The Green Corridor: Predictions Are In The Green!
The Green Corridor: Predictions Are In The Green!
by Timothy Foote, Founder of Susymbio
Last year at this time, I sat down with my crystal ball to try and sort out some indicators for people to see that a “green” future is in the works. One year seemed like something doable in terms of prognostication. It is that time of year for me to see how my predictions panned out and make some new ones!
So for 2023 I have some things for all of us to look for. When you see these predictions coming true, then you know we are making progress towards a green future.
Air and Ocean Infrastructure
I start warming my crystal ball with infrastructure. The significance of expanding air and ocean, sustainable fuel capacity in our region cannot be stressed enough. Singapore is one of the largest fuelling stations of the world (over 20% of ship fuelling happens here), so capacity for sustainable fuels is critical for global sustainability efforts.
On the air side, our top airports of Asia increasingly needs to support not only regional needs, but also global ones. Infrastructure takes time to get into place, and several companies in 2022 have been busy doing just that. In Q1, 2023for example an expanded Neste Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) refinery will be coming online in Singapore. In 2023 as well I predict that Japan will put into action efforts to rapidly increase their production capacity for SAF fuels.
For ocean fleets, 2022 saw much progress in technologies to improve sailing efficiencies and improve fuel efficiency. 2022 also saw the major ship lines come out with their decarbonisation strategies to get to zero emissions by 2050. Now the infrastructure needs to start being built for those targets. There are several emerging fuels in competition for future ship designs and they will all require different infrastructure to support refuelling. I am hopeful that 2023 will press critical ports in our region to firm up plans for alternative fuels infrastructure.
EV Charging Infrastructure
2022 did see increasing numbers of charging stations, but the traditional filling stations with EV charging points are not seeing queues of cars waiting for power in the Asia Pacific. A reason for this is the way charging is evolving in a completely different way from how petroleum retail distribution developed. Information on where and how to charge is therefore becoming the realm of apps development.. Because charging stations are actually simpler to install than petroleum stations, the locations are not necessarily obvious to the public. There are no giant signs on the road for instance. Convenience stores are not automatically attached. Access is not even universally available when there is a charging station setup. In the US for instance only Tesla cars can charge at a Tesla charging station.
I see 2023 as a year where more and more marketing and technology development is going to be done on the charging experience. More apps for sure, but then there should be ideas on how to attract cars to your location to charge. Will there be charging clubs? Will there be franchises popping up?
Solar Power Expansion
IIn 2022 I predicted that you should notice solar panels more often. Indeed on my trips around Singapore I did notice more and more panels going up. There are some glaring public areas which I feel are screaming for solar panel installation like the hundreds of kilometers of exposed canal areas. Covering canals not only provides for increased area for energy generation, but also prevents water loss through evaporation. For 2023, I am predicting more coverage to be noticeable on warehouses and buildings, but I’ll hold off my hope for canal coverage for later.
Taxis and Passenger Vehicles
2022 was the first year I rode in a Hyundai fully EV car.. Grab rides for a few years now have had BYD EV vehicle, but I was excited that for the first time there were multiple EV manufacturers involved with the same taxi/ride share fleets. 2022 saw logistics and transport news full of investment, expansion and even supply chain angst associated with EV vehicle and battery production. All the large manufacturers were in on it. BMW just this October announced that it was investing 1.7 billion USD to expand its battery manufacturing in the U.S. These investments and improved battery engineering are quickly driving down costs
Buses and Heavy Trucks
Public bus fleets in 2022 started electrifying and increasing and that pace will be the new challenge. More telling, even private fleets have begunan to electrify. I spoke to Mr. Voo Wei Keong, Director of Woodlands Transport. This company is well known in Singapore not only as a local transport provider, but also the well known WTS Travel service. Only months ago – Wei Keong’s fleet brought in 7 new EV busses. That said, I don’t expect 2023 to show large changes to private fleets. The top reasons are all linked to costs and support capabilities needed for these power hungry vehicles. The very large and long investment for EV busses in most respects, mirrors the challenges of Heavy Trucks.
Planning for decarbonizing the heavy truck sector has started in some parts of the world, but in Southeast Asia there is little movement. Traditional truck makers like Volvo, Mercedes, Kenworth, BYD, Peterbilt, Renault and other were busy this year showing off their zero-emission vehicles in auto shows in the USA and Europe. The cost, recharging, infrastructure and trained mechanics to repair EVs remain large.
I predict that 2023 will produce a more shared recharging environment for busses. Additionally as the public fleets continue to expand faster – the repair and maintenance capabilities will continue to grow here in large cities of Asia.
Australia’s Janus Electric this year expanded capabilities for retrofitting heavy trucks. To escape from the high costs of scrapping a perfectly good heavy delivery truck, simply taking the carbon spewing ICE engine out and replacing that with heavy power EV engine can be done for less than $90,000. The talent and facilities have to be in place though in more countries. 2023 may be too early to expect fast uptake for retrofitting in Southeast Asia, but for some markets like Australia and China I am hopeful for progress.
Vans and smaller vehicles have indeed picked up pace in terms of moving to electric engines. 2022 saw uptick in electrification. Post Offices, FedEx, DHL, Kerry Logistics, UPS, DB Schenker, and many more either introduced or expanded their EV fleets. The savings in total operational costs of EVs for vans and scooters make for high demand. 2023 will continue to see growth. I predict for higher EV growth in the smaller local operator space.
Last year I had a wild card wish for battery innovation. Indeed there have been breakthroughs in 2022 for battery design. This September some news came to me about a breakthrough in battery design invented by some brilliant fellows in Harvard. They now have a startup named Adden Energy. The lithium battery innovation doubles the current life of a battery from 10 years to 20 years! Additionally the new design allows for ultra-fast charging. How fast? 3 minutes! Competing designs are also being touted, but the battery life extension alone would significantly reduce the total operational costs of EV vehicles. In 2023, I’m predicting that this new technology will make its way into a running fleet operation.
2022 marked the first time I was told that I would be charged extra for a plastic bag at a Singapore grocery store. Other places in Asia have already instituted rules and systems for people to stop using plastic bags which pollute the ocean as well the air when they are being manufactured and being incinerated for energy.
I had hoped for more sustainable packaging to be used for large brands this year, but I haven’t seen too much difference on the surface. It still looks like shelf after shelf of plastic bottles when I go to the grocery store. That said, when I look at the bottles themselves I am surprised to see the amount of plastic bottles using “recycled plastic” content. I’ve seen this same recycled content message also used on courier flyers as well as on clothing (which are using recycled plastic in their synthetic apparel and shoes).
This increase of using the recycled materials instead of creating new plastics from scratch appears to be how large industry is going to fulfill short-term emission reduction goals. That’s a pragmatic response considering the lack of scalable alternatives. 2023 should see more of this trend. Look for near universal increases of “recycled plastics” being used for containers of all sizes.
The Greening Must Continue
When it comes to the discourse on decarbonisation, there is constantly a demand to promise everything today. We know it is not possible, but the challenge to stop harming the Earth becomes more pressing every year. This month it was projected that 8 billion people now inhabit our world. Human ingenuity is needed more than ever to keep everyone fed and to keep our home world from collapsing. I can report to you that human ingenuity is alive and well. More and more it is focusing its energy on sustainable solutions for a better future.