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Kraciuk, J.;  Kacperska, E.;  Łukasiewicz, K.;  Pietrzak, P. Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 25 February 2024).
Kraciuk J,  Kacperska E,  Łukasiewicz K,  Pietrzak P. Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed February 25, 2024.
Kraciuk, Jakub, Elżbieta Kacperska, Katarzyna Łukasiewicz, Piotr Pietrzak. "Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport" Encyclopedia, (accessed February 25, 2024).
Kraciuk, J.,  Kacperska, E.,  Łukasiewicz, K., & Pietrzak, P. (2022, September 15). Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport. In Encyclopedia.
Kraciuk, Jakub, et al. "Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport." Encyclopedia. Web. 15 September, 2022.
Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport

The problem of innovative energy technologies in road transport is of considerable importance. The number of cars is growing from year to year, resulting in increasing environmental pollution, while deposits of fossil fuels are being depleted.

road transport externalities of transport innovative energy technologies renewable energy

1. Introduction

Innovations in the energy sector are necessary for a variety of reasons, including climate change, increasing the availability of safe and affordable energy and the growing use of renewable energy sources. Transport is a unique sector of the economy, contributing to socio-economic development, but also generating external costs. The increasing number of vehicles used in road transport in the EU, depletion of fossil fuel resources and environmental concerns have all contributed to the search for alternative solutions to be implemented as innovative energy technologies in road transport. This type of transport in the European Union countries is one of the most dynamically developing sectors of the economy and, as a result, is also the one with the greatest environmental impact.
The problem of innovative energy technologies in road transport has been investigated by numerous researchers. These analyses typically concerned the use of renewable energy sources in road transport [1][2][3][4][5], implementation of innovative energy technologies by selected countries [6][7], various directions of development of innovative energy technologies, e.g., use of electric vehicles [8][9], hydrogen vehicles [10][11] and connected and autonomous vehicles [12][13]

2. Innovative Energy Technologies in Road Transport

Innovations are a concept that was introduced for the first time in economic sciences by J.A. Schumpeter in 1912. He distinguished [14]:
  • Manufacturing novel products or improvement of existing products;
  • Use of new production methods;
  • Opening of a new sales market;
  • Development of a novel type of product;
  • Acquisition of new sources of raw materials or intermediate goods;
  • Creation of a new branch organisation.
In the approach proposed by that author, researchers deal with technological, organisational and economic changes in the phenomenon of entrepreneurship, as indicated by both the process and the innovative character of these actions [15]. Innovations were also discussed by [16][17][18]. The best known and most commonly used definition of innovation is that published in the Oslo Manual in 2005 [19][20], in which innovations are defined as introducing new or considerably improved products on the market or finding better ways to launch new products on the market. Innovation is related to innovativeness [21]. Innovative activity is a process of developing innovations through scientific, technological, organisational, financial and marketing activities. Some of those mentioned above are innovative by themselves, or they are not novelties, but they constitute an indispensable element for the implementation of an innovation. For innovations to be feasible, research and development activity is required [22].
Both technological and systemic innovations play a considerable role in the process of energy transition. Priorities need to be innovations in the use of transport, industry and the construction sectors. Particular attention should be focused on the application of advanced technologies in energy storage, smart charging systems for electric vehicles, or establishment of small, local grids. Innovations in the energy sector are necessary in view of climate change, increased availability of safe and affordable energy, as well as the growing use of renewable energy sources (…) [23]. Innovative energy technologies in the transport sector are related to increased energy efficiency provided by advanced technical solutions consisting of the use of alternative fuels. At present, the focus is on the implementation of zero-emission solutions in transport, i.e., the use of electric energy and hydrogen to power vehicles [24]. Similar solutions are used, e.g., in China (development of electric vehicle (EV) technology [25]. The discussed problem is of paramount importance and of topical interest [26]. It has been presented by numerous authors [27][28].
Transport plays a highly important and ever-increasing role in many aspects of functioning of contemporary societies, as it facilitates transport of humans and goods within countries and regions, as well as between them [29]. Transport is developed mainly thanks to the growing domestic and international trade. In turn, passenger transport is connected primarily by commuting and business trips, as well as domestic and international tourism. Within the last several decades, people have spent on average from 1 to 1.5 h daily commuting or travelling [30]. However, increasing income levels and growing accessibility of passenger transport at higher speeds, along with its increasing affordability, have all contributed to the development of societies in which people travel on business and for pleasure over ever-growing distances. The development of passenger transport related to business activity and transport of goods has been considerably facilitated by processes of economic globalisation. Obviously, the impact of these processes on transport is multifaceted. The limiting factor for passenger transport connected with commuting is connected to the increasingly common online work. This phenomenon was markedly intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, events termed black swans and grey rhinos also exert a considerably impact on globalisation processes, contributing to economic slowdown and limiting trade, thus reducing the scale of transport, particularly transport of goods.
In the EU in 2018, transport accounted for approx. 6.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), employing almost 13 million people whilst also acting as the main source of income in several EU member countries [31]. In 2019, the EU road systems were used by 242 million passenger cars (which corresponds to more than one automobile per every two people). The car ownership index was highest in Luxembourg (681 cars per 1000 inhabitants), followed by Italy, Cyprus, Finland and Poland (all with over 600), while in Hungary it was fewer than 400 per 1000 inhabitants (390), similar to Latvia (381) and Romania (357) [32].
Land transport in the EU (excluding pipelines) in 2019 is estimated at approx. 2300 billion tonnes/kilometres. A vast proportion of this number (76.3%) was connected with road transport, with railways at 17.6% and inland waterways accounting for 6.1%. Rail transport accounted for most inland transport of goods in Latvia and Lithuania (73.6% and 67.4%, respectively), while inland waterways accounted for 42.7% freight in the Netherlands [32]. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a marked decline in road transport. This was particularly evident in the case of public transport, which dropped by as much as 80–90% in major European cities in the middle of 2021 [33]. Nevertheless, in the long-term perspective, transport—including road transport, will continue to develop and its volume will increase.
Although mobility provides a variety of advantages for its users, it is also connected to social costs. T. Kamińska [34] indicated the social benefits and costs of transport (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Externalities of transport according to T. Kamińska. Source: own study based on [34].
According to the OECD, the effects of transport may be divided into [35]:

(1) Benefits for users:

  • Changes in the duration of travel;
  • Change in the maintenance costs of vehicles;
  • Effect on traffic safety.

(2) Effects of transport networks:

  • Creation of new traffic options;
  • Intrasector shifts in demand;
  • Improved reliability of transport;
  • Quality of transport services.

(3) Socio-economic effects:

  • Changes in availability;
  • Changes in employment within the region;
  • Changes in efficiency and production;
  • Changes in social integration;
  • Changes in property value.

(4) Environmental effects.

In terms of sustainable development for the economy, costs incurred by society in relation to provision of transport costs are essential. They are termed social costs, and are divided into two categories: internal and external (Figure 3). Internal costs result from transport activity and are incurred by the users who generate them. Costs are also incurred by society, i.e., time losses; health problems resulting from air pollution or noise; and carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to climate change [36]. They are defined as externalities or negative external effects. In terms of sustainable development, costs incurred by society in relation to transport services, defined as externalities or negative externalities, are crucial for the economy. This problem has been widely discussed in economic literature [37][38][39][40][41]. According to W. Rothengatter, externalities include, among other things, “involuntary interactions between entities jointly using a given resource, to which ownership right has not been established” [35][41], while E. Mishan clarified that they are generated unconsciously and constitute unintentional or accidental by-products of purposeful activity [35][42]. J. Poliński indicated that they are “all costs related to the execution of a transport service, which are not incurred by the provider of this service, or by the purchaser, but by a third party, here it is the society” [43][44]. Literature on the subject presents many divisions of external costs of road transport. Most typically, they are divided into four categories (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Categories of external costs of road transport. Source: own study based on [45].
The greatest share in external costs of transport comprises environmental costs, which make up approx. 58%. They include costs related to the elimination of air pollution, changes in the natural environment and landscape, climate change associated with CO2 emission, costs related to alleviation of environmental damage, and costs of actions aiming to reduce noise. The second item comprises costs related to accidents, which make up 29% of costs. These are costs not covered by insurance premiums, e.g., material losses, medical costs, administrative costs, etc. The share of infrastructure costs accounts for 12%, while that of congestion is 1% (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Classification of transport costs. Source: own study based on [36].
The latter include greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, as well as noise. Road transport, next to heating, is the primary factor responsible for the low air quality in European cities, and it ranks second as the source of greenhouse gases in Europe. In view of the above, it is obvious that reaching sustainable social development goals requires addressing the challenges related with the transport system as a whole, particularly road transport [46]. Many researchers point to the need to rationalize the energy consumption of road transport towards sustainable development [47][48]. For many years, the European Union has undertaken actions for sustainable development in the energy sector. This sector has been the most important issue since the beginning of integration processes in Europe [49]. In the following years, the European Union initiated works on the establishment of the single energy market, identifying priorities for this policy [50][51]. The EU defined goals related to climate and energy, within which the member countries declared that they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, increase the share of renewable energy sources, and improve energy efficiency and the potential to transfer electricity generated within the EU to the other EU countries using the system of interconnections [52]. The recently announced EU Green Deal assumes that the EU countries are to become zero emitters, i.e., climate neutral, by 2050 [53]. In the Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility—European transport on the road to the future, announced in 2020 [54], it was shown that environmentally friendly mobility has to become a new licence for the development of the transport sector. This Strategy indicates that a 90% reduction in emissions from the transport sector by 2050 is the primary goal. EU countries have to implement comprehensive transformation towards a sustainable and smart future: (1) make all types of transport more sustainable, (2) ensure extensive availability of sustainable alternative solutions in the system of multimodal transport, and (3) implement adequate incentives promoting such a transformation [53]. The following were indicated as intermediate goals:

(1) By 2030:

  • A minimum of 30 million zero-emission vehicles will be introduced onto European roads;
  • 100 European cities will be climate neutral;
  • High-speed rail transport will increase twofold;
  • Regular public transport up to 500 km should be CO2 emission neutral within the EU;
  • Extensive implementation of automated mobility;
  • Preparation for zero-emission ships to be on the market.

(2) By 2035:

  • Preparation for launching of zero-emission large aircraft onto the market.

(3) By 2050:

  • Almost all passenger vehicles, transport vehicles, buses and new heavy-duty lorries will be zero emission;
  • Rail freight will increase twofold;
  • Traffic of high-speed trains will increase threefold;
  • Multimodal Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) will be equipped for sustainable and smart transport, ensuring fast connections.
It will operate within the comprehensive network.
The goals established for the EU transport sector are challenging. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the European transport may be attained by:
Limiting the energy demand of transport, e.g., modal shifts (individual private transport towards public transport, air transport towards high-speed rail, road transport towards waterway transport), through remote work, changes in prices, operational improvements or other solutions related to demand.
Improvement of efficiency through electrification, hybrid systems and upgraded engines.
Transition to energy carriers with lower carbon dioxide emissions, such as renewable energy or sustainable biofuels, e.g., bioethanol, biodiesel, biomethane, hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) [55].
As a result, decision makers face challenges requiring them to pressure this sector to reduce its externalities, while simultaneously maintaining the economic model it helps to support [56]. In this context, it is clear that top-level strategic actions aiming to regulate road transport typically promote implementation of innovative technological solutions, which may contribute to attaining both these aims. Digital solutions based on connectivity and automation of vehicles, as well as the paradigm of the sharing economy together with the transition to low-emission vehicle technologies (particularly electric vehicle and hydrogen vehicle technologies) are central elements of the European vision of smart and more eco-friendly transport [57]. Innovativeness in transport is related with the search for methods to more efficiently utilise financial, management and organisational resources. This is a particularly important problem in view of the growing transport needs and limited resources. According to forecasts in Poland and the European Union, in the near future, innovativeness in transport should focus on the following problems [58]:
  • Transport methods and technologies;
  • Planning, organisation and management of transport systems;
  • Financing of transport in relation both to the maintenance and modernisation of existing resources, as well as new infrastructure, vehicle fleets and other resources.
One of the innovation priorities in road transport may include development of battery electric vehicles (BEV) [59], which are becoming increasingly important, particularly in the privately owned automobile market. A battery electric vehicle (BEV) is an electric vehicle (EV), which is powered solely by the energy stored in batteries, with no other source (e.g., hydrogen, an internal combustion engine, etc.). Vehicles of the BEV type use an engine and an electric system instead of the internal combustion engine (ICE). These vehicles collect all the power from batteries and use it to power their engines, which additionally aids in powering their wheels [60]. A significant component of costs in these vehicles is generated by batteries. Innovative designs for batteries on the one hand aim at reducing the adverse environmental impact, especially at the stage of their production and decommissioning, while on the other hand, innovative solutions focus on increasing the energy density and power of batteries, particularly in vehicles of medium and large load-carrying capacity. In the near future, this may be reached thanks to upgrades in existing lithium-ion technologies. Over a longer time, prospective new chemical technologies may replace lithium-ion batteries, ensuring further reduction of costs and improvement of their efficiency [61].
An important role in the decarbonisation of the lorry segment may be played by flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV). In view of doubts related to the possible zero-emission technologies for lorries of large load-carrying capacity, it is crucial to develop options for combustion engines. Key innovations in this respect are related to improved fuel savings and reduction in harmful emissions. A limited hybrid type (e.g., the 48 V system, regenerative braking, also called recuperation) is particularly effective at reducing both high emissions and fuel consumption in vehicles equipped with combustion engines, which frequently stop and start to move again [61]. At present, various types of dual-fuel vehicles are produced. Among them, one may distinguish, e.g., vehicles using petrol and LPG, hydrogen and petrol or petrol and diesel oil. Dual-fuel vehicles are low-cost burdens for the development of the hydrogen infrastructure prior to the introduction of fuel-cell-powered vehicles. They are considered to be a transition stage for vehicles powered with these cells, since they use the same fuel storage systems, safety systems, valves, safety system controls, etc. Moreover, this technology may be replicated on various engine platforms while incurring relative low costs [62].
Novel engine architecture designs may bring about a greater increase in performance and efficiency parameters, although they are presently in their preliminary stages. Moreover, further integration of components is required in exhaust after-treatment systems to improve both their energy efficiency and effective removal of pollutant emissions.
In the near future, a particularly important role may be played by electric vehicles equipped with fuel cells. Vehicles with fuel cells powered by pure hydrogen are zero-emission vehicles, as in reality, the only local emission is water vapour. However, in this case, it is important to consider the complete fuel cycle, i.e., emissions related to the production, transport and supply of fuel. The basic primary source for the production of hydrogen is crucial for vehicles to be considered environmentally friendly. Hydrogen produced from renewable energy (e.g., wind or solar energy combined with electrolysis) and used in fuel cells may considerably reduce emissions. The latest studies concerning alternative fuels indicate that vehicles powered with fuel cells using hydrogen are the most promising technology in terms of reducing pollutant emissions in the fuel cycle [63]. Fuel cells are considered increasingly promising, particularly as a solution limiting pollutant emissions by lorries. They offer a similar range of distance covered as conventional diesel engine vehicles; however, the high costs of its implementation are the main drawback of such a solution. For this reason, it is also necessary to implement innovations aiming at decreasing costs of fuel cells and the hydrogen tank, since these elements are, to a considerable degree, responsible for the total cost of fuel-cell-powered vehicles. These costs may be decreased by developing large-scale production, applying greater automation. In turn, fuel cells may play an increasingly important role in the decarbonisation of vehicles of medium and large load-carrying capacity, considering the relatively high ratio of generated energy to the mass of hydrogen in comparison to batteries. This aspect was also discussed by [64][65]. It was stated that Poland has huge potential for the use of hydrogen as an alternative to conventional fuels used in the transport sector [66]. This innovative application in transport has been described by many authors [67].
A considerable challenge which may possibly change the entire infrastructure of land transport and travel is related to innovations leading to introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles. New vehicle technologies in this respect promise solutions in which sensors and specialist software will replace people as drivers [68]. A priority in the development of CAV vehicles is to create safety foundations based on this technology. Innovative technologies, validation and testing procedures are crucial for the establishment of safety standards and lowering of implementation costs for this technology [63]. Connected Autonomous Vehicles, i.e., those which are both combined and autonomous, are a technologically powerful area of potential great importance in the future, which has been shown in the publications of many authors [69][70][71][72].


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