3 ways we'll leapfrog distance and reduce climate change

The Peterbilt Wave concept uses a hybrid electric drivetrain and a lightweight carbon fiber trailer (Credit: Peterbilt)

While moving people around efficiently on an increasingly interconnected planet is challenging, the same opportunities and problems are being solved on the cargo side.  

Road transport alone makes up a significant portion of the total CO2 output from transport (see this excellent report from IRENA on RE road transprot costs), adding shipping and air cargo to the mix increases this impact.  

CO2 Emissions from Freight Transport and the Impact of Supply Chain Management, PETTER JOFRED, PEDER ÖSTER  

The American semi truck company Peterbilt is making a Cleanleap with a new design that radically improves both the fuel efficiency and range of road cargo.  The Wave concept truck combines an aerodynamic body with a hybrid electric drivetrain that gets 5.7 kilometers per liter.  While that may not seem great compared to a modern passenger car, typical loaded cargo trucks often get 2 kilometers per liter of diesel, or worse.   Like the self-driving passenger cars mentioned earlier, the new Peterbilt truck also has a self-driving mode that allows the driver to relax in the cabin– for now – and perhaps eventually exit the truck completely.  It shouldn’t be too long before hyper-efficient drone trucks form stream-lined road trains, driving from depot to depot without a human behind the wheel.

And speaking of drones, while the robot semis may handle the large B2B loads, personal cargo deliveries may be accomplished by smaller aerial drones.  Giant American online retailer Amazon is already experimenting with drone delivery systems for small packages from regional distribution centres.

Amazon PrimeAir will deliver small packages directly from the warehouse to your front porch (Credit: Amazon)

Expect drone delivery to accelerate with companies like DHL and UPS also exploring the technology.  Although these delivery services are mostly out of the United States, my favourite use of a drone for delivery is this pizza delivery service out of Mumbai, India.  Watch this drone shoot over busy Mumbai streets- sending the hot pizza to its destination much faster than a road delivery ever could.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the ways we’ll leapfrog distance in an increasingly connected world.  Some of these technologies are happening around us now, and some are on the brink of reality.  The trend is moving increasingly towards breaking down the tyranny of distance and finding ways to either travel virtually, or move cargo and people in an efficient way that reduces emissions and saves money and time.   

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you're leapfrogging distance in your part of the world - please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.  

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