Transition into a new mobility: US National Academies perspectives

The trend towards electrification, especially in mobility, is a major priority in the European Union.  Electrical networks’ management, batteries’ technologies and raw materials  – e.g. Co, Li and REE, generally considered critical by the EU, US and Japan and lifecycle CO2 emissions of electrical vehicles are now core issues the European Union and the focus of intense research and development in Europe’s more advanced economies, e.g. Germany, Sweden, Finland and Norway (outside the EU but with close economic and geographical ties to the Union and arguably the country with the highest electric vehicles adoption rate).

Despite being home to the iconic Tesla and California’s long-term continuous push towards low emission vehicles, the US are (wrongly, possibly) perceived today as not being in the forefront of the transition towards new-technology vehicles. Yet, the theme is also being actively discussed, perhaps in a more (typically American) open and pragmatic perspective, a particular technology having not been elected.

The (United States) National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is organizing a study to assess technologies for improving the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles. The study committee will author a report identifying fuel economy technologies, estimating the potential cost of fuel economy improvements and the barriers to deploying technologies in the 2025 to 2035 time frame.

You are invited to participate in the second study committee meeting on July 16, 2018 from 1-5:30pm ET in Washington, D.C. If you are unable to attend in person, we invite you to register for the webcast. Government, industry and non-governmental experts will address the committee on its statement of task during this information gathering session.

For those able to attend, registration is needed: Registration

The (US) National Academies Press has also made available several publication on related issues:

  • Assessment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles.
    National Research Council. 2011.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Various combinations of commercially available technologies could greatly reduce fuel consumption in passenger cars, sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and other light-duty vehicles without compromising vehicle performance or safety. Assessment of Technologies for Improving Light Duty Vehicle Fuel Economy estimates the potential fuel savings and costs to consumers of available technology combinations for three types of engines: spark-ignition gasoline, compression-ignition diesel, and hybrid.

  • Cost, Effectiveness, and Deployment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles.
    National Research Council. 2015.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    The light-duty vehicle fleet is expected to undergo substantial technological changes over the next several decades. New powertrain designs, alternative fuels, advanced materials and significant changes to the vehicle body are being driven by increasingly stringent fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards. By the end of the next decade, cars and light-duty trucks will be more fuel efficient, weigh less, emit less air pollutants, have more safety features, and will be more expensive to purchase relative to current vehicles. Though the gasoline-powered spark ignition engine will continue to be the dominant powertrain configuration even through 2030, such vehicles will be equipped with advanced technologies, materials, electronics and controls, and aerodynamics. And by 2030, the deployment of alternative methods to propel and fuel vehicles and alternative modes of transportation, including autonomous vehicles, will be well underway. What are these new technologies – how will they work, and will some technologies be more effective than others?

  • Review of the Research Program of the U.S. DRIVE Partnership: Fifth Report.
    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Review of the Research Program of the U.S. DRIVE Partnership: Fifth Report follows on four previous reviews of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, which was the predecessor of the U.S. DRIVE Partnership. The U.S. DRIVE (Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle Efficiency and Energy Sustainability) vision, according to the charter of the Partnership, is this: American consumers have a broad range of affordable personal transportation choices that reduce petroleum consumption and significantly reduce harmful emissions from the transportation sector. Its mission is as follows: accelerate the development of pre-competitive and innovative technologies to enable a full range of efficient and clean advanced light-duty vehicles (LDVs), as well as related energy infrastructure. The Partnership focuses on precompetitive research and development (R&D) that can help to accelerate the emergence of advanced technologies to be commercialization-feasible.

  • Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels.
    National Research Council. 2013.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    For a century, almost all light-duty vehicles (LDVs) have been powered by internal combustion engines operating on petroleum fuels. Energy security concerns about petroleum imports and the effect of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on global climate are driving interest in alternatives. Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels assesses the potential for reducing petroleum consumption and GHG emissions by 80 percent across the U.S. LDV fleet by 2050, relative to 2005.

  • Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles.
    Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2015.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    In the past few years, interest in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has grown. Advances in battery and other technologies, new federal standards for carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel economy, state zero-emission-vehicle requirements, and the current administration’s goal of putting millions of alternative-fuel vehicles on the road have all highlighted PEVs as a transportation alternative. Consumers are also beginning to recognize the advantages of PEVs over conventional vehicles, such as lower operating costs, smoother operation, and better acceleration; the ability to fuel up at home; and zero tailpipe emissions when the vehicle operates solely on its battery. There are, however, barriers to PEV deployment, including the vehicle cost, the short all-electric driving range, the long battery charging time, uncertainties about battery life, the few choices of vehicle models, and the need for a charging infrastructure to support PEVs. What should industry do to improve the performance of PEVs and make them more attractive to consumers?

  • Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles.
    Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2010.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Vehicles evaluates various technologies and methods that could improve the fuel economy of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, transit buses, and work trucks. The book also recommends approaches that federal agencies could use to regulate these vehicles’ fuel consumption. Currently there are no fuel consumption standards for such vehicles, which account for about 26 percent of the transportation fuel used in the U.S.

  • Reducing the Fuel Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Phase Two: First Report.
    Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2014.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Medium- and heavy-duty trucks, motor coaches, and transit buses – collectively, “medium- and heavy-duty vehicles”, or MHDVs – are used in every sector of the economy. The fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of MHDVs have become a focus of legislative and regulatory action in the past few years. Reducing the Fuel Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Phase Two is a follow-on to the National Research Council’s 2010 report, Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium-and Heavy-Duty Vehicles. That report provided a series of findings and recommendations on the development of regulations for reducing fuel consumption of MHDVs.

  • Strategies to Advance Automated and Connected Vehicles.
    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released Strategies to Advance Automated and Connected Vehicles: Briefing Document. It is intended for state, regional, and local agency and political decision makers who are framing public policy making for these transformational technologies. The briefing document makes the case for taking action in spite of uncertainties and presents 18 policy and planning strategies that may be useful in advancing societal goals.

  • Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts.
    National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Research Council. 2009.
    Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released Strategies to Advance Automated and Connected Vehicles: Briefing Document. It is intended for state, regional, and local agency and political decision makers who are framing public policy making for these transformational technologies. The briefing document makes the case for taking action in spite of uncertainties and presents 18 policy and planning strategies that may be useful in advancing societal goals.



Portugal: Energia (e Recursos Minerais) – II

Preços da electricidade doméstica em Portugal.png
Preços (€/kwh) da electricidade doméstica em Portugal desde 1985 – dados DGEG (recolhidos no Observatório da Energia). Domestic Electricity prices (€/kwh) in Portugal since 1985 (data from the Observatório de Energia) 

Portugal: Energia (e Recursos Minerais) – I

Consumos de energia e electricidade per capita em Portugal
Consumo per capita de energia (tep/hab) e de eletricidade (Mwh/hab) em Portugal – dados DGEG (recolhidos no Observatório da Energia). Per capita energy (tet/hab) and electricity consumption in Portugal – DGEG data published in Observatório da Energia) 

Portugal: Energia e Recursos Minerais – A situação mundial


Pressão demográfica
Figura 1 – A pressão demográfica: população mundial – dados: United Nations – World Population Prospects 2017,
Temperatura média mundial
Figura 2 – Evolução da temperatura média mundial: mudança na temperatura superficial média global em relação às temperaturas médias de 1951-1980 – fonte: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS),
PIB per capita mundial
Figura  3 – Evolução do PIB per capita mundial (1992-2016) – World Bank Indicators 2017.

As próximas décadas deste século serão palco de desafios vitais para o futuro da Humanidade e do planeta. A situação atual já é crítica; os níveis de poluição da atmosfera, com o crescimento da concentração de COe metano, associados a alterações climáticas de amplitude ainda desconhecida, a poluição do mar e da cadeia alimentar por plástico, a pressão sobre os ecossistemas, os recursos de água, alimentos e de outras matérias-primas essenciais para vida humana como a entendemos no século XXI atingiram patamares insustentáveis.

A situação vai piorar antes de eventualmente melhorar: o crescimento demográfico (e o envelhecimento da população) vão crescer até ao final do século; as emissões de gases com efeito de estufa não estão controladas e as tecnologias, regulamentação e recursos económicos necessários para as controlar não estão disponíveis ou encontram-se ainda numa fase embrionária; o crescimento do rendimento médio da população mundial irá continuar, gerando uma  acrescida procura de recursos  – cada vez mais difíceis de encontrar, mais resíduos e a poluição dos sistemas vitais do planeta; a competição internacional por recursos naturais e financeiros criará novos conflitos, agudizará os latentes e tornará mais violentos os já existentes.

A resposta da comunidade internacional tem sido tímida. Há, todavia, algumas luzes de esperança. As fontes de energia diversificaram-se, com a revolução introduzida pelas fontes não convencionais de gás e petróleo e com o rápido crescimento das energias eólica e fotovoltaica, e a electrificação da energia aumentou. Foram criadas novas tecnologias – muitas ainda nascentes, mas algumas já de viabilidade comprovada. A pressão social começa a exercer influência nos decisores políticos.

The global energy scene is in a state of flux. Large-scale shifts include: the rapid deployment and steep declines in the costs of major renewable energy technologies; the growing importance of electricity in energy use across the globe; profound changes in China’s economy and energy policy, moving consumption away from coal; and the continued surge in shale gas and tight oil production in the United States. …
Despite their recent flattening, global energy-related CO2emissions increase slightly to 2040 in the New Policies Scenario. This outcome is far from enough to avoid severe impacts of climate change, but there are a few positive signs.
(IEA, 2017)
Emissões de CO2 per capita
Figura 4 – Emissões de CO2 per capita (toneladas) (1992 a 2014) – World Bank Indicators 2017 e DGEG, Indicadores Energéticos no Observatório da Energia.
Consumo anual percapita de energia
Figura 5 – Consumo anual per capita de energia (eq. kg de petróleo) – World Bank Indicators 2017.

Os Estados Unidos e a União Europeia são as economias ocidentais mais poderosas, as suas populações gozam níveis de riqueza, rendimento e consumo sem paralelo no mundo. Estas economias concebem e fabricam (mesmo se, em muitos casos, em países terceiros) produtos e serviços tecnologicamente avançados na maior parte dos sectores económicos.

Os níveis de consumos e as tecnologias sofisticadas exigem acesso a uma grande diversidade e quantidade crescente de recursos minerais (maiores que em qualquer outro momento da História). À procura por produtos e serviços das economias americana e europeias acresce a procura dinâmica das economias chinesa e indiana (e outras asiáticas).

Simultaneamente, os jazigos minerais são menos acessíveis, quer em resultado quer das crescentes guerras de poder económico, comercial e político (com a China afirmada como novo coprotagonista mundial), quer por serem mais profundos, de menor teor e maior complexidade, em zonas mais remotas e com regulamentação mineira e ambiental mais restritiva e com utilizações do território alternativas.

Raw materials are essential for the production of a broad range of goods and applications used in everyday life. They are intrinsically linked to all industries across all supply chain stages. They are crucialfor a strong European industrial base, an essential building block of the EU’s growth and competitiveness. The accelerating technological innovation cycles and the rapid growth of emerging economies have led to a steadily increasing demandfor these highly sought after metals and minerals. The future global resource use could double between 2010 and 2030.
CRMs are particularly important for high tech products and emerging innovations – technological progress and quality of life are reliant on access to a growing number of raw materials… CRMs are irreplaceablein solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and energy efficient lighting and are therefore also very relevant for fighting climate change and for improving the environment. For example, the production of low-carbon technologies – necessary for the EU to meet its climate and energy objectives– is expected to increase the demand for certain raw materials by a factor of 20 by 2030.
From the Stone Age to the present, mineral commodities have been essential ingredients for building and advancing civilization. Products built with materials derived from mineral resources include homes and office buildings; cars and roads; computers, televisions, and smart phones; and jet fighters and other military hardware needed to defend the Nation. In short, minerals are essential to advance and protect modern society.
When the periodic table of elements was first established in the latter half of the 19th century, many of the elements were known to exist in nature, but relatively few were being used by society. Today, discovery of new uses for an increasing number of elements is enabling rapid innovations in technology and materials science. Advances in telecommunications, information technology, health care, energy production, and national defense systems have all been possible through the use of new mineral materials.
As the importance and dependence of specific mineral commodities increase, so does concern about their supply. The United States is currently 100 percent reliant on foreign sources for 20 mineral commodities and imports the majority of its supply of more than 50 mineral commodities. Mineral commodities that have important uses and face potential supply disruption are critical to American economic and national security.
(U.S. Geological Survey, 2017)

Em consequência daquelas forças poderosas, estão a ocorrer mudanças profundas e os mercados da energia e dos recursos minerais tornaram-se mais imprevisíveis e voláteis. A percepção pelos governos americano e japonês e pela Comissão Europeia da insegurança no acesso (e nos preços) de algumas matérias-primas minerais levou-os a estabelecer um diálogo tripartido e a definir listas de minerais críticos do ponto de vista das respectivas economia e segurança nacional.

As listas definidas pelos Estados Unidos e pela União Europeia são, em grande medida, semelhantes, reflectindo uma preocupação comum por dificuldades de acesso a matérias-primas que, considerando necessárias têm produção concentrada em países terceiros considerados instáveis ou concorrentes (sendo mal disfarçado o receio face ao controlo efectivo que a China exerce sobre algumas daquelas matérias-primas).

A lista europeia contém 27 matérias-primas, a americana 23; em comum, aquelas listas têm em comum 15 materiais: AntimónioBariteBerílioCobaltoFluoriteGálioGermânioGrafiteHáfnioREE (terras raras); ÍndioNióbioPGE (platina e platinóides); TântaloVanádio. O lítio, curiosamente, presente na lista americana, está ausente das preocupações europeias – apesar da mobilidade eléctrica estar no centro da política energética da União Europeia.

É exigida acção global aos Governos e às instituições internacionais. Não existe, contudo, acção sem reação, como demonstra a mudança nas políticas da Administração dos Estados Unidos na sequência da eleição de Donald Trump. O mundo encontra-se numa encruzilhada.

E Portugal?


O mundo e Portugal enfrentam desafios que colocam o desenvolvimento das sociedades humanas e a sobrevivência dos sistemas naturais que nos sustentam em risco crítico.

Esta é a primeira parte (seguir-se-ão outros textos e informação complementar durante as próximas semanas) duma reflexão sobre a situação da energia e recursos minerais em Portugal: Qual a situação actual? Que desafios enfrentamos? Que políticas devemos prosseguir na exploração dos recursos minerais em Portugal?

Luís Chambel