Autonomous vehicles and the renewable energy revolution

26 February, 21

Autonomous vehicles, which will be predominantly electric, will quickly become adopted in the freight industry because of their running cost savings when they reach full autonomy, and will gradually become acknowledged as safer than vehicles driven by humans alone.

Where there is currently an acute shortage of HGV drivers, autonomous vehicles will solve the problem, although for some years there will also need to be a person in the driving position.

Freight vehicles have to comply with strict weight limitations, so their batteries energy density is more commercially critical than on other electric vehicles. The more energy you can store for a given weight, the more earning cargo weight that can be carried. Additionally, the more energy that can be stored the longer the range of the vehicle.

Consequently, where an electric car battery could comfortably be on the road for eight years, an HGV battery may need to retire after less than half of that period due to its energy density decreasing to uneconomic levels. This would be environmentally unacceptable were it not for the fact that the battery can go on to a second life in an Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to store and supply energy from renewable sources.

The roof of the distribution centres which the freight vehicles visit will be covered with solar panels, using the sun’s rays to create energy which will be stored in the centre’s Energy Storage System (BESS). While loading and unloading, the vehicle batteries will be charged from the energy created and stored on site.

It’s the sort of virtuous circle the green lobby has been wanting to see for years and it’s vital to explain the role of autonomous, electric vehicles in making it happen.

Once made commercially viable by the freight industry this approach will be adopted at a household level, and the energy market will change forever.

Anticipating concern about both autonomous vehicles and the environmental credentials of electric batteries, it’s vital to show that we have the technology to keep the roads safe and extend the life of batteries. It needs to be widely understood that this isn’t a vanity project but a key component of the green revolution.

Image: Shutterstock

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