From race tracks around the world to bus routes and highways, a new generation of electric vehicles is accelerating sustainable mobility and driving new solutions to address environmental problems and halt climate change.
“We’re on a journey of powering the planet without consuming it,” says Eric Deschenes, country managing director and head of electrification business at ABB Canada, part of Zurich-based ABB Group, a technology leader that is driving the digital transformation of industries. “As a good corporate citizen, we want to undertake solutions that reduce CO2, and the electrification of transportation is one way we’re doing that.”
Transforming the various modes of transportation from internal combustion engines to electric motors spells tremendous victories in the fight against climate change, says Mr. Deschenes.
Today, vehicles powered by traditional combustion engines contribute about 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In Canada, transportation accounts for close to 26 per cent of total GHG emissions, according to the federal government agency Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Electric vehicles (EVs) present a solution that more and more Canadians are embracing. Last year saw more than 93,000 EVs hit the road in the country – a 90 per cent increase from the previous year. EV sales also jumped 125 per cent in the same period.
The story is similar at the global level. In 2018, total EV sales around the world increased by almost 65 per cent from the previous year to 2.1 million units, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Edison Electric Institute.
While EVs represent only a tiny fraction of vehicles on the planet today, innovations by leading industry players such as ABB are further accelerating the adoption of electric-powered transportation.
“Some of the most significant innovations in EVs focus on charging technology,” says Stephanie Medeiros, a global account manager at ABB who oversees partnerships at ABB Formula E, the world’s first fully electric international motorsport race series. “From cars to buses and even trucks, we’re seeing important advances in EV chargers.”
Examples of these advances include ABB’s new 350-kilowatt chargers that top up EV batteries in less than eight minutes, says Ms. Medeiros. The company also recently introduced 600-kilowatt chargers for buses.
“They can charge a bus within seconds,” she says. “As we see EVs with bigger batteries and longer driving range enter the market, the ability to charge quickly becomes even more imperative.”
ABB’s innovations are part of a growing global movement to reduce carbon emissions through EV initiatives. In Canada, many large cities in virtually every province have launched pilot projects to electrify buses.
A number of national projects are also underway through the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC), a Toronto- and Montreal-based organization that works to advance next-generation mobility and transportation technologies across Canada.
These projects include a multi-year trial of about 10 electric buses, with a goal of determining the best ways to integrate these buses into mass transit routes and addressing critical factors such as route selection, fuelling station locations and fuel supply network design.
CUTRIC also recently rolled out a demonstration and trial to support the development of technologies for standardized charging of battery electric buses.
“Right now there are multiple types of plugs for electric vehicles, and this is hampering adoption because costs are higher when there is more than one standard technology for charging,” says Mr. Deschenes. “This CUTRIC project is the first in the world to focus on standardization and interoperability of charging technologies, and the results are being closely watched by other organizations and countries around the world.”
EVs are also catching international attention at ABB Formula E events, which take place at world capitals such as Paris, London, Seoul and Jakarta. But clocking in the fastest laps isn’t the only goal at ABB Formula E, says Ms. Medeiros.
“One of the special things about the ABB Formula E is it’s the test bed for new EV technology,” she says. “Majority of the big manufacturers – including Porsche and Mercedes – are there, and this is where they’re designing the most leading-edge EVs and pushing the technology to the limit. Majority of the races are on city streets, which allows the design teams to gather valuable performance data that they can use to improve their design for high-performance and mass market EVs.”
At race tracks and beyond, collaborative partnerships are critical to the future of EVs – and of this planet, says Ms. Medeiros.
“If you want to scale up electrification of transportation, partnerships are definitely crucial,” she says. “All the different stakeholders, from manufacturers to transit authorities to utilities and policy-makers, need to get involved to help facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles.”
Mr. Deschenes says there also needs to be greater public awareness of how EVs can move the needle on climate change, and what’s required to make a real difference.
“People want to be green, and they’re ready for electrified transportation,” he says. “The technology breakthrough has happened, and we’re now in the era of social acceptability of EVs and deployment.”
Learn about ABB innovations at GLOBE 2020 including a GLOBE Forum session about autonomous, shared, connected and electric mobility.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.