Moving more goods by water could reduce pressure on roads and cut emissions, yet Europe’s shipping industry is held back by labour shortages. Automated shipping – which would work in a similar way to self-driving cars – could help expand capacity but safety and regulatory hurdles remain.
Lithium-sulphur batteries, which are lighter and cheaper than today’s models, may be the next generation of power cells that we use in electric cars or mobile phones – if scientists can get them to last for longer.
By 2030, a fifth of the fuel that motorists put into the petrol tanks of their cars could be alcohol, according to research concluding that new petrol and ethanol blends can reduce carbon emissions from Europe’s transport sector with little additional cost to consumers.
In the zero-carbon cities of the future, commuting to work may take the form of hailing a driverless shuttle through an app which ferries you from your door to the nearest public transport terminal. In fact, autonomous shuttles have been in development in restricted areas for the past few years. So what will it take to make them part of our daily commute?
Delivering online shopping to people’s homes is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when deliveries fail and the journey needs to be repeated. Researchers are now re-thinking home deliveries to see if there is a better way of doing things, with ideas including robot couriers, jointly owned parcel lockers and an ‘Uber’ for parcels.
Across Europe’s cities, the demand for delivery services is increasing. But these deliveries affect urban life as they add to traffic congestion, noise and pollution and many cities are now trying out alternative modes of transport that could help.
How people and deliveries get to their final destination is currently making urban environments harder places to live, and cities need to solve this ‘last mile problem’ by using a combination of ‘carrot and stick’ measures, according to Karen Vancluysen, secretary general of Polis, a network of European cities and regions working on sustainable innovative transport solutions.
When it comes to planes cruising through the air, many of us are used to the idea of them flying on autopilot with little or no input from a human pilot as they travel from one destination to another. Landing a plane under autopilot, known as autoland, is a different matter. While some systems already exist, efforts are underway to improve them to enable safer landings.
An alternative aeroplane wing tip dubbed ‘new raked’ that would make flying more fuel efficient has been awarded one of four €7,000 first prizes at this year’s European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS).
Blending biofuels and kerosene to create greener jet fuel has shown promising results in test flights, but more work needs to be done to ensure biofuels burn cleanly and can be produced in a large-scale, low-cost way, says Dr Chong Cheng Tung, associate professor at the China-UK Low Carbon College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
To protect populations and predict future migration, models mustn’t ignore human behaviour.
Part of the challenge is programming the actions of molecular machines and reducing the waste from chemical triggers that get them to work.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.