Transport: The Missing Link in Decarbonization

Transport: The Missing Link in Decarbonization

The use of fossil fuels in transportation has not been addressed realistically, even in Germany.

Germany has reduced CO2 emissions in its transport sector by only 0.6% since 1990, which is virtually nothing.

There is great media coverage and publicity over battery powered vehicles (BEVs), but BEVs are not a significant factor in Germany, or virtually anywhere else in the world. Sales of BEVs have been around 1% of total light vehicle sales everywhere BEVs are available, except in China where sales have been somewhat higher, i.e., 4.2% in 2018.

When driving in Germany, one sees a constant procession of trucks on the roads everywhere. One gets the impression that trucks are far more prevalent on german highways than here in the states.

Germany has targeted a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions in the transport sector by 2030, i.e., 11 years from now, which will entail a complete shift to battery powered trucks by then.

Germany has now installed a test area 6 miles long on one section of the autobahn near Frankfurt where a catenary has been installed for recharging batteries while trucks are moving under the catenary and connected to it.

Trucks using overhead catenary in Germanys
Courtesy of Siemens

Siemens reports that trucks can drive under the catenary at speeds of up to 55 mph to recharge their batteries. They claim a 40 ton truck can save around 35 cents per mile on the cost of fuel.

Aside from the higher cost of trucks using batteries, the cost of building the catenary system will be very large. In fact the Siemens website says, “Considering the high investment costs, it is unlikely that the concept of the eHighway will be implemented nationwide any time soon.”

The introduction of the 6 mile catenary near Frankfurt received a lot of media coverage, but the fact is, it’s merely good propaganda, a concept that won’t be built except possibly in special situations, such as feeder roads to port areas.

Since it won’t be built, the question remains: How will Germany cut its CO2 emissions from the transport sector 40% by 2030?

And, for that matter, how will other countries cut their CO2 emissions in their transportation sectors.

Trying to cut CO2 emissions at great cost to an economy is foolish, especially since increases in atmospheric CO2 levels have only a small effect on temperatures when compared with natural causes. See, False Claims of Impending Disaster

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4 Replies to “Transport: The Missing Link in Decarbonization”

  1. The electric power catenary is an interesting idea. We’ve used overhead wires for municipal busses. Why should it be expensive?

    Another approach for heavy trucks is hydrogen fuel powering fuel-cells for electricity for wheel drive motors. This would also allow trucks to be on or off the (cheaper) catenary power source. Please read extract from article below.

    Future carbon-neutral onboard liquid fuels may be based on hydrogen from splitting water. Electrolyzing technology such as CuCl catalysis at 530°C will be able to use liquid heat and electricity to make hydrogen at a conversion efficiency near 50%. At 3 cents/kWh for LF electricity, future hydrogen would cost 1.6 cents per megajoule — the same as energy from $2/gallon gasoline. However the fuel efficiency of a hydrogen-fuel-cell powered electric car is twice that of a gasoline-engine powered car, cutting the fuel cost per mile in half. Trucking ventures such as Nikola are already exploring hydrogen fuel.

    More at

    • Thanks.
      Interesting comments.
      Hydrogen has been a controversial subject for many years, with the primary issue being the cost of producing hydrogen using electrolysis.
      Transporting hydrogen has also been an issue due to losses when it’s transported in luiquified form. The use of copper pipelines for transport has also been an issue.
      Storage in high pressure containers on vehicles has also been an issue, with some scientists attempting to use solid forms to absorb and release hydrogen.
      There is a proposal in Europe to use hydrogen for half its energy supply, so the issue will remain front and center.
      The European proposal is based on using renewables to genertae the elctricity for electrolysis, and this seems somewhat farfetched for several reasons.
      The Thorcon proposal is an alternative that needs to be evaluated.