5 Elements of Sustainable Transport

5 Elements of Sustainable Transport

Transport is responsible for around a seventh of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Of these emissions almost two thirds are the result of passenger travel while the rest is due to freight.

So passenger travel is a big deal for climate.

In the chart above, which comes from our new eBook Emit This, we compare carbon intensity of different types of passenger transport on a per passenger kilometer basis.  Using it we can explain some elements important to the development of a sustainable transport system.

1) Fuel Economy

Our chart today compares the carbon intensity of different transport modes, per passenger kilometer.  The better fuel economy gets the lower emissions go.  If you just look at the cars you’ll see the large car (15 MPG) has emissions almost three times that of the hybrid car (45 MPG).

By improving fuel economy we can get the same mileage while generating fewer emissions.  Something that is achieved by making engines more efficient, vehicles lighter and bodies more aerodynamic.  But even then combustion engines remain relatively inefficient and produce emissions at the tailpipe, so improving them is really just a stop-gap en-route to sustainable transport.

2) Occupancy

The cheapest and simplest way to lower the carbon intensity of a passenger kilometer is to stick more people in the vehicle.  In each of the figures above car occupancy is assumed to be an average of 1.6 passengers (including the driver).  But most cars are designed for 5 people.

If you take a look at the bus examples the importance of occupancy becomes even more stark.  The local bus example has emissions seven times higher than the school bus.  While there routes may vary a little they are both diesel buses.  The main difference is that the school bus has very high occupancy.

With notable exception of flying public transport tends to have quite low carbon emissions, due largely to having relatively high occupancy.

3) Electrification

In the absence of breakthroughs in second generation biofuels electrification is the most important pathway to low carbon transport.

Electric cars using low carbon power have footprints less than half that of the best hybrid, even after you account for their larger manufacturing footprint.  Right down the bottom of our chart is the high-speed EuroStar rail which used low carbon French electricity. Though not on our chart the lowest carbon transport on earth is probably electrified public transport in a place like Norway where electricity generation is almost carbon free.

While there is a natural tendency to obsess about the electrification of cars, there are lots of interesting innovations occurring in the electrification  of rail, motorbikes, scooters and bikes.

4) Pedal power

They may be a bit low tech for some, but when it comes to carbon emissions bicycles are pretty cutting edge.  Even when you account for the foodprint of excess energy used when cycling, the humble bike is incredibly low carbon.

Bikes have obvious limitations around speed and distance, but for short trips in places with good infrastructure they are hard to beat in terms of carbon. They also have a great synergy with public transport systems like intercity rail.

5) Urbanization

Each of the first four elements we have described above refers to improving the carbon intensity of transport.  But emissions are a function of both how we travel and how far we travel.  One thing that tackles both of these issues is the trend towards urbanization.

People who live in cities have lower transport emissions.  Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less.  Electrification of public transport is more economic and practical in cities.  Occupancy on public transport systems is much higher.  And access to infrastructure for both cycling and walking is often better.

In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.

Those are our five elements of sustainable transport: fuel economy, occupancy, electrification, pedal power and urbanization.

15 Gorgeous Vacation Spots Proving Heaven Is a Place on Earth

1. Villajoyosa, Alicante, Spain


2. Cimon della Pala, Dolomites, Italy


3. Trolltunga, Odda, Norway


4. Bermuda


5. Khao Phing Kan, Thailand


6. Kauapea Beach, Kauai, Hawaii


7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


8. Nugget Point Lighthouse, New Zealand


9. Derweze, Turkmenistan


10. Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Australia


11. Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil


12. Bora Bora, French Polynesia


13. Fairy Pools, Drynoch, Scotland


14. Havasupai Falls, Grand Canyon National Park


15. The Sand Dunes of Namibia


Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection (3)

In terms of aspirational appeal, a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is about as exclusive as it gets.  For those not content with any old Rolls-Royce, the bespoke collection provides special edition vehicles with hand-crafted detailing and rich symbolism.  In the case of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection, the symbolism is heavy and the craftsmanship is even heavier.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection (5)

Rolls-Royce has revealed the Waterspeed Collection of the Phantom Drophead Coupe as an homage to the record setting Bluebird K3 boat powered by a Rolls-Royce R Engine.

In 1937, the Bluebird K3 set a water-speed record of 126.3 mph, a blinding speed on the open water of Lake Maggiore, Italy.  It proved that Rolls-Royce was not only the master of the roads of Europe, but its waters as well.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection (1)

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection has been coated in a custom “Maggiore Blue” paint, inspired by the waters of Lake Maggiore.  Inside, accents of Maggiore Blue enrich the fine Windchill Grey interior leather scheme.

Instead of the typical teak interior amongst the Phantom Drophead, the Waterspeed edition features brushed steel, with each piece “individually panel-beaten by hand for 70 hours following initial mechanical pressing”.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Collection (2)

Despite the 80-year-old inspiration for this new Phantom, its appearance is progressive and athletic.  It echoes the history of Rolls-Royce, both on land and in the waters of Europe.  It’s coming to Europe soon, for a price likely higher than we can even imagine.

Check Out Michelangelo’s Beautifully Illustrated Grocery List From 1518

Ever wondered what famous artist Michelangelo ate? Here’s a peek at one of his grocery lists:

Michelangelo grocery shopping list

Redditor filosoful posted a link today to Michelangelo’s handwritten 16th-century grocery list on the subreddit /r/books.

The shopping list, which comes from the collection of the Florence museum Casa Buonarroti, is accompanied by illustrations that were most likely drawn to help guide Michelangelo’s illiterate assistant while browsing the market.

It’s separated into three days by horizontal lines, and includes requests such as “pani dua” (two loaves of bread), “un aria” (a herring), and “un bocal di vino” (a quart of wine).

The 1518 list with ideograms is a part of a collection of Michelangelo’s drawings and loose papers that have toured around America in recent years, from Seattle to Boston. The papers, which range from letters and poems to sketches of his most famous work, offer a glimpse into the daily life of one of the greatest masters in all of art history.

Almanac: The Dalai Lama

And now a page from our “Sunday Morning” Almanac: October 5th, 1989, 25 years ago today . . . the day the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it was awarding that year’s Peace Prize to the 14th Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader of the people of Tibet.


The Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso in 1935), the traditional religious and temporal head of Tibet’s Buddhist clergy, in 1959.

He was born in 1935. Buddhist leaders declared him — while still a young boy — to be the re-incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.

Monks prepared him for his new role, a role that was disrupted in 1959, when Chinese occupying troops forced him, at the age of 23, to flee Tibet for exile in India.

In the years that followed, the Dalai Lama has steadfastly championed the Tibetan cause, while at the same time opposing any resort to violence.

Instead, as the Nobel committee emphasized, the Dalai Lama “advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”

The Dalai Lama accepted the Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, 1989.

In his Nobel lecture speech he included a prayer:

For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

And in the quarter-century since, he has continued to speak out for Tibet . . . and for non-violence and tolerance, earning the admiration of people of all faiths all around the world.

A ceremony in India this past week marked the 25th anniversary of his Peace Prize . . . but what the future holds is in some doubt.

The Dalai Lama forswore the political part of his role in 2011, and at age 79 he has questioned whether there should even be a 15th Dalai Lama after he’s gone.

Betaray spherical glass solar energy generator by rawlemon

betaray spherical glass solar energy generator by rawlemon

last year, german architect andré broessel of rawlemon presented designboom with his spherical glass solar energy generator concept in its early prototyping stages. developed as a stand-alone power charger station for electro-mobility, the project uses the advantageous strategy of implementing a ball lens and specific geometrical structure to improve energy efficiency by 35% when compared to existing photo-voltaic panels. by combining symmetrical and transparent spherical geometry as a concentrator lens and emitter, the unique dual axis tracking system can be fully incorporated into any building surface, improving existing efficiency and offering up to 99% transparency.

‘in addition to increased and optimum solar performance, the design offers benefits for users, designers and architects,’ explains broessel. ‘unlike any existing solar technology, the design and its dematerialized aesthetic permits high transparency and full building integration with no weather impact, due to its dual axis tracking system. the design allows the possibility to connect both standard and hybrid collectors in order to convert electricity and/or thermal energy, offering a scalable, reversible, self-sufficient system.’

in contrast to its traditional photo-voltaic ‘dual-axis’ counterparts, the generator incorporates a fully rotational weatherproof natural optical tracking device that is adequate for functioning on inclined surfaces and curtain walls, empowering any building surface. the new solar generating concept even has the capability to concentrate diffused daylight or moonlight for a more effective site context application. on a cloudy day, the device produces 4 times more energy than a conventional PV system.betaray prototype

the unit comes with a modular collector system that charges and stores energy both night and day. by reducing the silicon cell area to 25% with a transparent liquid filled sphere point focusing concentrator, the collector module can be expanded with a stirling engine to generate surplus electricity.betaray energy collectordesign studiesrawlemon microtrack systemconcept

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