It’s more economical, sustainable and proven to be better for the environment. Here we take a look at why the future lies in going electric and what travel innovations we expect to see.
As traditional energy sources begin to deplete and prices rise, there is a global drive to find more sustainable, greener alternatives. Globalisation has led to increased worldwide travel and the need for global connections, so here we consider the energy challenges now facing the world of business travel and how the solution may be in going electric.
In a generic sense, the advantages of going electric are simple:
- Quiet and quick
- Re-usable – recharging
- Cheaper to operate
- More environmentally friendly
The current challenges, however, include:
- The limited range of options
- Longer re-charge times (over a petrol fill up for example)
- Higher cost (initial purchase and less products)
- Lack of choice
The majority of these challenges can be overcome with time, innovation and investment. Once a few market leaders have gone electric, entry to the market becomes easier and economies of scale make going electric much more accessible. Looking at the different areas of business travel, we can see the impact of going electric.
Great Britain has enjoyed electric trains since as early as 1883 with the first pleasure railway launching in Brighton. Since then, electric has evolved as the top railway power source, with 60% of networks operating off electric in 2006.
Throughout 2017, the Great Western Railway (GWR) has invested £7.5 billion on the electrification of services from London to Oxford, Swansea, Bristol and Newbury. Not only will this be a greener service, going electric also enables GWR to increase capacity up to 25%, shorten journey times by up to 20 minutes and run more services (54 more trains between London and Bristol). Click Here
There are alternatives to electric such as battery-powered passenger trains as tested back in 2015. As yet though these have proved to have too many challenges (such as charging times) to compete with the traditional electric network. So for now, the future remains electric for rail with further investment on the cards.
According to the Air Transport Action Group, in 2015:
- 3.57 billion passengers were carried by the world’s airlines
- 781 million tonnes of CO2 were produced through air travel (Click Here)
In 2016, around a third of airlines’ operating costs was spent on fuel. As fuel prices continue to rise, so do these operating costs. This is a big incentive for airlines to find available, accessible alternatives.
In September, it was announced that easyJet has partnered up with US firm Wright Electric to build battery powered aircraft for flights under two hours. EasyJet could be flying planes powered by batteries rather than petroleum to destinations including Paris and Amsterdam within a decade.
Some of the larger manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus have revealed plans to re-conceptualise today’s airplane. Boeing has created the SUGAR Volt concept plane which uses a hybrid of fuel and electricity much like the new hybrid cars.
Airbus has also revealed a battery-powered airplane called an E-Fan – commuter planes. There is a lot at stake in the race to innovate: the electric aircraft market is projected to reach over $22 billion in the next fifteen years.
Pollution from cars is high on the global and UK green agenda, especially in central London where emissions are reaching toxic levels. Every area of the capital breaches global standards for PM2.5 pollution particles, with most areas exceeding levels by at least 50%. (Click Here)
Such is the issue that from 23rd October 2017, drivers of more polluting cars will have to pay a new T-Charge £10 levy to drive in the capital in an effort to reduce fumes from specific models, especially diesel cars.
This will affect ground transportation suppliers including taxis, transfers, buses, chauffeurs and car rentals. An investment into electric or hybrid cars, although expensive to purchase at the offset could result in savings and a more sustainable model over the longer term.
Electric vehicle numbers are low but interest is high and rising – expect to see significant growth investment across the ground transportation industry.
An example of this is the Tesla range of electric cars developed by Elon Musk. On the market since 2003, his attempts at a mainstream electric car have been a slow burner. That said, perseverance is beginning to pay off as Tesla officially moved into profit this August. A sign of things to come…
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF ELECTRIC
It is clear that whilst electric has been around a long time for rail, it is still in it’s infancy for cars and aircraft. Adoption has largely been delayed due to cost, usability and choice.
The current drivers for sustainability and greener modes of transport are sure to highlight the opportunities in electric travel – but are they enough to make electric mainstream?
If governments are truly behind reducing our carbon footprint, then support should be offered for those innovators finding alternative energy sources. Perhaps these latest commitment is a sign of things to come:
The first deal limiting greenhouse gases from international aviation was sealed after years in the making. ‘From 2020, any increase in airline CO2 emissions will be offset by activities like tree planting, which soak up CO2’. (Click Here)
There is already significant investment from the government to start building the electric car infrastructure – a commitment of £2.5 billion announced this month. (Click here)