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Driving Change

A new chapter for transport decarbonization awaits

A look at the state of sustainable transportation in 2024 and beyond.

Electric vehicle going through forest with globe at the end of highway, transportation icons

Source: Shutterstock/Avigator Fortuner

I joined GreenBiz in May 2022 — a decision that profoundly changed my perspective on transport decarbonization. In my role as director of transportation, I sat at the intersection of many subsectors within transport, able to survey the industry across on-road vehicles and electrification, aviation, maritime shipping and freight rail.

From this vantage point, it has been a privilege to learn from those leading the efforts to decarbonize transportation and share my learnings with you. Sadly, all good things must end as I have already stepped into a new role in the EV industry. My final piece explores just a few trends I’ve seen develop over my two years tracking the sector.

The EV industry has matured to an inflection point

During those two years, the electric vehicle subsector has made the most progress toward decarbonization compared with the rest of the transport industry. 

The industry is aware of and is addressing the public EV charging hurdles that plagued it for some time. Tesla’s North American Charging Standard has received industrywide approval as automakers now roll out adoption, and dozens of EV options exist for consumers and fleets to purchase. It also appears, while still in the early days, that the heavy-duty vehicle industry is learning from the pitfalls of the light-duty market and deploying EV trucks and charging infrastructure more intelligently and thoughtfully with providers working diligently to get infrastructure on the road and into the ground.

However, the road ahead is not without hurdles. The next one to two years will be a key inflection point that may shape the next chapter of the EV industry. A primary focus will be how industry leaders overcome the difficulties of deploying large infrastructure projects at scale to match EV adoption and address the reality that utility challenges still exist because of the complexity of getting power to charging stations.

Aviation, maritime industries are very hard-to-abate sectors

During the past two years, airlines have made tremendous strides in aligning around sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Additionally, alternative fuel solutions such as electric and hydrogen aircraft technology have matured with successful test flights across the industry. However, it still feels like a drop in a bucket for the progress needed. My recent conversation with a sustainability executive from World Energy, a leading SAF producer, highlights some of these issues including securing more robust investments in SAF production and growing SAF supply.

Maritime decarbonization progress also seems docked at the port, but major alignment on the industry’s path to decarbonize has matured over the years. 

Most recently, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee's 81st session led to countries supporting a global greenhouse gas price on maritime shipping. Also, the European Union’s ambitious legislation such as the Emissions Trading System and FuelEU Maritime set specific environmental requirements on ships, which should accelerate the industry's advancements. And, with large industry players such as Maersk deploying tangible solutions, I am hopeful that maritime decarbonization is embarking upon an official new chapter of progress.

Gone are the low-hanging fruit opportunities

The transport industry has made significant strides over the years. But now is the time to roll up our sleeves and tackle the higher-hanging fruit by seizing more ambitious opportunities. Let’s grow the SAF market and achieve the goals of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, hit at least 50 percent EV sales for new vehicles in the U.S. by 2030, start seeing meaningful emission reductions in maritime shipping emissions and so much more. 

I’ve had the privilege to work with so many amazing people and companies that are already making this progress happen, and I remain confident that industry leaders will continue to move steadfastly.  

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