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Transport: the energy revolution will take place

The transport sector is one of the biggest polluters with 29% of CO2 emissions. Public authorities and companies are mobilized to decarbonize our activities with the stated objective of “zero emissions” by 2050. The ambition is strong and must be supported by large-scale projects and initiatives. The credibility of a sector visible to all is at stake.

On the dock, the transport sector in France no longer has a choice, it must reinvent itself. In all areas – air, road, river and sea – the finding is clear. Industrialists, public authorities and citizens all have a role to play in the battle that has already begun. Private vehicles are in the crosshairs with 44.53% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. France has therefore set the end of the sale of combustion vehicles for 2040, other countries being even more proactive, such as the United Kingdom (2030). Second bad pupil: road transport (heavy and light vehicles combined), with 27.39% of greenhouse gas emissions. River and sea transport, and the air sector, share the third step of the podium. Thus, the main energy revolution is first expected on the road.

Private vehicles: towards the electric revolution

In twenty years, car manufacturers will no longer market gasoline or diesel vehicles in France. But there is still a long way to go. Last September, sales of hybrid and electric vehicles only represented 8.8% of new registrations. While this still seems low, this proportion continues to increase. Government aid and consumer awareness are starting to bear fruit, although the act of buying is still hampered by the upfront investment. “We must go as broad as possible, in particular in terms of affordability and some technologies are still expensive, so we must be as little discriminating as possible in terms of accessible technologies”, explains Franck Marotte, CEO of Toyota France, leader of the market with 70% of sales in France.

Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, 100% electric, the offer is available. And to promote the growth in the use of this type of vehicle, improvements are necessary upstream, in terms of charging stations, for example. Last October, the current government – through the voice of Minister Delegate in charge of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and that of Minister of Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili – thus announced the Objective 100,000 terminals plan.

On the ground, initiatives in this direction are already happening, as in the Provence Alpes Côte d´Azur (PACA) region, which has signed a partnership with the motorway operator Vinci to green its major traffic axes. A fruitful public-private cooperation according to the joint forum of Renaud Muselier, president of the PACA region and Pierre Coppey, president of Vinci Autoroutes: “This alliance between a private actor and a local authority aims to accelerate the development of low carbon mobility on the motorway, in line with the region’s climate plan, “A COP in advance”. The motorway network will be able to accommodate start-up experiments, the service areas will be able to transform into multimodal hubs open to the territories (charging stations, shops, connection with the road network, etc.), solar production sites on the motorway rights-of-way will be able to deploy. The motorway thus reaffirms its environmental utility, which a principle hostility to the road had curbed in recent years. “An initiative that only asks to be generalized on the more than 10,000 kilometers of French motorways

Des infrastructures plus vertes

Si le développement des bornes de recharge électrique est déjà amorcé, le transport routier a bien d’autres projets en cours d’expérimentation. Au-delà du remplacement du parc automobile, le principal facteur de changement viendra de la route elle-même, et surtout des autoroutes. Partout en France, de grands chantiers mobilisent déjà des investissements massifs. À long terme, l’objectif des sociétés concessionnaires françaises reste le même : décarboner leurs activités. Cela passe par le recyclage à 100% des matières premières utilisées (au moment du réasphaltage des voies rapides par exemple), par l’électrification du réseau et par l’accompagnement du changement des usages dans lequel les automobilistes vont lentement se fondre, avec le covoiturage. Chez Vinci par exemple, cette vision motivée par la protection de la biodiversité porte un nom : l’autoroute bas carbone. « Avec le programme Autoroutes Bas Carbone, nous souhaitons faire du concret, explique Blaise Rapior, directeur général adjoint de Vinci Autoroutes. Les autoroutes françaises sont responsables de 135 millions de tonnes d’équivalent de CO2, l’objectif en 2050 est de 4 millions de tonnes. Pour y parvenir, nous travaillons sur deux axes, comme le montre le partenariat avec la région PACA : la mobilité électrique et hydrogène, et la mobilité partagée, avec par exemple des voies réservées aux transports en commun. » Si l’autoroute reste avant tout une infrastructure, son rôle est évident dans la décarbonation des transports et dans le développement de l’éco-mobilité.

Les grandes innovations de demain

D’autres innovations, à la généralisation plus lointaine, sont déjà à l’essai, comme chez le Français Eurovia qui met au point sa route solaire à énergie positive Power Road. Une route particulièrement innovante puisqu’elle utilise le revêtement bitumineux de la chaussée comme capteur solaire thermique, pour ensuite restituer la chaleur emmagasinée aux infrastructures environnantes. La France n’est pas seule lancée dans cette course effrénée vers le monde de demain. Partout sur la planète, des idées germent. En Allemagne, les autoroutes sont en train de faire une place aux poids lourds électriques avec le projet eHighways de Siemens, avec l’installation de caténaires. En Israël,  la start-up ElectReon travaille quant à elle à l’électrification des chaussées par induction pour permettre la recharge des véhicules tout en roulant… Le secteur routier sera donc le grand acteur de la révolution énergétique qui vient de commencer : véhicules et routes électriques, carburants bio et autoroutes bas carbone font – ou feront – bientôt partie du paysage.

Les biocarburants à l’honneur

Moins présents sur le devant de la scène médiatique, les biocarburants n’en font pas moins l’objet de recherche et développement de la part de grands groupes industriels français. Éthanol, biomasse, biogaz… les pistes sont nombreuses et les enjeux commerciaux évidents. « Le changement climatique est un sujet essentiel pour nous, assure Patrick Pouyanné, le PDG de Total. Pour opérer cette transition, nous allons introduire une partie d’électricité dans notre mix et transformer nos métiers traditionnels en faisant de la biomasse (biocarburants, biogaz) et en investissant dans des puits de carbone forestiers. »

Le futur passera aussi par l’hydrogène vert, de nombreux industriels sont en train de développer de vastes programmes de recherche dans le domaine. Une énergie destinée entre autres aux transports, sur terre comme en mer. En 2018, Nicolas Hulot l’avait déjà en tête pendant son passage au gouvernement, avec un premier plan de 100 millions d’euros pour la recherche dans le domaine de l’hydrogène, le gouvernement ayant réinvesti 2 milliards supplémentaires pour 2020-2021. Principale cible : le fret routier.

Côté transport maritime, la décarbonation est aussi en marche. Plusieurs pistes sont à l’étude, et complémentaires, entre énergie solaire et hydrogène. Pour ce dernier, les défis techniques sont encore importants, mais solubles. Comme l’écrit Jean-Michel Germa, président de Soper, « ses capacités de stockage étant limitées, il est plus adapté aux navires de cabotage dont le rayon d’action est réduit. Pour les navires hauturiers (transocéaniques), les carburants de synthèse biosourcés (diesel, éthanol, etc.) sont les plus adaptés, car ils permettent d’embarquer de plus grandes quantités d’énergie sous de faibles volumes ». Parmi les filiales de Soper, MGH développe également des technologies solaires en partenariat avec Engie, pour le stockage en haute mer de réserves d’énergie. Seul le transport aérien pêche dans la recherche de nouveaux moyens de propulsion. Dans les airs, l’heure est actuellement à la recherche de la sobriété maximale.

Greener infrastructure

While the development of electric charging stations has already started, road transport has many other projects undergoing experimentation. Beyond the replacement of the vehicle fleet, the main factor of change will come from the road itself, and especially the highways. All over France, major projects are already mobilizing massive investments. In the long term, the objective of French concessionary companies remains the same: to decarbonize their activities. This involves 100% recycling of the raw materials used (when re-paving expressways, for example), by electrifying the network and by supporting the change in uses in which motorists will slowly blend in, with the carpooling. At Vinci, for example, this vision motivated by the protection of biodiversity has a name: the low carbon highway. “With the Low Carbon Autoroutes program, we want to do something concrete,” explains Blaise Rapior, Deputy Managing Director of Vinci Autoroutes. French highways are responsible for 135 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, the target in 2050 is 4 million tonnes. To achieve this, we are working on two axes, as shown by the partnership with the PACA region: electric and hydrogen mobility, and shared mobility, with, for example, lanes reserved for public transport. “While the motorway remains above all an infrastructure, its role is evident in the decarbonisation of transport and in the development of eco-mobility.

The great innovations of tomorrow

Other innovations, more widely used, are already being tested, such as the French company Eurovia, which is developing its positive energy solar road, Power Road. A particularly innovative road since it uses the bituminous pavement as a solar thermal collector, to then return the stored heat to the surrounding infrastructure. France is not alone in this frenzied race towards the world of tomorrow. All over the planet, ideas are germinating. In Germany, highways are making room for electric heavy goods vehicles with the Siemens eHighways project, with the installation of catenaries. In Israel, the start-up ElectReon is working on the electrification of pavements by induction to allow vehicles to be recharged while driving … The road sector will therefore be a major player in the energy revolution that has just begun: vehicles and roads electric, organic fuels and low carbon highways are – or will soon be – part of the landscape.

Biofuels in the spotlight

Less present on the media scene, biofuels are nonetheless the subject of research and development by large French industrial groups. Ethanol, biomass, biogas… there are many avenues and the commercial issues are obvious. “Climate change is an essential subject for us,” assures Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of Total. To make this transition, we are going to introduce part of electricity into our mix and transform our traditional businesses by making biomass (biofuels, biogas) and investing in forest carbon sinks. ”

The future will also depend on green hydrogen, many manufacturers are developing vast research programs in the field. An energy intended, among other things, for transport, on land and at sea. In 2018, Nicolas Hulot already had it in mind during his time in government, with a first plan of 100 million euros for research in the field of hydrogen, the government having reinvested an additional 2 billion for 2020-2021. Main target: road freight.

In terms of maritime transport, decarbonisation is also underway. Several avenues are being studied, and complementary, between solar energy and hydrogen. For the latter, the technical challenges are still important, but solvable. As Jean-Michel Germa, President of Soper writes, “As its storage capacities are limited, it is more suitable for coastal shipping vessels with a reduced radius of action. For deep-sea (transoceanic) vessels, biobased synthetic fuels (diesel, ethanol, etc.) are the most suitable, as they allow larger amounts of energy to be carried in small volumes “. Among Soper’s subsidiaries, MGH is also developing solar technologies in partnership with Engie, for the storage of energy reserves in the high seas. Only air transport is fishing in the search for new means of propulsion. In the air, the time is now for the pursuit of maximum sobriety.

Nathalie Chambon
Fan de décoration et de design, j'en fais désormais mon métier, notamment grâce à ce journal où je viens parler de déco, de mode et des dernières tendances en terme d'architecture.

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