What will the green economy look like in 10 years’ time? Experts predict cleantech trends…

By 2026, the global adoption of a low-carbon economy will have taken huge strides, with smart city revenues and energy storage deployment skyrocketing, and the number of low-carbon heavy-duty vehicles on the roads also increasing at impressive rates.

That’s according to a flurry of new reports from clean technology market research firm Navigant Research, which point to significant growth in four key areas of the low-carbon movement: smart city development; energy storage deployment; the rollout of fuel-cell cars and buses; and sales of alternative powertrains for heavy-duty vehicles. 

Global smart city revenue is expected to grow from $36.8bn in 2016 to $88.7bn by 2025, one report claims. Another highlights that energy storage deployment in major world markets looks set to reach 62GW over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, the third report estimates that global sales of fuel cell cars and buses will total more than 580,000 between now and 2024, while the final report concludes that alternative powertrain sales for medium and heavy duty vehicles will pass the 800,000 mark by 2026.

“Today, city leaders and suppliers are recognising that there needs to be a more clear and timely route to the broader deployment of proven technologies and solutions,” Navigant’s research director Eric Woods said. “The question is how to establish the right business models and deployment strategies to enable this expansion.”

The four reports layout how cities, storage and transport form fundamental pillars to drive innovation and sustainable growth. In regards to smart cities, Navigant explains that the accelerated uptake of the Internet of Things will mobilise large-scale projects across energy, water, mobility, buildings and government. The report notes that data-driven policy-making will incentivise smart investments that will see revenue in smart cities more than double.

Navigant anticipates a growth in the energy storage markets of North America and Asia Pacific which will be aided by the “rapidly declining costs” of storage deployment. The report notes that after a nascent stage, the aforementioned markets will develop into world leaders. Asia Pacific’s five major markets are expected to deploy 199.5 MW of distributed storage capacity in 2015, rising to 9.4GW by 2025.

Vehicle evolution

As the transport sector weans off of its “fossil fuel addiction”, Navigant is expecting businesses to lead the way. A report states that current fuel cell ranges of 300 miles will be incrementally increased over time, leading to a greater portion of low-carbon vehicles on the roads by 2024.

“Manufacturers are pursuing fuel cells to meet the needs of larger, longer-range vehicles,” Navigant’s research analyst Lisa Jerram said. “Overall, the driver for fuel cell vehicles activity continues to be the sentiment that a diverse drivetrain mix will be needed if the transportation sector is to shift away from petroleum dependence.”

With the researchers estimating that global sales of fuel cell cars and buses will reach 580,000 in the 10-year timeframe, more needs to be done to embed the correct infrastructure and policies, with more charging stations required over a larger geographic area. Currently, the UK has just two hydrogen-fuel cell models available.

While passenger vehicles are already undergoing a transition, there is a danger that heavy duty vehicles are getting left behind. The final Navigant report notes that, in order to keep up with the low-carbon transition, heavy duty fleet operators will turn to a variety of powertrain and design specifications to improve fuel efficiency.

Alternate powertrain types, such as plug-in hybrid, battery electric, hydrogen and natural gas will all become viable options as economies grow and truck fleets increase. Navigant is expecting sales of alternate-powertrain, heavy-duty vehicles to reach 820,000 in 2026. In a bid to improve efficiency further, the report claims that aerodynamic aids, low rolling resistance tires and vehicle lightweighting will all be explored.

Matt Mace

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