It’s “sustainable mobility week” on The Engineer this week, which means that over the next few days – with a little help from our partner, the engineering consultancy Ricardo – we’ll be taking a close look at one of industry’s – and indeed society’s – most pressing challenges: the need to develop environmentally friendly transportation technologies.
With transport accounting for more than a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions; innovations in the systems that get us – and the goods upon which we rely – from a to b will be key to enabling the UK to achieve its 2050 net zero ambitions. And over the course of this week we’ll be looking in detail at some of the technologies that will help to propel the sector into a low carbon future: from the latest developments in hydrogen trains, to innovations in electric cars, and breakthroughs in zero carbon flight.
We’ll also be looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and examining whether it has acted as a spur for low carbon innovation. Sustainable mobility has been a growing priority for many years now, but there’s certainly a sense across industry that the current crisis has galvanised this resolve, with organisations across the board recognising that if they’re going to survive and compete in the post-COVID world, then they need to embrace low carbon innovation.
As Ricardo’s Adrian Greaney writes in his column today – the complex challenges of decarbonizing transport will require a multifaceted approach, involving different sectors, disciplines and technologies. Indeed, if we want to move towards a world where EVs are the dominant form of personal transport, then we need to make sure that our energy generation and supply infrastructure marry up with this ambition. Likewise, if we want to transform civil aviation or public transport with hydrogen, then we need to ensure that the hydrogen we use is renewably generated.
Looking beyond this we also need to be wary of the total lifecycle costs of tomorrow’s transformative transport technologies. Whilst an electric car might do wonders for your personal carbon footprint, the production of the lithium ion batteries that have enabled the EV revolution is a major source of emissions. And as EV numbers grow, addressing these kind of embedded environmental costs will be key to ushering in a true age of sustainable mobility.
Like so many other areas of engineering, achieving all of this will require unprecedented levels of collaboration and joined up thinking. And we’ll be doing our bit to encourage this process in a live panel discussion that we’re chairing later this week (Thursday 12pm) focussed specifically on electrification. Featuring engineers from Ricardo, Rolls-Royce, the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Qinetiq and UKRI it promises to be a fascinating discussion, and it’s free to attend!
As always, we look forward to hearing from all of our readers over the coming days and would like to encourage you all to join the debate and share your thoughts on this important topic.
Our partner for this week’s activities is the engineering consultancy Ricardo, an organisation at the forefront of sustainable mobility innovation. Over the course of the next few days we’ll be hearing from some its top engineers about the projects they’re involved in, and the challenges that lie ahead.