Written evidence from Mr Anthony Nordberg (Consultant at Eway Direct Ldt.) - (BEV0027)

  1. My Name is Tony Nordberg and although semi-retired I offer my evidence from the perspective of a career in systems engineering and programme management including eight years of board experience as technical director. My evidence is also given in the light of a proposal for a cleaner faster cheaper transport mode that will be renewably powered. The required short-range batteries can be provided by recycling the lead-acid batteries from the UK’s parc of thirty-five million cars that will need scrapping. Consequently, there would be no need for Big Batteries with their huge internal and environmental costs as implied by the Committee’s questions. I hope that this submission is of interest to committee members, and I should be honoured if asked to help in developing the UK’s future transport policies
  2. The collapse of BritishVolt is a timely opportunity to look at the assumption that large batteries are needed for cars to meet the government’s Net-Zero schedule. It appears that this requirement is based on the idea that internal combustion (IC) engines and fuel tanks can be directly replaced with electric motors and batteries with power being generated elsewhere and hopefully carbon-free. This idea has led to more expensive vehicles due to the weight and cost of the current generation of batteries needed to give adequate range. These EVs have a market that is limited to early adopters as a second car, and as the ‘Behavioural Insights Team’ have recently pointed out they are not a good option for most of the populace who have lower disposable incomes and/or no access to overnight charging. In effect, Big Batteries are not the answer to the Net-Zero policy until a lighter, cheaper, faster-charging battery technology can be developed, and the BritishVolt experience shows that the market obviously thinks that this is a long way off.
  3. Clearly the Net Zero policy for cars is in trouble and pressing on with developing technologies that require subsidy and will also make journeys more expensive will be socially divisive when the real need is to make transport quicker and cheaper as well as cleaner for everybody. As this is a ‘wicked’ problem with no obvious solutions coming from within the current functional power groupings of state, business, industrial and academic ‘silos’, there ought to be scope to take a more general view of the issue of personal transport.
  4. As well as Net-Zero car emission, the government is at the same time aiming to increase economic growth and reduce geographic inequality; both of which can be achieved by increasing the potential number of social and economic opportunities that can be reached within a given time-budget, or in other words by increasing traffic speeds. Broadly speaking, doubling the average commuting speed will quadruple the scope for social and economic opportunities and the resulting huge growth in living standards will be on a par with that caused by the introduction of the turnpike toll roads, the railways and latterly by the ‘horseless carriage’ itself. However, the demand for personal transport is already outstripping the supply of road capacity and represents a further market failure as congestion increases to create further negative growth and building more roads on the scale required is politically and economically impossible, and Big Battery EVs and other schemes such as Hydrogen are no help.
  5. So, we need to look for a solution from within the framework of a set of requirements for a new transport mode that will offer cleaner, cheaper, quicker door-to door transport that will have a minimum infrastructure cost, an acceptable environmental impact, use a secure renewable energy supply, involve mature technologies within the capability of UK manufacture for home and export,  will eliminate congestion by attracting traffic from the ordinary road network, will be funded via tolls and will be an attractive financial investment.
  6. An instance of a practical solution is summarised below that would satisfy these requirements, as well as the criteria for a ‘Moonshot’ as defined by the Council for Science and Technology (CST) and could also be considered for an Advanced Research and Inventions Agency (ARIA) Programme

 

  1. Annex: A faster cheaper cleaner transport mode to catalyse economic growth

a)     An additional toll-based door-to-door transport mode is proposed that will meet the national goals of improving road safety, reducing congestion and emissions, reducing geographic inequality, and boosting economic growth. It assumes that doubling commuting speeds will quadruple social and economic opportunities, and that the resulting massive growth in living standards will be on a par with that caused by the successive introduction of the turnpike toll roads, the railways, and latterly the motor car.

b)     This proposed new transport infrastructure will meet the stated objectives of the DfT, the stated supporting objectives of the BEIS, MHCLG, DEFRA, DCMS, and the new DNZES. As their respective departments, agencies and funded organisations will be responsible for defining and operating the proposed ‘Eway’ regulatory framework it is proposed that these bodies are directed to assess the technical, economic, and political practicalities, and then to commission a prototype test facility and a survey of an initial commercial route plus the associated ‘digital twin’. At this point it is expected that local public/private consortia will form to finance and build local routes, and as with the railways to connect to form a revolutionary new nationally significant infrastructure with considerable internal and export potential.

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c)      The concept is for a network of elevated single-lane high-speed toll-routes (or ‘Eways’) accessed by specialised lightweight electric ‘Ecars’ via junctions with the ordinary road network at typically 5 km intervals. These Ecars will only need short-range batteries to cover the start and end stages of door-to-door journeys as they will pick up power from the Eways for high-speed traction and recharge, and so will not be reliant on expensive long-range batteries. Also, when on the Eway they will be under autonomous control thus freeing the occupants to enjoy the experience of whizzing along five metres above the British landscape at 70 mph, or to engage in other activities. By including renewable wind/solar generators and multi-day Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant at suitable intervals would make Eway vehicles independent of the National Grid, as well as from costly energy imports.

d)     For the system, the critical factors are the weight of the Ecar which determines the bulk and cost of the Eway structure, and the Ecar frontal area which determines the power consumption and hence operating cost. As the great majority of car journeys are by one person it is practical to assume a tandem seat ‘L7E’configuration that will have a quarter of the weight and half the power consumption and together with the short-range batteries is projected at one third of the price of a typical electric car.

e)      Elevation of the single-lane Eway structure eliminates the need for earthworks, drainage, lighting, and fencing, and so will not impose ‘severance’ of the landscape for people and wildlife. The low weight of the Ecars ensures that the structural bulk of the Eway is minimised and the use of modern piling technology ensures fast installation and removal, leaving no trace. Together with zero emissions these features combine to reduce environmental impact to that of visual appearance.

f)       Eway routes will include the use of the existing margins and fence-lines of major roads and railways, and ground rent will be paid via the wayleave system as used for utility networks to avoid compulsory purchase. The scale of the proposed Eway system offers considerable scope for a range of creative designs for the colonnade structures and longer bridging spans to add to the beauty of the landscape.

g)     To gain the assent of Eway neighbours, planners, and environmental interest-groups, the Geographical Information System (GIS) data and associated Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology from the survey process can also produce the view from every property along the proposed route so that visual impact can be assessed, and screening adjustments made if necessary.

h)     Regarding business economics, a toll fee equivalent to the mileage cost of a typical petrol car will include the electricity cost, and at the target volume of 25% of the average major road will also provide a viable investment return, not requiring government funding. Other economic benefits will include the effectively elimination of congestion and reducing the need for many current road and rail improvement projects.  

i)       The proposed Eway whilst justified for personal transport has longer term potential for the logistics market. For example, the placing of junctions within the curtilage of stores and warehouses could allow the use of driverless ‘Etrains’ to provide high-speed high-frequency low-cost inter-store goods deliveries, permitting the distribution of the centralised warehouse function and reducing the need for much van and big truck road traffic.