machines are complex and are powered using a combination of many Lithium-ion batteries or cells all joined together (For a run-down on how these types of cells actually work you should check out our other blog by Kavin!). As long as the raw material waste, battery disposal and efficiency of these cars can be further improved this will go a long way to reducing overall CO2 production globally 3.

We can all do our bit for a cleaner and more sustainable earth for everyone, choosing to take part in, promote or research into new sustainable technologies will aid wider adoption. Small steps by many, lead to big changes.

References:

1.              Department for Transport. (2019) Transport Statistics Great Britain. [Online].

2.              Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development | Department of Economic and Social Affairs [Internet]. Available from: https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda

3.              Global EV Outlook 2020 – Analysis [Internet]. IEA. Available from: https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2020

4.              Electric vehicle trends | Deloitte Insights [Internet]. Available from: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/future-of-mobility/electric-vehicle-trends-2030.html

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