Nadezhda Kosareva, CEO at Unitsky String Technologies Inc.
As the whole world continues to watch with bated breath for signs of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental concerns have faded into the background. While the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have enabled us to reduce the amount of hazardous emissions, ecologists to be worried that the situation will reverse after the pandemic.
Air pollution is a problem that should not be forgotten. Europe has fought against it for many year. Almost every city dweller breathes sky that is well outside the air quality limits of the World Health Organization. Air pollution increases the risk of diseases such as lung cancer, asthma and others. Environmental air pollution causes: 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016. How much is causing this problem and can new transport solutions improve the situation?
Fresh solutions for fresh air
Transport is often blamed for air pollution, and transport is indeed responsible for about 20% of global carbon emissions. Particular damage is caused by diesel engines, whose harmful emissions are almost half of deaths from transport-related air pollution. In cities, vehicles are taken into account important contribute to air pollution.
Reducing harmful traffic emissions is a crucial step to improve air quality in cities. Many politicians, activists, nonprofits and businesses are working to reverse this negative trend. Ideas include encouraging the move to electric cars, prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle traffic in city centers, switching to cleaner diesel engines and many others.
However, these measures may not be enough to significantly improve air quality in cities. We need new solutions and companies are the main sources for this kind of innovation. Companies working on integration biofuels in the transport sector, help improve public transport and encourage carpooling. Of course, the role of electric cars and public transport, which cause fewer harmful emissions, is also crucial.
Highly efficient electric transport
The situation can be improved by increasing the relevance of electric cars and other modes of transport and, in the long term, encouraging their widespread use. However, electrical solutions must be highly efficient and provide great performance in addition to low power consumption. Although electricity is recognized as the most sustainable fuel, its production from coal-fired power stations is often accompanied by severe air pollution.
One way to improve the carbon footprint of electric transport is to use steel wheels instead of rubber tires expel harmful substances during wear and production. Increasing transportation is another way to make it more efficient; when tracks avoid highways, they not only relieve the roads, but also avoid the creation of traffic jams, which: contribute a large number of harmful emissions. Moreover, due to the speed and affordability of passenger transport, such technologies can increase the role of public transport and thus reduce the number of cars on the road.
Cities need alternative forms of public transport. Look how successful electric buses turned out to be in Europe. Some cable car manufacturers are already reorienting from tourist transport to full passenger transport. There is also growing interest in other forms of electric transport via viaducts. Development or investment in this sector could become a promising trend. And the first company to offer market solutions that meet sustainability requirements will set the pace for the industry’s development for a long time to come.
The proactive use of high-tech solutions in passenger and freight transport can contribute to the fight for clean air, for example by reducing the number of ’empty’ kilometres. Trucks run empty 36% of the time in the US, 27% of the time in Europe and 40% of the time in Asia, wasting both money and carbon emissions.
There are now several apps that allow freight forwarders to optimize their routes by taking more orders or booking round trips to reduce empty miles. In addition, artificial intelligence can select or change the shortest relevant routes with data about traffic, weather, payload and other information. This one reduces fuel consumption as well as time spent in transportation, which further reduces emissions.
Why not also apply high-tech solutions in public transport? Companies like mine are working on automated control systems that would adjust the travel interval according to the amount of passenger traffic so that vehicles wouldn’t move when empty. Flexible travel intervals can reduce empty runs, lower operating costs and ultimately reduce harmful emissions. Companies that successfully develop such a solution could win lucrative government contracts.
Mobile apps can also help minimalize the number of cars on the road by encouraging carpooling and even hitchhiking. In some countries, cars with several passengers are allowed to drive in public transport lanes. Encouraging this type of travel will make roads less crowded and the air cleaner.
Congestion and air pollution are a growing problem for city administrators. However, business has something to offer to address these issues. The transformation of transport, especially urban public transport, can have a positive effect on air pollution. It is important to introduce and combine high-tech and innovative solutions developed by both the private and public sectors. Highly efficient transport overpasses and technologies to improve passenger traffic can help solve the problem of congestion, increase the use of public transport, reduce the vehicle-to-population ratio in cities and make the air cleaner. I encourage companies to start developing such solutions today or invest in these sectors for long-term success.