Electrification of the transport system

On the 22nd of January 2018, the European Commission released a study on the electrification of the transport system.


Electrification of transport combines an energy efficient power train system with the opportunity of using any source of energy other than fossil fuels including those from renewable sources.

In the four transport modes considered (road, waterborne transport, aeronautics, and rail transport), electrification will be introduced at a highly different pace. In the urban road transport sector, technology for electric passenger cars, vans and buses is available and getting closer to fulfilling the needs of all potential customers, although cost reductions are still needed. Electrification for long-range trucks and coaches remains a matter of further research though. For waterborne transport, hybrid propulsion will be used increasingly in different ship types and sizes with growing adaption to burning alternative fuels e.g. biofuels, and to hydrogen. Zero emission vessels where batteries are used instead of diesel engines will be limited to smaller vessels or those with short distance operations. Fuel cells and combined cycle fuel cell systems will provide auxiliary power or propel smaller vessels with a trend towards the propulsion of larger vessels. For port operations all ships will increasingly plug into the grid (e.g. cold ironing, shore-side electricity supply) so to reduce emissions of e.g. NOx and particulate matter that affect local air quality. In aeronautics, electrification will not go beyond very small and short range small aircraft or operations on the ground for the next decades. Rail transportation is widely electrified already. Nonetheless, it is important to improve the energy performance of the existing system and provide innovative solutions for reducing pollutant and GHG emissions. Innovations in the road transport sector are expected to spill over into the other modes as the required engineering skills are similar. Timelines and contents of proposed actions and initiatives are indicated in chapter 3.

The electrification of transport requires the integration of vehicles into a reliable and affordable as well as easy-of-use infrastructure for the supply of energy, e.g. in rail transport by the catenary and in other modes by static or dynamic (conductive or wireless) charging, (economically questionable) battery swapping or hydrogen tank filling. Given the limitations of current energy storage systems, the integration of electric vehicles into IT-based operating systems such as e.g. connected, automated and managed fleets promises increased levels of usability and efficiency, and thus, user acceptance. As can be seen from chapter 3 of this report, synergies between these quickly evolving systems are a matter of future research. Moreover, electrification involves a set of universal engineering skills that are independent of the transport mode and thus support a comprehensive and transferable development approach, an opportunity e.g. for the supply industry.

Transport sector electrification is essential for meeting the European Union goals of decarbonization and energy security, as it accounts for 25% of all CO2 emissions in Europe. Electric vehicles combine an energy efficient powertrain system with the opportunity of using renewable energy sources.. The actual CO2 reduction potential depends heavily on the energy mix of the grid, and to synergies with parallel technology choices, e.g. degree of hybridization, bio fuels use etc. Nonetheless, by providing the opportunity to temporarily store energy and feed it back to the grid (V2G) at times of higher demand or for load and frequency management, batteries of electric vehicles can contribute to a better use of (fluctuating) renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. According to chapter 2 of this document, all sectors need to contribute to the lowcarbon transition according to their technological and economic potential. Emissions from transport could be reduced to more than 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. Due to a lack of maturity of energy storage technologies, electrification in the waterborne and aeronautics sector is unlikely to achieve significant reductions prior to 2030. Beyond this, electrification as a technology emitting zero exhaust emissions and less noise will have a positive impact on air quality along road arteries, airports, stations and ports.

The European Technology Platforms (ERTRAC, EPoSS, Smart Grids, ACARE, WATERBORNE and ERRAC) have played a crucial role in the negotiation of R&I funding

strategies for the transport domain with the European Commission in the past. Public Private Partnerships like e.g. the European Green Vehicles Initiative (EGVI), CleanSky and Shift2Rail have shown that joint strategy development by industry and public authorities is a successful approach for innovation in transport. Due to the specific structure of industries, the situation is different in the respective sectors, though. In the phase of implementation, monitoring, standardizing, and regulating further measures by public authorities appear to be appropriate. Their task would be to take the initiative when there is uncertainty what action needs to be taken first to progress innovation and deployment. Regional and city government can play a crucial role in support of electric mobility enabling infrastructure deployment, and by public procurement, appropriate state aids, and structuring charges to encourage cleaner vehicles, vessels and trains, and finally maybe also by restricting or giving vehicle access. Roles and responsibilities are indicated for all proposed actions listed in this document.

The technical and non-technical gaps of electrified transport are addressed in much detail in this document. One common issue of all electrified transport modes considered relates to the cost, energy density, power capability and lifetime of energy storage systems. It is sufficient for automobile applications in urban areas and may enable the electrification of very small aircraft and boats soon. However, it will remain a major issue for any kind of long range or heavier application as the energy density of batteries will never reach that of fossil fuels. Other issues relate to power density and cost of motors, converters and chargers. Particular in the maritime and aeronautics domain there are no easy to handle ways of recharging or replacing batteries during trips. Leadership in electric vehicles, components and particularly battery technology and manufacturing will be decisive for maintaining a competitive position of the EU automotive industry on the world market. The adaptation of the infrastructure to electrification is a general issue, too. There is also a strong need for training of workers, e.g. in emergency and repair, as well as for battery safety, high voltage handling, and electric magnetic field emissions standards, particularly for frequencies above 50Hz.

Public procurement would be a very effective tool for catalyzing the ramp-up of markets for electrified transport solutions, particularly for electric road vehicles such as cars, trucks and buses which could be efficiently deployed in public fleets, for hybrid rail vehicles and electrical infrastructure for ships in ports. This would also create public awareness of the technology’s maturity, and may influence vehicle manufacturers’ portfolios if collective purchasing power is exerted. To make public procurement even more effective, the Clean Vehicles Directive1, which introduced sustainability obligations into public procurement in the EU, has to be revised. The options that are now being assessed by the European Commission include broadening of the scope, more robust compliance requirements and procurement targets. Beyond the public, also the private sector should be targeted, e.g. by appropriate incentives to stimulate the electrification of taxis and rental cars, which would also support growth of the used vehicle market, and thus help to stabilize the residual value of electric vehicles. Furthermore, CO2, NOx and particle emissions regulations are proposed to buses and trucks, rail and maritime transport. Stringent regulations should also be extended to scooters, general aviation and drones, which for several applications could be zero emission. Port and city charges can be structured to encourage cleaner vehicles and vessels.

The opportunities of international cooperation in the electrification of transport are manyfold. They range from information exchange (e.g. on R&I programs and projects) to standardization of components and protocols (e.g. on wireless or en-route charging, batteries etc.). Stronger participation of the EU in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCP), such as the Hybrid and Electric Vehicles TCP of the International Energy Agency and its working groups (tasks) is highly recommended.


Source: European Commission


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