Climate Change is a serious issue. At the rate we are going, we could lose cities to it.
With Earth’s climate changing, things are getting a little hotter. Ice caps are melting; low-lying cities are being threatened, such as; San Francisco, Venice, and Amsterdam, to name a few. Additionally, once-in-a-lifetime disasters are becoming more frequent like the bushfires in Australia and extreme flooding in South Asia.
The answer to this devastation? The Paris Agreement, an international treaty made up of 193 signatories, committed to combating climate change, with an overarching goal of keeping the Earth’s temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. Ways in which the signatories are tackling climate change are through; reform, incentives, and the phasing out of polluters, like fossil fuel cars. However, although it’s a legally binding agreement, that’s not to say that all countries are taking it fully on board or equally committed.
The Transport Sector
The transport sector needs an overhaul in order for the world to meet The Paris Agreement. Producing 23% of the world’s carbon emissions, our transportation sector needs to change, and soon. While the conversation about electric vehicles has never been higher, due to the rising costs for fuel brought on by the war in Ukraine, their uptake is less so. We are at the mercy of our respective governments, and without their support, we will be going nowhere in decarbonising our highly polluted transport sector.
But, if governments and society embrace Eco-friendly vehicles, we can significantly diminish that 23% stake in global pollution. More than a fifth of the world’s pollution could become decarbonised. No wonder they are a formidable weapon against climate change. Now, everyone knows what an electric vehicle is, but I’m sure you noticed that I used the term ‘eco-friendly’; why?
Because while electric vehicles are around and used by the average person, when it comes to industries like construction, an electric vehicle just doesn’t cut the mustard. We need vehicles that can haul heavy tonnes, be efficient, and most importantly, be safe for tradespeople to use. This is where hydrogen-powered vehicles come in.
So, in fighting against climate change, I wholeheartedly believe that not just electric vehicles, but also hydrogen vehicles, are the answer. We won’t just decarbonise the transportation sector with electric and hydrogen vehicles. We will also help mitigate construction industry emissions, which make up 38% of the world’s carbon emissions. A formidable weapon against climate change, indeed.
Electric vs Hydrogen Vehicles
Electric and Hydrogen vehicles are both Eco-friendly types of vehicles. However, they have a multitude of differences. Electric vehicles are charged through electricity with a lithium battery. Whereas hydrogen vehicles are powered by a hydrogen-fuel cell which converts hydrogen (which is deposited by a bowser) into electricity.
Unlike electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles can be fully fuelled in the same time as a fossil fuel alternative. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, require a set amount of time to charge, and the times vary depending on the charger’s power but can range from 30 minutes to 12 hours. While these points might make you question why we have more electric cars, the answer lies in the lack of infrastructure and the fact that hydrogen cars cost significantly more. Additionally, according to Carsguide, hydrogen cars are at least ten years behind electric vehicles in the marketplace.
However, that’s not to say hydrogen vehicles aren’t used, because they are, especially for haulers and heavy vehicles. Fuel-cell vehicles can carry more weight than their electric vehicle counterparts, so we will most likely see electric cars and hydrogen trucks in the future. Also, as electric vehicles become more sophisticated and efficient, charging will become less of a problem.
Eco-friendly Vehicles Against Fossil Fuels
Eco-friendly vehicles are much better for the environment than fossil fuels. They produce fewer emissions, and soon, at the rate the industry innovates, zero emissions. Currently, while driving, both have zero emissions. This is in comparison to fossil fuel vehicles, which produce, on average, 4.7 metric tonnes of CO2 a year through their tailpipe.
Additionally, although the manufacturing of electric vehicles requires us to mine for lithium to make their batteries, in comparison to fossil fuel mining, the carbon emissions are minor. We also can move to ‘green lithium,’ which uses geothermal mining, producing 0 emissions. Hydrogen fuel can be made from fossil fuels. However, green hydrogen is gaining traction and could become widespread.
Charging for electric vehicles can also become a low to zero emission undertaking. With the widespread adoption of renewable energy like solar, wind and hydroelectricity, even vehicle charging will be environmentally friendly.
The bottom line is that Eco-friendly vehicles produce low to zero emissions and can completely change the transport sector for the better. 23% of the world’s emissions are from transport, over a fifth of the world’s pollution. Decarbonising our sector with Eco-friendly vehicles and renewable energy-produced electricity will dramatically reduce our global carbon footprint.
Innovations In The Eco-vehicle Industry
An incredible aspect of the renewable industry is its innovation. Daily we see more and more ideas and inventions making renewables more sustainable, convenient, and cheaper. Some of the most interesting and recent ones in the Eco-vehicle market include; battery swapping, solar-powered cars, and hydrogen haulers.
Battery swapping & leasing
The Chinese electric car maker Nio has been offering battery swapping for a while now in China. How it works is you book a slot on their app, go to the specific station, and in under 5 minutes, a worker will take out your near flat battery and swap it for a fully charged one.
This concept is explicitly addressing the range limitations that plague electric vehicles. While only one facility has been introduced in Oslo, Norway, this innovation could take off. Currently, the facility in Norway can conduct 240 swaps a day, with 20 more stations planned for the country.
Nio has also been exploring the concept of an EV battery leasing, which could significantly cut costs. Especially as the battery is the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, their idea would involve the consumer buying the car without the added cost of the battery, making it cheaper and more accessible.
Printed Solar Cells
Another exciting project has been using printed solar cells that can be rolled out next to the car and charge it. It can then be rolled up and placed in the car’s boot, like a rug or carpet. It’s a form of off-grid charging, which could be great for those driving in remote areas where access to chargers is next-to-none. Currently, the University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia, is testing it with a Tesla car.
The car will take on a 15,000+ km journey using only the printed solar cells to charge it. If successful, this could be an excellent item for electric car drivers and could help alleviate the worry of ‘range anxiety’. Additionally, printed solar cells are affordable, costing only $8 US a metre, which again, like Nio’s battery swapping and leasing program, makes it accessible for the average consumer.
Construction is a serious business. Huge loads are being carried every day by haulers and trucks, and they need a reliable vehicle with the strength to do the required tasks. This is where hydrogen trucks come in. Recently, mining giant Anglo-American unveiled the largest hydrogen-fuelled truck in the world.
This truck weighing in at a whopping 200 tonnes has the capability, on a 2-megawatt fuel-cell battery, to haul 290 tonnes of ore. This magnificent feat is only the beginning and will drastically help mining and construction companies minimise their emissions.
The Current State Of Electric Vehicles In Australia
Electric vehicle innovation and funding (in general, the entire renewable industry sector) is pretty limited from a federal level and has been pushed by the individual states and territories. While the states and territories have made great strides in leading the way to a renewable future, Australia gives businesses (both domestic and global) within the industry little incentive to set-up shop here without federal support and backing. The limited electric vehicle offerings support this assertion in Australia; we have only 30 electric vehicle models, whereas worldwide, there are around 400 models.
Australia is a large country, much larger than how it looks on a map. Additionally, our population is widespread; we are densely populated on the coasts, but it becomes sparse as you move further away from the big cities and get closer to the red centre.
The distance is significant between our major cities, which results in substantial bouts of driving. ‘Range Anxiety’ is an all too common obstacle in adopting electric vehicles. It’s a double-edged sword. We don’t have enough electric vehicle chargers, but we can’t build more chargers until we have more electric cars. Currently, Australia has only around 3,000 public chargers in the entire country. While federal funding is allocating $24.55 million to co-fund 400 fast chargers, it’s not enough.
States are leading the charge for electric vehicles, each having their own incentives and schemes to increase uptake. However, the cost is still a significant inhibitor, and not just initial ones; already, we have states planning on introducing road user charges that will further deter the widespread adoption of vehicles. We already have cars at affordable prices, so why should we buy an expensive electric car that only has limited fast-charging public chargers in the entire country? Which are valid arguments.
Electric vehicles need to be enticing for consumers; being environmentally friendly is just not enough when individuals don’t have the money to afford it.
Eco-friendly vehicles are the future. They have to be because we don’t have much time left. We’re running out of fossil fuels, and our planet can’t take much more of the pollution we’re producing. However, the uptake of green vehicles is wholly dependent on the government embracing them. If the government doesn’t provide rebates and incentives, why would the average consumer bother to purchase an Eco-friendly vehicle?
That’s why we must encourage our governments to invest in our future. Fossil-fuel cars have taken us far; however, it’s time to let go. If we could fully embrace a sustainable future for transport, we could completely decarbonise the sector, drastically diminishing and eventually decimating the 23% of carbon emissions. Making it one of our greatest weapons against climate change.