The future of mobility is electric

Ulrich Spiesshofer

The technologies necessary for sustainable transport solutions are already available today.

Reducing vehicle emissions would make a significant contribution to climate goals. The technologies necessary for sustainable transport solutions are already available today.

Maybe you haven’t heard of Jean-Éric Vergne. But if you have any interest in electric cars, you might know he’s the current leader in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship series.

The enthusiasm for the world’s first fully electric motor racing series is one of the reasons why ABB became the title sponsor of the series at the beginning of the year. The ABB FIA Formula E Championship represents the future of mobility: clean, quiet, advanced technology, combined with power, speed and lots of fun.

We are supporting and driving e-mobility because it has enormous potential to improve our environment. Cars, trains and planes account for a quarter of global energy consumption and approximately the same proportion of emissions. That is a massive burden – but at the same an opportunity to limit our impact on the climate.

Technology for the future

Today, experts no longer discuss whether e-mobility will catch on – only when. We have already laid the groundwork for e-mobility. ABB equips trains with drive systems that generate electricity when travelling downhill; we deliver electric buses for public transport that can be recharged at stops in just 20 seconds; and we equip ocean-going tankers with electrical systems that reduce fossil fuel consumption by more than 40 percent.

A wide range of electric vehicles is already available on the market, and more are coming. Soon they will match conventional vehicles when it comes to performance and comfort, and their higher purchase prices will be offset by their lower operating costs. It is now up to industries, infrastructure providers and policy makers to keep pace with developments and facilitate the transition to e-mobility.

The road to e-mobility

To enable a decisive shift to e-mobility, a number of preconditions need to be met. First, we need more electric vehicles. In 2017, there were 1.5 million electric cars registered worldwide. To meet increasing demand, the big automobile manufacturers are investing billions in the conversion of their product ranges and production facilities. Analysts predict that by 2040 more electric cars will be produced worldwide than petrol or diesel vehicles. Volvo has announced that as of 2019 only electric vehicles will be rolling off its production line.

At the same time, the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles must be expanded. Practicable solutions are available, as was impressed upon the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto recently at the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair. The latest generation of ABB’s rapid-charging stations can charge electric cars with enough energy for a 200 kilometer range in just eight minutes. ABB has the largest installed base of charging stations worldwide, with more than 6,500 fast-charging stations. But this is only the beginning: in China, the number of charging points increased by 51 percent last year alone; in Europe, several countries have announced initiatives to promote e-mobility; and the US has launched the largest e-mobility infrastructure project to date, known as “Electrify America”, in which numerous rapid-charging stations from ABB, for example, are aimed at facilitating the shift toward an emissions-free transport future.

Beyond the charging infrastructure, e-mobility requires a transformation of the energy system – an Energy Revolution, in fact – both to ensure that the grid is able to cope with the increased demand for power and to expand the contribution of renewables (otherwise we will simply be using fossil energy to power our new electric vehicles).

As the global leader in power grids, ABB is leading this transformation through the application of advanced digital technologies and increasingly artificial intelligence. With our expertise in high-voltage transmission, we are integrating renewables into the grid by enabling the transport of vast amounts of clean energy with minimal losses. At the same time, our ABB AbilityTM digital offering collects and analyzes consumption data to provide for needs-based production and distribution of electrical energy.

Investment in the future

When we take stock of e-mobility today, we have every reason to be optimistic. Progress in terms of vehicle development, infrastructure and the transformation of the energy system is accelerating measurably. What lies ahead will continue to demand a great deal of innovative strength and a willingness to invest – but ultimately it will pay off with the most valuable return imaginable: the switch to sustainable transport will make a decisive contribution to running the world without consuming the earth.

Learn more about ABB and sustainable transport

About the author

Ulrich Spiesshofer

Ulrich Spiesshofer is the President and CEO of the ABB Group.
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