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Innovative Mobility: Getting Around in the Future

Tue, 22 September 2015

Contributed by Adam Meekings, Penumbra Power founder and Shell LiveWIRE alumnus
Every generation has been part of, or witnessed a huge achievement or advance in technology. How we get ourselves, our food, and our produce around in the future could be the biggest change this generation witnesses. Humankind has advanced science and overcome many problems. Mobility could be that next problem. It may not sound as exciting as developing a vaccination or putting a man on the moon but it may change our lives as much as the Internet has. 
The cogs and gears of businesses and society require increasing amounts of energy to turn. This relates to our commutes to work each day and where else we may choose to go as well as the movement of our food and produce. All this energy results in more CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. 
Even though I grew up in the suburbs, I moved to a city two years ago for a job and there is a noticeable difference in how I get around. Lots of traffic and not a lot of moving! Meanwhile, all that nasty CO2 is pouring out of people’s tailpipes. It’s very inefficient! Cities are responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions and unfortunately I am just one of a large number of people moving into a city. Current projections show that 75% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. That’s a lot of people trying to get around in a very small area very inefficiently. A fundamental change in the way we get around is needed.
Some mobility solutions have appeared naturally. The pioneering of flight has enabled foreign travel to be much more accessible and added to the CO2 problems associated with mobility. In the world of business, collaboration across borders is much easier today through the use of the Internet. This has reduced a lot of the CO2 associated with business trips for face-to-face meetings. The ability to work flexibly has also helped reduce the number of commuters on the road and also the size of the offices that are also responsible for emitting CO2. 
The role of the Internet can be propagated even further with exciting prospects of autonomous and connected vehicles. Is it possible that one day you won’t own a car but simply request a ‘pod’ through a smartphone app to take you somewhere? Use the comment section below to show how you think mobility could benefit from a smart system connected to vehicles and users.
Despite making these steps in our mobility, there is no doubt that vehicles will still remain in some form to transport us and our produce around the world. How these vehicles are propelled is a debate that has been going on for decades. The environmentally friendly credentials of electric vehicles are dependent on whether the electricity is produced from renewable sources. One day we may have enough renewable energy to meet our demands as they stand, but what if everyone buys an electric car? How many more wind turbines would that need? These renewable energy sources are interesting and key for the future but they need to be balanced with other power generation technologies. In the lifetime of the current generation, it will be exciting to see what innovations come to market for low CO2 propulsion and whether liquid fuels and the internal combustion engine can be replaced as the mainstream propulsion solution for road vehicles and trucks.
Penumbra Power is developing a system that can be fitted to existing engines to reduce emissions. The system is highly disruptive to the current method of treating exhaust gas after it has been burned in the engine. These systems require precious metals and consumable fluids such as AdBlue. This expensive system would be replaced by Penumbra Power’s Pretreatment system. We use a system that has its roots in industries such as medicine to clean the air before combustion in the engine. It is done in a unique way that reduces harmful emissions such as oxides of nitrogen as well as CO2. This process is so different to conventional engine operation that it enables the future possibility of capturing the CO2 from the engine. This is a first for automotive applications and could lead to the first zero-emission combustion engine that uses conventional fuels. A zero-emission vehicle would pave the way for enhancing low carbon mobility in the future.
About Adam Meekings (Founder of Penumbra Power)
Adam is the founder of Penumbra Power, a technology start-up committed to the reduction of emissions from vehicle exhaust gasses through their innovation, currently called ‘Pre-Treatment'. The internal combustion engine is set to be around for a long time and the UK automotive council's most forward looking roadmap up to 2050 still expects continuing IC engine development, particularly in commercial vehicles. As a result, the emissions associated with these engines will be under continuing scrutiny for the foreseeable future. Penumbra Power’s product would be retrofitted to current exhaust systems and would replace part or all of current after-treatment systems used in trucks and vehicles, improving air quality and significantly reducing emissions.

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