• Article
  • 25 Jan 2022
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George Randall

Is Clean Fuel the Answer to Environmental Concerns?

Sustainable Fuel VTOL Main Image + Listing Image

When we consider the issue of environmental sustainability, much of the news cycle is dominated by clean fuel.

Whether this is hydrogen power, electric vehicles, or biofuel, removing fossil fuels from the equation seems to be the go-to solution.

But is it? Can we assuage environmental concerns using clean fuel sources alone?

The Issue of Electric Vehicles

As we reach the commercial launch of many eVTOL companies and consider the prominence of electric road vehicles, we can see that battery-powered transport is en vogue.

However, the electricity used to power these vehicles are only as clean as its dirtiest source.

In the UK, this is somewhat problematic.

In 2020, for example, renewable generation made up around 36 per cent of total energy, down four per cent from the previous year.

So, EV road vehicles were still primarily powered by dirty energy sources.

The same will be true of eVTOLs in the future; using a green vehicle is meaningless if its power source is a dirty grid.

Then there is the issue of carbon offsetting.

Many British energy companies use tokens or credits (such as carbon emission reductions), which can be traded on a grey market.

Unfortunately, this leads to confusion and incorrect data about what companies do to make up for their carbon emissions.

However, returning to EVs and eVTOLs, using electric power alone might not be enough.

A 2019 study published in Nature found that eVTOLs give off 28 per cent more greenhouse emissions than EVs travelling the same 100-kilometre journey.

Still, eVTOLs were 35 per cent more efficient than internal combustion engines doing the same distance.

The study concluded that eVTOLs are more environmentally-friendly than EVs for journeys of more than 35 kilometres.

It explains that longer cruising distances offset the energy intensity of take-off and landings.

That said, it is not all doom and gloom for eVTOLs.

The study recommends developing a fluid EV transport system that considers passenger numbers, road congestion, and journey distance to maximise the potential of road and air vehicles.

Carbon Offset

Intelligent Solutions for Modern Problems

So, what can we do if electric power is still fraught with issues?

The answer largely depends on the company's willingness to do the right thing.

While carbon offsetting has its issues, many companies willingly support worldwide decarbonisation efforts.

Some even have their own initiatives, such as Airbus.

Among their various efforts were upcycled and recycled planes.

Recycling is vital but does not make up for existing carbon emissions.

Plus, there is the issue of producing emissions while recycling or upcycling complex aviation components.

Another solution comes in the form of companies like DroneSeed, which, unsurprisingly, uses drones in reforestation efforts.

Reforestation is a valiant effort and will help, but carbon sequestration has its problems.

Capturing carbon is only viable while the trees are living, and we must plant them at a rate that exceeds global carbon emissions.

What is the Answer?

As we all know, there is no one answer to environmental concerns.

This article might seem negative, but there are certainly positives in each solution.

Arguably, the process of dealing with carbon emissions will be large-scale and multifaceted.

However, part of this is objectively realising that no solution is foolproof.