120 research projects aiming for a fossil-free vehicle fleet

120 research projects aiming for a fossil-free vehicle fleet

Converting to a fossil-free vehicle fleet strengthens the economy. However, it requires new technical solutions, effective means of control and smart business models to achieve the objectives. At the conference “Energy-related vehicle research” in Gothenburg, 120 different projects intended to support this conversion were presented.

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“I hope that you will make some changes when you return to work compared to before you came here.”

This was the hope expressed by Peter Engdahl, Head of Sustainable Transportation at the Swedish Energy Agency, when he launched the conference “Energy-related vehicle research” in Gothenburg on 3 October 2017.

And there was much to inspire and great scope for networking. Almost 300 people from public authorities, universities and the business community gathered for this two-day conference at the Clarion Hotel Post, where around 120 different projects were presented – the majority having received funding from the Swedish Energy Agency. The themes ranged from electric roads and battery research to the latest findings regarding fuel cells and electrically-operated agricultural machinery. It was not possible for anyone to attend all the sessions, but instead as a visitor it was necessary to concentrate on different subject areas.

The first day was mostly general. Peter Engdahl began by describing the requirements for successfully tackling the ambitious objective for the transport sector: 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2030 and a carbon-dioxide-neutral vehicle fleet by 2045.

The Swedish Energy Agency has chief responsibility for coordinating efforts regarding implementation of this conversion. Before the summer, the agency set out a strategic plan for this work together with five other agencies.

“We have set out a number of basic principles and almost 90 proposals and commitments within three areas in the main: transport-effective communities, fossil-free vehicles and renewable fuels. The strategy is not especially extensive; the idea is that it should be simple for as many people as possible to read it,” said Peter Engdahl.

The project continues until 2019 and the Swedish Energy Agency is now working on managing the commitments, holding discussions with the ministry and preparing for future assignments from the government.

“There are many conflicting objectives hindering this conversion. Effective means of control are also essential for managing the transition,” states Peter.
So what are the macroeconomic effects of a transition to a fossil-free vehicle fleet?

That was the first topic of the day, and Ann-Charlotte Mellquist from research institute RISE Viktoria took a look at this in more detail with the aid of a couple of different economic models. She divided up progress into three basic scenarios with varied technical solutions: biofuel, battery-based and fuel-cell-based. In the model, all scenarios accomplish the objective based on certain fundamental assumptions.

“What we can clearly see is that a conversion is good for employment, consumption and investment, particularly if you opt for the more technology-based scenarios. A conversion leads to more investment in new infrastructure and also imported fossil fuel being replaced by domestically-produced alternatives.

Whatever scenario is chosen, rapid development of new technology, new powertrains and also drop-in biofuels is required in order to cope with replacing oil,” said Ann-Charlotte Mellquist, who will present broader results later in the autumn.

One person who rejected the rapid electric car scenarios and went against the flow somewhat on the day was Bengt Johansson, professor at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) in Saudi Arabia. His talk was entitled “Rumours of the death of the internal combustion engine are substantially exaggerated”.

“Just over 99 per cent of all the 1.3 billion cars on the road today have internal combustion engines. Electrification is not about going over to purely electric cars but rather electrically-assisted cars,” said Bengt.

According to him, the great majority of cars in 2030 will be hybrid cars of some kind:
“Very few will be without an electric powertrain and very few will be without an internal combustion engine. Most cars will be hybrids,” he stated.

Another topical issue concerns driverless cars. Few can have escaped hearing about Tesla’s and Google’s tests in this field, and most large car companies are now involved in investigating new concepts. But what will autonomous cars mean for energy efficiency?

Björn Lindenberg from Volvo Cars reported on the initial trials conducted by the company together with Swedish Transport Administration to test this.

The project looked at this based on three parameters: vehicle technologies (car functions such as eco-driving, adapted components, etc.), traffic control (speed limits, route planning, platooning, etc.) and personal mobility (more car pools, increased travel, etc.).

“We have built a simulation environment based on the ring road in Gothenburg where we can control the traffic flows, speeds, etc. It is too early to draw any far-reaching conclusions, but we can see that adaptive cruise control reduces fuel consumption by 6 per cent, without changing speed.
Our testing will now continue.”

“We would like to expand to more environments and seek out new partners,” Björn Lindenberg concluded his speech, and added that the greatest potential with regard to efficiency involves personal mobility.

And that’s exactly where Jesper Johansson, operational project manager of the project Hållbar mobilitet (Sustainable Mobility), came in. This is a project within the framework of A Challenge from Sweden, which is the Swedish Energy Agency’s platform for open innovation development. The purpose of the project is to develop “fossil-free, seamless and energy-efficient mobility as a service for personal transport needs”.

“Basically it’s about opening up possibilities for attractive and sustainable mobility, which in the long run will help to make the transport sector fossil-free by 2045 at the latest.

There are a number of possibilities thanks to digitisation. We can link up so much and control using sensors. Now it’s about coming up with smart solutions and new business models,” said Jesper Johansson.

At present the project is in its starting phase, involving needs formulation. Then comes innovation competitions and tests next year, before the solutions are ready to be implemented around 2020.

After 15-minute talks it was time for short pitches. Five people were given one minute each to pitch an energy-efficient innovative idea for the transport sector. This included, for example, Thomas Nyström from RISE Viktoria presenting a future-adaptive design model for vehicles, where the idea is that the cars gradually get better during the period of use (rather than vice versa, as is usually the case). Felix Haberl from Powercell described the benefits from combining fuel cells in electric vehicles to extend their range, while Patrik Dahlkvist from Insplorion explained how to get more from a battery by governing the battery effect better through control of the chemical signals in the battery.

This article was written by Johan Wickström, and is taken from www.energivarlden.se, the Swedish Energy Agency website.