Switching to hydrogen, renewable energy and electric vehicles will drive transport decarbonisation in smart cities, say experts at Expo 2020 panel

DUBAI, 14 January 2022 – The challenge of reducing carbon emissions can be tackled, to a large extent, by a gradual shift to hydrogen, renewable energy and electric vehicles, said experts at a panel on ‘The Future Decarbonisation of Transportation in Smart Cities’, held at Expo’s Terra – the Sustainability Pavilion today (14 January). But it is equally important to change people’s mindsets towards using personal cars, the panel, held as part of  Travel & Connectivity Week, concurred.

Dr Haile Rajamani, Engineering Programme Director, University of Wollongong in Dubai, referred to the needs of developing countries that are actually building the infrastructure. Many people face power cuts and are forced to keep standby diesel and petrol generators that produce a lot of carbon emissions, pollution and noise. Clean energy can contribute to reducing these emissions, he said.

Pascal Perez, director of the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, Australia, said that the decarbonisation of transportation is all about good governance, and requires coherent direction, consistent investment and coordinated timing. Quoting Australia’s example, where the adoption of electric vehicles is very low, he said that governments need to draft policies that will prompt people to take action. For example, how many people are willing to spend more than 40 minutes to charge their car at a charging station? It is the role of good governance to make this more efficient and incentivised.

Balqees Al Dagher, e-Solutions Manager, ABB, recommended a different approach to decarbonising transportation. She said: “Why not look at not driving at all, or structuring the city in a way that there will be no cars in these towns or areas? So, we really need to look from a higher level, and encourage people to walk more, and just move around using their own legs and bikes maybe. That’s one way of looking at it. The other way is to encourage people to use public transport. In fact, I know many people who gave up driving because of the metro and trams. And remote working is just another way of never using your car.”

Ty Christopher, Director Energy Futures Network, University of Wollongong, Australia, said: “Regardless of whether transport decarbonisation occurs from the electrification of the fleet, or from the use of hydrogen for heavy vehicles, or ideally a combination of both, it’s the fuel source for the electricity that is as important as any other factor… The truth is that electrification, hydrogen as a fuel source and the use of biofuels, all have complementary roles to play in a decarbonisation transport future, as opposed to any one of them being superior to the other.”

Imad Hoballah, Chairman and CEO, Business Investments and Development Strategies (BIDS), Lebanon, said: “It’s important to note that switching to a more sustainable transportation system that relies less on fossil fuels is an extremely attractive solution for Lebanon. In addition, the emergence of electric vehicles is another plausible solution for Lebanon. But no matter what we do, we need to take the current situation in Lebanon into account, and the current condition of Lebanon’s power grid poses a major challenge for EV deployment.”