Transportation: part of the problem or part of the solution?

Solar Impulse and ABB are both promoting electric transport: in the air, on the ground and across the sea.

On Thursday, the 23rd of June, Bertrand Piccard and Solar Impulse successfully made a historic, zero-fuel flight across the Atlantic, from New York to Seville, Spain.

The flight comes at a time when reports indicate that transportation is a major culprit when it comes to global greenhouse emissions, and when exhaust fumes continue to send thick smog and fine particle pollution into the atmosphere of some of the world’s major cities.

However, if we take a glass half full approach, we could argue that implementing, on a large scale, technologies that make vehicles more efficient – therefore using less fuel – and promoting electric transport would go a long way to solving the problem. And it isn’t as if these technologies don’t exist. Indeed, ABB has a wide portfolio of products and services already on the market. Government legislation could also see clean transport solutions rapidly adopted on a wide scale. For example, Norway has announced commitments to move to electric vehicles on the road by 2025. Such announcements will stimulate innovation, as manufacturers see the business case for putting in place the products and infrastructure needed to make this huge switch realizable.

Solar Impulse is a very visible ambassador for sustainable transport. Not only does it show that an electric plane can fly for long distances (the flight from Japan to Hawaii took over 117 hours!), it also makes us think about the source of the energy used to power electric vehicles. In the case of Solar Impulse, it is the energy of the sun which, although intermittent, is nevertheless used so efficiently that the daylight hours are enough to both keep the plane in the hour and provide enough stored energy to enable it to stay airborne during the night.

Now ABB is embarking on its own electric adventure! We’re putting an electric car through its paces on a journey from Seville Airport (the current home of Solar Impulse) to Germany, heading through France, Monaco, Italy and Switzerland. Along the way, our team will visit ABB sites that show how we’re doing on the ground what Solar Impulse is doing in the air. These include a factory in Zaragoza making transformers for the solar industry, a site in Marseille showcasing the many products and services that are making the marine industry more efficient, and a fast charger factory in Northern Italy.

You can follow the progress of the car and the team at or on Twitter and Facebook by searching for #evroadtrip


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About the author

Conor Lennon

Formerly a broadcaster and communications consultant, I am currently based in Zurich as Global Special Projects Manager for ABB. I like to write about issues surrounding technology, sustainable development and society.
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