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Energy hierarchy and transport transformation

Energy hierarchy and transport transformation

The Future Energy focus areas reflect the energy hierarchy. Transport will be ‘lean’ (minimising energy demand), ‘clean’ (energy-efficient and low emission) and ‘green’ (intelligent use of renewable energy and technologies).

The transformation of the transport sector to net zero emissions rests on two pillars:

  1. The mobility transformation is about changing how people get around. The goal is efficiency – decreasing overall energy consumption in the transport sector without restricting individual mobility by reducing demand and improving efficiency.
  2. The energy transformation is about the energy used to fuel transport. One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce emissions from transport is converting vehicles that run on fossil fuels to vehicles that run on renewable electricity generated by zero emissions sources like wind and solar.

Lean: reduce demand

Reducing demand eliminates the need for energy in the first place. The challenge is to reduce demand for high energy consumption and high emission transport without restricting individual mobility. People want to be mobile because they cannot meet all of their needs in one place. The number of kilometres travelled is not the key measure of mobility. Mobility can be associated with long or short journeys and different transport modes. It can require much effort or little. It can result in high emissions or none.

Transport energy demand is strongly influenced by urban form. Energy consumption per capita rises proportionally as city density falls because of longer transport distances and reliance on private transport. A dense urban structure with mixed uses supports demand reduction as it involves shorter travel distances and encourages active transport such as walking and cycling.

Integrating land use and transport planning provides possibilities for people to satisfy their mobility needs without making long trips using motorised transport. Future Transport sets out how the NSW Government is integrating land use and transport planning to support community safety, health and wellbeing, and enhance community assets and local character.

Demand reduction can also be achieved through behavioural changes; for example, not making a journey and conducting a meeting virtually instead. The dramatic increase in people working remotely during COVID-19 has signalled long term opportunities to reduce the number of days with a commute.
 

Clean: improve efficiency

The energy efficiency of transport is the distance travelled by passengers or freight divided by the total energy used for the transport.

The objective is to improve efficiency, decreasing final energy consumption in the transport sector without restricting individual mobility.

Mode shift to more efficient forms of transport is one way of improving efficiency. For example, public transport is a more efficient form of motorised passenger transport than a single occupancy passenger internal combustion engine vehicle.

Mode shift also has a role to play in freight transport. Rail freight is particularly energy efficient because of the high load factor, however, its flexibility is limited. A sophisticated logistics network, including multimodal logistics centres, can help to shift freight to more efficient modes of transport.

The transition to electric vehicles can also deliver significant efficiency gains. Conventional internal combustion engines only convert about 12 to 30 per cent of the energy stored in fuel to power at the wheels. Over 60 per cent of in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle’s fuel energy is wasted as heat.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are significantly more efficient than internal combustion engines. A BEV drive system is 60 per cent to 73 per cent efficient, depending on drive cycle. However, if the energy recaptured from regenerative braking is included, BEVs are 77 to 100 per cent more efficient7.

BEVs also have zero emissions of traditional urban pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and GHGs from the tail pipe. However, they are not net zero until their electricity is generated using renewable energy.
 

Green: Renewable Energy

Net zero transport requires net zero energy.

Reducing demand will not eliminate the need for motorised vehicles. Efficiency improvements will not result in net zero emissions while the energy is from non-renewable sources. To achieve net zero emissions, the transport sector will need to transition to renewable energy.

Renewable electricity is currently the only mature renewable energy with the potential to power transport at scale. It can be deployed either directly (for example, battery cars, electric trains) or in the form of other energy carriers (such as hydrogen). Direct use of electricity is the preferred option where feasible as it is the most efficient use of energy. There are potentially significant energy losses when converting to other carriers such as hydrogen.

Hydrogen has some advantages over direct use of electricity, particularly its flexibility, which is on par with traditional hydrocarbon based fuels. Hydrogen can be viewed as a potential replacement for diesel in many applications. When it is produced using renewable energy or processes, hydrogen becomes a way of storing and transporting renewable energy for use at a later time. Although hydrogen is in its infancy in the market as a transportation fuel, government and industry are working toward clean, economical, and safe hydrogen production and distribution for widespread use in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Light-duty FCEVs are now available in limited quantities to the domestic consumer market and around the world. The market is also developing for buses, material handling equipment (such as forklifts), ground support equipment, medium and heavy-duty vehicles, and stationary applications.

7 https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/atv-ev.shtml

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