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SnippETS for 18 April 2018

Welcome to our latest SnippETS newsletter. This week we start with a new announcement from the International Maritime Organisation that is sending waves across the shipping industry. Then we seek answers to some of the biggest questions when it comes to electric and autonomous vehicles. Finally, we finish up this week’s stories by giving you an update on the war on plastic, including an interesting story about packaging made from fungi.

In the news this week, the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) has agreed to carbon emission reductions of 50% on 2008 levels by 2050. This won’t be enough to get to the 2C goal set by the Paris Accord – a goal of zero emissions would be required for this, but it is a good start. However, the shipping industry itself may not be happy about this.

In Norway, they have been trying to overcome the shipping emissions issue, with an electric ferry being used since 2015, and expectations that 12 will be in use by the end of this year, and all ferries will be electric (or hybrid for longer journeys) by 2023. This March dated article notes a shift in the mind-set of the IMO being needed – things are indeed changing rapidly in vehicle electrification worldwide!

Next up, we examine the increasingly challenging paradigm between automakers and ride hailing companies. With the future expected to have lower rates of personal auto-ownership and greater use of autonomous ride hailing services, automakers largest customers could well be the ride hailing companies themselves. The question for automakers is do they cater for this uncertain future by developing level-5 driverless cars or intentionally limit their features?

With China already the largest electric vehicle producer in the world, accounting for half of EVs sold annually, they now appear poised to enter the US auto-market. As part of an ambitious economic development campaign ‘Made in China 2025’, Chinese made EVs are expected to be available in the US in the next two-years. If the Chinese are able to penetrate the US automotive market as they did the US solar market, then we may be in for a sudden drop in prices for EVs over the next few years.

As we see more and more EVs on our roads, battery recharging and battery capacity are going to be increasingly a network issue. For example recharging a commercial EV bus fleet over a short time will require multiple fast chargers. Options include having a dedicated substation or local high capacity battery storage that could be charging when the buses are in use. Or the use of hydrogen fuel cells instead.

Another alternative would be to build infrastructure that allows vehicles to recharge as they go. Such a road has just opened outside Stockholm, Sweden, utilising two tracks of rail as the network and attached to vehicles by a movable arm. At a cost of NZ$1.7M per kilometre of road and installed in 50 metre sections, it allows EVs to carry less battery storage and also be levied for the electricity they use along the way.

Plastic’s reach is far and wide, back in the 1950’s when plastic use became popular, about 2 million tonnes was used per year. We are now at 330 million tonnes a year. Most plastic is not recycled and it’s ending up just about everywhere. Some we can see and some is so small there is a fair chance we have ingested it, but there is hope!

The race is on for innovations that could end plastic waste. New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, launched in 2017 has a prize pool of $2 Million as well as other incentives. Of course any winner is likely to garner a much bigger prize, saving the world from plastic waste!

Polystyrene is devastating to the environment, yet so much is used in packaging. Does it make sense to use something that is a non-sustainable, non-renewable, and heavily polluting and is not biodegradable (we thought not too!). Ikea is looking to use mushroom based packaging that will decompose in a garden in a matter of weeks. Hopefully “fungi packaging” will be replacing the need for polystyrene packaging soon!

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