Editor’s note: This article gives a short but accurate (I think) glimpse into the near future. While the wind industry is given brief mention, it will be a bigger player than some imagine.
Charlotte Hibbert, IDTechEx, Cambridge, UK
When the Mayor of London plans a ban on parking in all new apartment blocks, it is best not to assume, as many economic forecasters still do, that car sales will go on up forever. Factor in trials of autonomous taxi-buses from Switzerland to New Zealand and the rise in internet shopping using electric delivery vans. They are all going to hit car sales, including taxis. Bill Gates’ Belmont new city in Arizona is being based on more space-efficient, safer, less expensive alternatives to cars. Cleaner too. Even electric cars emit particulates from their tires.
Analysts IDTechEx finds that there are several other indicators of dramatic change in the land, water, and air vehicles increasingly made and operated by the same companies. The Chinese are clearer about this than most. They bottom fish in the West to get large brands headed for the rocks, those in denial about disruptive change, the latest example being targeting Fiat Chrysler. When successful, they inject massive funds to change direction. Volvo is an EV company now. They also buy small companies creating that disruption. Geely buying Volvo then the flying car company Terrafugia is an example of both. Terrafugia is also well advanced in the development of vertical takeoff personal aircraft and taxis. For all its appalling corporate management, Uber is another company seeing that change coming. Tesla too. Even if its kamikaze approach to finance kills it, others will continue its superb work. Airbus, Siemens, and Rolls Royce now develop a range-extended electric feeder aircraft with zero emission silent modes for 24-hour operation. See IDTechEx report, “Manned Electric Aircraft 2018-2028”.
In sad contrast, PSA Peugeot-Citroen is reportedly preparing to sue GM, claiming it was misled over its Opel and Vauxhall businesses when it bought them. It did not expect to be buying companies with inadequate programs to meet impending pollution laws. By contrast, Volkswagen has had the good fortune to be kicked in the right direction by diesel emission punishments and new management and they have even spotted another disruptive change of huge importance ten years from now. It is the Energy Independent Electric Vehicle EIEV that is pure electric but can bypass the charging stations and electricity utilities completely: it never plugs in. Its Audi has licensed the high-efficiency solar bodywork technology from Hanergy of China. Many others fail to appreciate the significance of one kilowatt from a car body that expands on parking.
Hanergy demonstrated EIEV solar cars in 2016 and few people noticed. Analysts IDTechEx wrote the annual report now called, “Energy Independent Electric Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2018-2028” and staged the world’s first conference on the subject, publicising how New Zealand launched a solar boat July 2017 that can power three houses on arrival, the Chinese are ahead of the Americans and Europeans in endurance of solar drones to beam the internet to everyone and how a US camper van now travels and cooks on sunshine alone.
Wind is important here too. An autonomous boat with a wind turbine and no solar will soon use its 70kW to cross the Atlantic rapidly, regardless of wind direction. Land vehicles and ships are using wind with solar. Airborne Wind Energy is moving from kites to tethered drones that can even take off in still weather to tap the four times stronger winds above conventional wind turbines that is more consistent. Significantly it is much stronger at night when solar is dead: the perfect partner. Here is a route to make the world’s filthiest vehicles zero emission – large ships each belching NOx, SOx and killer particulates equivalent to millions of cars. See the IDTechEx reports, “Airborne Wind Energy 2018-2028” and “Electric Boats and Ships 2018-2028”.
There is more. There are 110 projects for solar roads across the world and several research projects to make electricity from road movement, piezoelectric or electrodynamic, even one to tap surface heat. Even if only a minority succeed, we are facing elegantly self-powered dynamic charging of EVs as they go along and even automatic self-powered de-icing of roads so the vehicles are safe, power being boosted by solar tunnels and new types of roadside wind turbines. This is just a part of the astonishing off grid zero emission story.
For more see IDTechEx overview, Off-Grid, Zero-emission Electricity 2018-2038: New Markets, New Technology Roadmap” and drill down “Off Grid Electric Vehicle Charging 2018-2038”, “Electricity Generation by Urban Infrastructure: Zero Emission 2018-2050”. Moving with the times, the “IDTechEx Show!” 11-12 April Berlin with over 3000 paying delegates, over 250 presentations and over 220 exhibitors has added an Off Grid conference to its parallel two day conferences on electric vehicles, batteries and other complementary technologies.
All the new technologies are leading to another disruption most forecasters are sleeping through. The UN, WHO and others extrapolate to predict 80% of us living in cities in 2050 and that may indeed happen, but people are moving to cities to get jobs, communication, education and entertainment. Piece the above changes together and we get internet education and entertainment, continuous phone access and almost free electricity in the remotest countryside, which already has much cheaper accommodation. Remote regions get easy rapid access to cities and food grows even in beautiful wasteland. We’ll wait for the penny to drop on that one.