The timescale is the tricky question, as the climate changes, reducing emissions becomes more urgent, but the question, when looking at alternative fuels, is how fast will we get to zero emissions? The transition to alternative power systems will take place but the pace of change may be quite slow in order to avoid any shock to the economy.
The most likely scenario will see a series of steps working towards zero emissions over a period of time. However, there is also the possibility of a technological breakthrough which would speed up the whole process.
The most likely solution to have this kind of effect is in the field of batteries. Billions of research dollars are being poured into batteries as the first company to develop a much lighter or longer lasting battery will be able to make a killing. The capacity of a battery systems grow every year and the funds going to research in this field tell us more improvement will come.
However, hopes of a ‘silver bullet’ to bring us a light battery with the ability to store enough energy to get a B-double from Melbourne to Sydney which does not weigh over 40 tonnes is not on the horizon any time soon. Batteries with this level of energy storage also take a long time to recharge and this can have a detrimental effect on equipment utilisation.
What we do know is that the process of moving across to new alternative technologies is already going a lot faster in Europe, North America and in countries like Japan and South Korea. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that the governments, both local and national, are offering incentives in financial or access terms to zero emission trucks.
These incentives drive investment in the technology, which has the effect of accelerating improvements in the technology, which, in turn, drive down the cost to the user. It will take time for this virtuous circle to take hold in Australia, because of the lack of governmental support.