Living in a new world where in-person interactions have been drastically reduced has forced many companies across various industries to transform their business models more rapidly than one would have ever thought possible six months ago. The pace at which companies have scaled their online commerce platforms, curbside pickup and delivery businesses, and remote working capabilities has shown the technology to make tectonic shifts to the status quo can happen in record time.
With transportation needs shifting because of workers no longer being required to go to an office in a centralized district, the financial strain that will be placed on our cities’ mass transit systems will be huge. Coupled with the fact that many still view mass transit as unsafe because of many people in a small area point to a long recovery before we see crowded subway cars and buses again. Gathering with coworkers for lunch will no longer involve an elevator ride followed by a walk to a nearby restaurant. It will now consist of multiple people getting into their individual cars and meeting somewhere. Other tasks that may have been done on the way home by commuters will be short trips from home and back.
Those alone point to increases in dependence for personal vehicles but when you add in the increased demand for delivery services using light duty vehicles and ride sharing like Uber and Lyft, the potential increase in emissions could be huge. Studies already show that Uber and Lyft generate up to 50% more emissions than if that rider took themselves from point A to point B in their own vehicle. Because of this Lyft recently announced their goal of having 100% of their US “fleet” to be electric by 2030. Traditional delivery services like UPS and Amazon have already placed large orders for electric delivery vehicles however these orders still only represent a small percentage of their overall fleets. Short trips to the grocery store, to lunch, to get a haircut, to go to a place of worship, and the like, are all ideal for being able to say yes to becoming an EV owner.
However, to drive adoption of electric vehicles there needs to be a tremendous increase in charging infrastructure. Germany has recently announced a requirement that all gas stations to install an EV charging station thereby making charging locations equally as convenient as filling up with gasoline or diesel. Germany, also a large adopter of renewable energy, will be able to fulfill this increased electricity demand largely without increasing carbon emissions. In the US, renewable energy investment is projected to top fossil fuel exploration investment for the first time ever. While this is a good start, the amount of future investment needed to meet the goals set forth by many cities, states, and businesses has to keep increasing at a record pace.
The piece that ties this all together though is cost effective energy storage. Being able to build a coast to coast network whereby people don’t suffer “range anxiety” when thinking about taking a trip beyond their local grocery store will require that some charging stations exist in remote locations which may not have the necessary electrical infrastructure today. Also, to ease congestion on the electricity grid it may be necessary to switch between grid supplied power or power stored in batteries (or some other system) to allow for reliability of charging.
We have a once in a generation opportunity to reshape the future of transportation. Policymakers, traditional and non-traditional automakers, the private sector, and utility companies are all headed down this path already. We have proven that what seemed like monumental tasks in other industries where they were happy to settle for incremental change over the next many years was possible to effect step function type change in a matter of months. Global emissions are down leading us to see wildlife in new places, clear water where it had been dirty as long as anyone could remember, vegetation growing where it hadn’t in years and people breathing cleaner air. Let us not let this opportunity to keep a lid on those emissions slip away.
Director of C&I Business Development