Engineers face three main challenges in the transport field, according to Lars Anell, Volvo’s senior vice-president: finding alternatives to fossil fuel; solving the problem of space and congestion; and making infrastructure more efficient.
On fuel, biogas – methane produced from natural sources – scored highly on the energy involved in extracting it. Ethanol produced from grain was the least energy efficient fuel. Battery powered electrically driven vehicles were less promising than hybrid vehicles with electric drive and battery-charging engines.
Underground transport is effective but expensive. Volvo has developed a mass transit system based on biarticulated buses with a capacity almost as great as an underground system but costing a fifth as much, which has been implemented in Brazil, he said.
To meet the third challenge of approved coordination, Volvo has proposed a pan-European system to synchronise transport by ships, trains and lorries, based on standard weight and sizes for containers and a logistics system for effective reloading.
Anell was unimpressed by the demands on the oil industry by the European Union’s proposed Auto-Oil directive. `In Sweden and Finland we already have far cleaner fuels than the directive requires in the future.’