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SPECIAL REPORT

One-third of vehicles will be electric by 2040: Masdar

ABU DHABI, January 18, 2018

While there are about three million electric passenger vehicles on the road today, by 2040, with performance improvements and competitive pricing, over one-third of vehicles will be electric, said a new report from Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company.

Emerging mobility technologies have the potential to provide transformational benefits for cities but successful integration will require a focus on smart urban planning, long-term investment and the deployment of the latest solutions, according to The Masdar Report on Technologies for Future Smart City Transit launched at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).

The report, prepared with support from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, predicts that new technologies such as electric and autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, data analytics, blockchain and “smart roads” will provide the building blocks to revolutionise urban transport over the next two decades.

The report also suggests that countries with a relatively new urban transport network, such as the UAE and other Gulf states, may have an advantage over other countries because their transport infrastructure is newer and less sprawling − meaning it is easier to update and integrate with emerging digital technologies.

Yousef Baselaib, executive director of Sustainable Real Estate at Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), said: “Urban transport is reaching a crossroads as emerging technologies come together, placing us on the cusp of a step-change which could revolutionise the sector, making it safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

“The Middle East is well placed to benefit from these developments but achieving these ambitions will require major investment over the next few decades. It will also be essential for the public and private sectors to work together to agree technology standards which govern the market and prioritise innovation and technology leadership.”

Cities worldwide face similar transport challenges − congestion, pollution (typically higher in densely populated cities with a low average income per person) and traffic accidents (1.25 million people die each year due to road traffic accidents each year, the World Health Organization estimates).

The transport sector accounts for about 30 per cent of global energy consumption and has the lowest renewable energy share of any sector, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. It accounts for around a quarter of the world’s energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions growth in the transport sector is the highest of all sectors, and is expected to increase by over one-third by 2030.

The Masdar Report on Technologies for Future Smart City Transit highlights some of the most promising technological advances in transport which could help solve or ease many of these issues, if planned and delivered effectively. It also uncovers how emerging digital technologies are likely to change city transport systems, help countries meet targets for reducing carbon emissions and create new opportunities (and challenges) for city planners, automobile companies and technology businesses.

Dr Ali Izadi-Najafabadi, head of intelligent mobility at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said that cities, given their high density and increasing requirements for effective public transit, can be innovation test beds for the most cutting-edge smart transit projects.

He said: “Cities can implement electric buses and promote regulations and infrastructure that support autonomous vehicles, public ride hailing, car sharing, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, smart traffic control and city-wide digital payment systems. These would improve the quality of life for individuals, ease congestion, raise social mobility and foster innovation.”

Other technologies, such as the Internet of Things (sensors connected to the internet that can share data), will connect vehicles, buildings, traffic lights and roads, making autonomous modes of urban transport increasingly practical for users.

But to achieve their full potential many of these new technologies must overcome challenges. They are often expensive relative to traditional transport, while the rate of change means that technology can quickly become obsolete. In addition, consistent standards have yet to be agreed for different IT systems to talk to each other and be integrated.

“There are, of course, barriers to implementing new models of transportation, but forward-thinking cities have a golden opportunity to reap significant benefits if they choose to embrace new technologies to improve urban transport,” added Dr Izadi-Najafabadi.

Key findings from the report

Wireless charging

The number of public charging points for electric vehicles has increased significantly in the last five years − from 100,000 in 2012 to more than 360,000 in 2016. Yet, more are needed. Charging an electric vehicle wirelessly by running electricity through two coils of copper wire, one of which is connected to the car, would make charging easier and charging points smaller and probably cheaper. Some large carmakers are reportedly working on electric vehicles that can be charged wirelessly.

Autonomous cars

Vehicles that can drive themselves could make driving safer (fewer collisions), and optimise driving performance (higher and more efficient utilization of road networks). Companies including Google, BMW, Volkswagen and Intel, are developing autonomous cars, which may go on sale between 2020 and 2025. Technology (data collection, analysis and communications networks) will be vital in keeping them safe and effective.

Digital ride hailing

Since Uber’s founding in 2009, digital ride hailing has rapidly grown. The five largest ride hailing companies in the world have a combined valuation of about US $130 billion and close to500 million users. Ride hailing may have mixed effects on city transit and the environment, though. It enables more carpooling, which improves vehicle utilisation and congestion. However, ride hailing might encourage people to take cars for trips they otherwise could have walked or used public transport. Smart regulations to maximize the benefits of ride hailing while minimizing its adverse effects will be needed.

5G networks and V2X communication networks

Fifth generation (5G) wireless mobile networks will be able to process more than 1,000 times more data traffic than today’s 4G networks. Autonomous and digitally “connected” vehicles will likely run on 5G networks because of speed and bandwidth limitations of current networks. 5G is still being tested and won’t be widely introduced until 2020. Its reliability will need to be proven before adoption for autonomous vehicles. The uncertain cost of 5G is another potential barrier.

V2X communication networks enabling vehicles to exchange information with other vehicles and their surrounding will also be crucial in enabling the roll out of fully autonomous vehicles. Cars would be able to upload travel information from the city, avoid crashes, and produce analysis that enables future improvements in city transport. The technology is still in its early stages.

Blockchain

Blockchain (secure, decentralized ledgers maintained by a network of participants) is best known as the technology that enables bitcoin. It could make transport simpler by enabling computers and sensors in cars, buses and other vehicles to automatically conduct secure transactions e.g., pay tolls and other transport charges without human intervention. Machines could control digital wallets, with smart contracts automating payments between machines.

Smart roads

Smart roads gather data on road traffic, vehicle accidents and driving conditions from street cameras, street lights, traffic lights and vehicles. Potential benefits include reduced congestion (city planners and authorities can better understand traffic flows), fewer traffic accidents (smart roads could alert drivers (or vehicles) of nearby accidents and automatically grant priority to emergency vehicles trying to reach an accident site). Smart roads could even produce energy through built-in solar cells or pressure plates, something that could prove particularly practical for the Gulf states, due to their sunny climate. Smart roads are being trialled in various countries such as Singapore and  Columbus, Ohio. Challenges include their potential high upfront cost and lack of technology and security standards.

Smart traffic control systems

Rather than simply detect and measure traffic, traffic control systems may in the future reroute traffic to reduce congestion and improve safety. Smart traffic control systems would use networks of cameras and road sensors and utilize artificial intelligence to act on the large volume of data collected in real time. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Masdar | Bloomberg | Electric vehicle | IoT |

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