This is the first in a series of blog posts on the future of Urban Mobility.
Our ability to ensure clean and convenient mobility in our cities is key to the sustainable growth of our economy. Volatile fuel prices, rising levels of emissions and traffic congestions are the key challenges that we face in most Indian cities today.
We need the best of our young minds to look at emerging technologies, like smart and connected vehicles, to overcome these challenges. I expect that urban mobility, both personal and commercial, will be shaped by disruptive technologies such as:
the move to on-demand mobility,
the impact of autonomous vehicles and
the growth of electric vehicles.
There are three big challenges
Challenge # 1 - How to achieve Zero Vehicular Emission ?
I was in New Delhi during December 2015 for a Conference and the visibility was very poor due to smog even in the middle of the day.
Challenge # 2 - How to achieve Zero Accidents ?
Millions of lives are lost every year due to accidents that can well be avoided by using connected technology. Millions more are immobilized or severely shocked due to the loss of near and dear ones.
Challenge # 3 - How to achieve Zero Traffic Congestion ?
I lived in Bangalore for the last few year where you can see such traffic jams in every other road. A city like Bangalore cannot sustain its current growth rate unless they figure out a way to remove such traffic congestions and ensure a smooth flow of traffice. I have spent many hours in such traffic jams and I have seen ambulances or fire brigade engines stranded in such situations.
Achieving Zero Emission with Electric Vehicles
Let us look at the Challenge # 1 of reducing vehicular emission to zero, electric vehicles are promising solutions. But if we use electricity derived from fossil fuels too power these electric cars, then we are achieving our objective. Hence we need to define and track emissions across the entire process "Well-to-Wheel"
A zero-emissions vehicle does not emit greenhouse gases from the on board source of power at the point of operation, but a well-to-wheel assessment takes into account the carbon dioxide and other emissions produced during electricity generation, and therefore, the extent of the real benefit depends on the fuel and technology used for electricity generation. From the perspective of a full life cycle analysis, the electricity used to recharge the batteries must be generated from renewable or clean sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power for ZEVs to have almost none or zero well-to-wheel emissions.
Renewable energy sources like solar & wind need to be used to charge the electric vehicles. The cost per watt of solar photovoltaic has reduced by 85 % during 2000 - 2016. The share of solar & wind in global electricity production is expected to rise to 16 %.
In fact, Scientific American published (Nov 2009) a plan to power 100% of the planet with Renewables - authored by #MarkJacobson (Stanford University) and #MarkDelucci (University of California, Davis):
- The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.
- The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil fuel and nuclear power.
- Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.
Now we are talking about electric cars powered by solar photovoltaic - is this a feasible idea ? Elon Musk has looked at this aspect in detail and provides a convincing argument:
|Solar incidence (US):||1825 kWh/m2/year|
|Module efficiency:||18% (Sunpower)|
|Energy lost in system:||20% (Due to inverter, wires, cell temperature, etc.)|
|Energy to create module:||600 kWh/m2 (National Renewable Energy Lab.)|
|… to build aluminum frame:||80 kWh/m2 (from Alsema et al)|