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Navigating Two Worlds: Talking Climate Change in NYC and Tackling Climate Change at IAA

    This week two events are leading venues for discussions about climate change. In New York City it’s Climate Week – a media conglomerate-organized event with wide ranging programming that checks all the climate change discussion boxes – some in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly meeting. Across the pond in Hannover Germany is the Internationale Automobilausstellung, otherwise known as the IAA. It’s the 122nd year for this international gathering and technical event focused on advanced mobility and commercial vehicles.   

    The theme of Climate Week NYC is “Getting It Done.” The transport session there includes only a monochromatic discussion about electrification.

    In stark contrast, the IAA paints a far different picture; a broader mosaic of energy and fuel technologies translating to a theme of “It’s not a one-size fits all problem, and we need many different solutions.”

    At IAA, many vehicle and engine manufacturers are on stage with their technology and future plans. Volvo Trucks is touting renewable fuels as an alternative to diesel fuel and a viable third option for commercial vehicles. The company argues they’ll be needed to help make the existing fleet of combustion-engine trucks more environmentally friendly.

    “Together with our customers and their customers we are on a journey towards zero emissions. We look forward to showing our great trucks and services that enable haulers to reduce CO2 while at the same time running a competitive business. Whatever driveline – electric, gas-powered, or conventional diesel truck – we offer solutions for increased energy efficiency and a reduced climate footprint,” says Roger Alm, President of Volvo Trucks.

    “It will not be one solution that fits all. To reach zero emissions, there are some customers who will continue to operate with a combustion engine” – this according to Jessica Sandstrom, an SVP of global product management at Volvo Trucks. The company’s zero-emissions strategy builds on battery-electric, fuel-cell-electric, and combustion engines that run on renewable fuels such as biogas or green hydrogen.

    Likewise at IAA, Cummins, the world’s largest diesel engine manufacturer, unveiled a range of fuel efficient and low carbon/no carbon solutions, including a new diesel engine designed to meet Europe’s upcoming Euro 7 more stringent emissions standards.  They also showcased a new concept commercial truck with an internal combustion engine fueled not by diesel but by hydrogen.

    Jennifer Rumsey, Cummins president and CEO, expanded on its Destination ZeroTM strategy, emphasizing the significance in the time value of reducing carbon emissions. “We have to act now. Carbon once emitted to the atmosphere can’t be taken back and we can make the greatest impact by focusing on a dual path – advancing combustion engine technology and bringing on new zero carbon solutions. Our estimated impact of doing just that is an additional 1.4 gigatons of cumulative carbon reduction – the equivalent of removing all trucks from the road for three years.”

    Cummins didn’t stop there and said it will continue to advance the internal combustion engine technology it’s renowned for with further advancements in efficiency, as well as compatibility with cleaner fuels like hydrogen, biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). At the same time, the company will continue to innovate zero-emissions solutions including hydrogen fuel cell and battery technology.

    The facts about decarbonizing transport shouldn’t depend on which conference you attended, Climate Week NYC or the IAA Hannover Germany. But they are worlds apart in defining solutions.

    In one world, electrification of transport is the sole topic and solution for some in attendance. Internal combustion engines and the burning of fossil fuels must be stopped. Little or no mention is heard about the challenge of “electrify only” approach.  Diverse global transport needs and availability of electric-generating energy resources, readiness of power grids are only sidebar conversations at best. Of course, these are central to evaluating outcomes.

    In another world, global technology leaders say that we must be realistic and accept that internal combustion engines are going to be around for a long time. They are more suited to making immediate gains in reducing carbon than other fuels and technologies like electric or hydrogen that are still developing. That’s why we need to make them better, more efficient and use low carbon renewable fuels, making them part of the solution to solving climate change.

    Which world do we live in?

    Tackling climate change is often discussed in terms of journey and destination, so let’s enter a net zero carbon future as the destination coordinate.  The navigation or mapping system will deliver a number of route options, depending on the specifics of our travel, our preferences, and when we plan to depart. After departing on our journey following our selected route option, the GPS will advise us of delays, construction, circumstances and weather that may delay our trip and even offer us alternative routes. We can also insert a stop or change modes of transport altogether. A navigation model is a great way to think of “Getting It Done” on this shared climate journey.

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