by Alberto Onetti

What’s the Future of Propulsion?

We come from a strong technological standard – internal combustion engines. It lasted more than a century and represents a very strong legacy. That said, the one billion dollar question is:

Which propulsion will be chosen in the on-road and off-road industrial sectors?

That’s what I asked last week during the “Beyond Iveco Group Days” to Anirudh Bhuwalka (CEO Blue Energy Motors), Pierpaolo Biffali (VP Product Engineering FPT Industrial), Alessandro Rossi (CTO Azimut Yachts Benetti Yachts), Oscar Baroncelli (Head Tractor Product Management New Holland Agriculture), Francesco Farinetti (Fontanafredda, Board Member Eataly, CEO Green Pea), Chris Mann (CTO Bennamann Ltd).

Main take-aways of our discussion:

  • Future is multi-energy.

There is no silver bullet. In the world of propulsion, a “one fits all” proposition won’t likely work.”       

  • Electrification (EV) and hydrogen hold potential in the long run.
  • Natural gas (LNG) offers an immediate solution to decarbonizing the transportation sector, particularly in emerging countries like India. Most importantly, natural gas – although a “transition” fuel – offers significant emission advantages and game-changing economic returns immediately. Here Blue Energy Motors has a very compelling business model – CAPEX-light, flexible, green, subscription-oriented – to solve both immediate and the long-term transition to green trucking (LNG for long-haul trucking and EV for short-haul).
  • The next step is represented by the possibility of using hydrogen to fuel ICEs or fuel-cell propulsion systems – which is particularly suitable for the case of heavy machines such as long-haul trucks and harvesting combines.
  • In the maritime, yachts may be designed to use different technologies and sources of energy. Here the first step to make this possible is to introduce hybrid technology on board, particularly for small and medium vessels.
  • Carbon elimination might also be achieved by spreading the “circular economy” concept in agriculture. This means that crop stubbles, cut grass, and other organic residues cease to be “waste”, and become a valuable resource for biogas production.
  • Dairy is the largest emitter of fugitive methane in the agricultural sector and also represents the low-hanging fruit as the highest emissions are from slurry and manure stores. Bennamann Ltd found a way to capture existing emissions of fugitive methane from farm waste.