Road Transport Decarbonisation: Back to the Future

There is a potentially revolutionary solution for decarbonising vehicular transport beyond the current emphasis on battery powered electric or hydrogen fuelled cars. Tesla recently demonstrated a simulation of an electric vehicle that sandwiched graphene nanotubes (GNTs), which are electrode supercapacitors, between two Faraday cages for the roof and the inside of a car. By doing so, the car itself becomes the battery.

 

Actor(s)

Major transport manufacturing companies such as Tesla

 

Trigger (intervention)

Lowering the cost of making graphene nanotubes from a current high to a low would be a 'sensitive intervention point'. Researchers have already developed `graphene in a flash from plastic waste which could lower graphene prices dramatically.

 

Criticality

The transport sector urgently needs a low carbon solution. GNT technology could solve many existing problems such as range and recharge rate for cars.

 

Feedback Dynamics

Experience curves, Wright or Moore’s law for the GNT tubes in particular. Further feedbacks or spillover effects going from advances in road transport to other forms of transport - rail systems not yet electrified could have diesel trains replaced by GNT-supplied pure electric ones without having to electrify the enitre line (very expensive); and given GNTs are so light, we could even possibly see short-haul GNT electric aircraft.

 

Timescale and scaleability

By not demonising road transport for its CO2 footprint, GNT vehicles would allow old cars to be replaced at a rate matching the extension of renewables needing increased storage. This could be quite rapid as the basics of battery-electric cars are established, so employment can be maintained in vehicle manufacture and all its ancillary industries as well as new graphene-based ones, which would be especially beneficial for the first producers who could create large export markets.

 

Resistance

 

Author

Prof. David Hendry

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