Will Last Mile Vehicles be Energy Independent?

Will Last Mile Vehicles be Energy Independent?

17 Jul 2017
'Last mile vehicles External Link' refers to vehicles used to take people and goods to their final destination. That can mean disaster zones, past guard dogs or to an empty high rise apartment surrounded by gridlocked streets. The "last mile" is therefore usually a major part of the cost, safety risk and delay in the whole journey. Walking and the humble push bike are a vital part of the solution but so are special vehicles now appearing from personal aircraft and air taxis dropping into your garden to flying cars, sidewalk robots and parcel drones. Some of these drones drop the package on target and others are disposable. Almost all are electric but are they viable?
 
The killer blow for adoption of electric versions of last mile and other vehicles is lower up-front cost than internal combustion vehicles following lower total cost of ownership being achieved earlier. Eliminating local and global pollution from the vehicle is a bonus enjoyed as brand enhancement, progress to "silent city" and receipt of government subsidies, parking concessions and tax breaks. The payback happens first with small vehicles: it happened with e-bikes and golf cars long ago and small drones more recently. Next, several car and small commercial vehicle manufacturers project lower up front price within a few years. The big courier companies have commendably started to transition their last mile delivery vans to pure electric ahead of them being cheaper to buy.
 
Obviously it is desirable to make all electric last mile vehicles energy independent because of cost and speed benefits and freedom from the inadequate numbers of operating, usable charging stations. However, the criteria for early feasibility of energy independence are different. Typically land vehicles can become energy independent using solar bodywork, particularly when it expands when stationary and is supplemented by erecting wind turbines at that time. The ideal targets for energy independence of vehicles on land are ones that are little used rather than small so there is a long period of charging with sun and wind. Early adopters include vehicles that do not need much power and ones that have space to expand their solar panels when parked, preferably in a windy area so their erecting wind turbines or tethered Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) External Link drones create plenty of electricity. If they operate in sunny areas then so much the better.
 
In fact, so energetic are these sources of ambient energy that no one is yet doing all or even most of this with any one vehicle yet commercial roadworthy EIVs in the form of cars and car-like vehicles are promised within three years. Indeed, you can buy an electric cargo bike and golf car like transporters today that run purely on sunshine. See the IDTechEx Research report, Energy Independent Electric Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2017-2037 External Link.
 
IDTechEx is staging the world's first conference on "Energy Independent Electric Vehicles External Link" 27-28 September at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands, where the most advanced solar racing cars and boats are made. Toyota is a keynote speaker on "Toyota Progress towards Energy Independence". Fiat Central Research former Director Professor Pietro Perlo, now president of IFEVS reveals, "The Path Towards more and more Energy Independent Fully Electric Vehicles: Examples of Safe-Secure-Efficient Road, Air and Water Vehicles". To make it well worth the trip, there are six optional masterclasses on the subject on the day before and day after, a small exhibition and viewings. A few speaking slots remain for those with a strong message on the EIVs or their key enabling technologies. Visit www.IDTechEx.com/delft17 External Link for more details.
 
Top image: Flirtey drone delivery. Source Tim Cox PhotoGraphics inc, Wikimedia Commons

Dr Peter Harrop
Article by Dr Peter Harrop
 
Dr Peter Harrop is the Founder and Chairman of IDTechEx.
 
Telephone: +44 (0)7850 258317
Email: p.harrop@IDTechEx.com