Innovation key to future SA transport
INDUSTRY NEWS/ Experts say the country needs to become more innovative in its solutions — with an emphasis on integration — before it is too late, writes Mark Smyth
Look at a graphic showing the places in the world where the air is not suitable for our lungs and the results are alarming. Huge swathes of red blanket parts of Africa, the Middle East, India and China. In SA the situation also does not look great, particularly in Gauteng which shows up as a big red spot.
SA’s government and municipalities are putting in place plans to overturn the situation, but Carel Snyman of the South African National Energy Development Institute says these need to be accelerated.
Snyman says transport will be one of the only sectors in SA where energy demand will increase by 2050. The transport sector uses 34% of the country’s energy but Snyman says this will increase to 44%.
This is compared to a decline in energy demands of the industrial sector from 37% to 34% and residential from 11% to 8%.
He points out that SA exports gold to pay for the import of oil and, alarmingly, SA will deplete its gold within 20 to 30 years. Oil stocks are also declining.
Our reliance on traditional transport methods has to change, he says. In Cape Town, 91% of trips are in private vehicles, but Snyman says transport is about moving people, not cars. It is common knowledge that the internal combustion engine is not efficient. “The car is a better heater than a mobility tool,” says Snyman.
The figures back up his claims. If one looks at the amount of energy consumed by a type of vehicle over one kilometre based on its number of passengers, a petrol car uses 2.19 megajoules per passenger kilometre. In comparison, a packed minibus taxi uses just 0.36 megajoules per passenger kilometre.
In SA a massive 81% of energy consumption in the transport sector is used for private vehicles. Break that down further and passenger transport is 91% private and just 9% public. Of Cape Town’s entire energy consumption in 2012, 64% was used for transport, with the sector accounting for 34% of all emissions.
The City of Cape Town has committed to a 37% reduction in energy usage by 2040, but Snyman says it is not enough.
He says we need to focus on true sustainability. “Sustainability means not burning things to do work,” he says.
However, he says other solutions such as solar power “do not have the appeal of fossil fuels because someone cannot take it and sell it”. Snyman suggests that Eskom should switch from being a power provider to being a power broker, taking power from whatever source and allocating it efficiently in a way that is sustainable and profitable.
Eskom is, of course, facing major challenges. It is working on plans to migrate to a smart grid system, but its infrastructure is ageing.
While Medupi and Kusile are capable of alleviating the shortterm situation, an Eskom representative told us that most of the 12 older power stations will have to be retired by 2030, hence the pressure to go nuclear.
The Department of Trade and Industry recently issued a report outlining many of the barriers and options when it comes to moving to alternative fuels and technologies. The report looks at everything from excessive import duties on electric vehicles to the possibility of local manufacturing as the global transport sector goes through necessary changes.
It requires buy-in from many government departments and the private sector, but progress is slow.
Is it all about electric vehicles? Snyman says carmakers will continue to build what the consumer wants. If the public demand more electric vehicles, then manufacturers will change their focus. However, he does not see electric vehicles as the solution. If everyone switched to electric vehicles tomorrow, the roads would remain congested.
“We should move to a situation where roads are dominated by people,” he says, pointing out that the country’s current transport solutions are not properly integrated.
They are not always as forward-thinking as government officials would like you to think either. A prime example is the City of Johannesburg’s green Metrobuses. These dual-fuel buses are anything but green because they use an old Euro 2 emission diesel engine.
There is an opportunity to adopt more viable long-term solutions, says Snyman. One option is to move to above-ground rail, such as a Fractional Rapid Transit system.
This allows full integration with other transport services and, most importantly, with personal transport such as electric scooters, bicycles or on foot.
Properly integrated systems could also mean a reduction in costs for individuals. Snyman points to statistics that show that the poor in SA spend about 20% of their income on transport. Wealthier individuals spend half of that.
“Why is the government not doing more to alleviate the high transport costs of the poor? “You can be a sad city or a smart city. It’s your choice,” Snyman says.
Eskom is facing major challenges in funding and power generation and will have to retire 12 power stations by 2030.
Left: Eskom says it will fund charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Right: Cape Town is aiming to reduce its energy usage by 37% by 2040.