A year ago, the media reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a significant reduction in CO2 emissions thanks to the various stages of confinement in all major cities around the world. In fact, the decrease in activity led to a 5% reduction in global carbon dioxide gas emissions when compared to the previous year. However, if we aim to reach the objectives set in the fight against climate change, we’re going to have to increase this number.
In this article we discussed the problems that were brought to light by these factors and raised some possible solutions such as the use of electric cars, one of the keys to reducing pollution in the future and promoting a more efficient means of transport. We know that electric vehicles will require more connectivity and smart solutions. This means that new, innovative proposals will be needed to answer all the questions these vehicles may raise. In fact, electric cars are the starting point for a much larger paradigm shift that will involve modifying and adapting an entire mobility infrastructure so that it’s capable of meeting the needs of both the vehicle and the consumer.
Clearly, they way to go is by adapting cities so they can accommodate the electric car without any limitations. At the infrastructure level, deployment of the electric car is quite demanding, which is why it is necessary to raise issues such as expanding the charging network – one of the key points. Although in Spain the installation of publicly accessible charging points is increasing progressively, the process isn’t widespread enough to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles. For widespread use of the electric car to become a reality, there must be an efficient development plan for recharging infrastructures. There needs to be guaranteed access to electricity in every area, and for every type of consumer. This development plan should focus primarily on installing charging points for both public and private use.
If there’s an effective development plan with guarantees for those consumers who are increasingly aware of climate change, they’ll be less reluctant to change cars, seeing more positives than negatives when it comes to the electric car. If polluting vehicles are beginning to be denied access to large cities, consumers will be forced, sooner or later, to adapt to the new regulations. But will it be possible to reach everyone? Those who can’t afford a new car, or don’t yet have the necessary facilities for unlimited travel with an electric car, will have to look for new forms of transport. One option could be a combination of combustion cars with public transport in the most central areas of the city, a measure that would reduce CO2 emissions.
Challenges and solutions
The main challenges posed by the use of electric vehicles relate to charging networks, as we have seen, but also to the capacity of batteries and their life cycle. To solve these problems, promising innovation projects are emerging around the world that will undoubtedly facilitate the widespread adoption of this means of transport. Fermata Energy, for example, is a start-up that has been selected for the Google for Startups Accelerator: Climate Change, thanks to its innovative two-way loading system. This technology allows vehicles not only to receive electricity from the grid, but also to feed it back into it. In this way, electric cars become electrical storage systems and contribute to improving the storage capacity of the electricity grid. They also help solve network stability problems, which are the main challenges posed by the use of renewable energies. Another innovative charging-related proposition comes from GBatteries, an Ottawa-based start-up that uses artificial intelligence, electrochemistry, signal processing and high-power electronics technology to charge lithium-ion batteries in just a few minutes, without affecting their lifespan. Founded in 2014, it has already caught the attention of Silicon Valley investors and secured funding from entities such as Airbus Ventures, Initialized Capital, Plug and Play, SV Angel and Y Combinator, among others. By preventing batteries from being damaged, this method prolongs their life and solves the biggest environmental problem posed by electric vehicles, which is the depletion of minerals such as cobalt or nickel, the main components of batteries. There is also a young Swiss start-up involved in this field, akksel, which offers circular-economy solutions that connect users and suppliers for the recycling and reuse of batteries and their components.
An ever-closer reality
But are we really determined to move forwards with this? The answer is yes. And that’s especially true if we think about the consumer and the companies that will lead the transition by creating new technologies that will solve these problems posed by the adoption of electric vehicles. This new paradigm will require the deployment of new technologies that haven’t been developed yet. In all likelihood, it’ll be the start-ups that lead the change.
The Collider is a venture-building programme that works hard to bridge the gap between science, corporates and entrepreneurship. This innovation project encourages tech-transfer initiatives to connect science and entrepreneurial talent and create disruptive technology-based start-ups. The Collider is powered by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, a tech-focused initiative that aims to drive the digital transformation of society to help improve people’s lives globally.