Ten Themes for Energy in the 2020s

This short presentation describes our ‘Top Ten Themes for Energy in the 2020s’. Each theme is covered in a single slide. For an overview of the ideas in the presentation, please see our recent presentation, linked here.

Aerial Vehicles: Which Ones Fly?

We have compiled a database of over 100 companies, which have already flown c40 aerial vehicles (aka “flying cars”) and the number should rise to c60 by 2021.


The data substantiates our conclusion that aerial vehicles will gain credibility in the 2020s, the way electric vehicles did in the 2010s. Our latest updated in early-2020 shows strong progress was made in 2019 (chart below).

The database categorizes the top vehicle concepts by type, company, year-founded, company-size, company-geography, backers, fuel-type, speed, range, take-off weight, payload, year of first prototype, target commercial delivery date, fuel economy and required battery weights.

Some vehicle concepts are extremely impressive and credible; but a few may find it more challenging to meet the ranges they have promised at current battery densities…

Drones attack military fuel economy?

This data-file quantifies the fuel economies of typical military vehicle-types, as $1.7 trn per annum of global military activity consumes c0.7Mbpd of total oil demand on our estimates, which are also included in the data-file.

Military drones  are transformational. Almost all the incumbent military vehicles in our data-file have fuel economies below 1 mpg. But the Reaper and Predator drones, famous for their deployment in recent conflicts, have achieved 3mpg and 8mpg respectively. But small, next-generation electric drones will achieve well above 1,000 mpg-equivalent.

Swarms of small-scale electric drones could emerge as the most devastating military weapon of the 21st century, according to a book we read last year on the topic, arguing that “A swarm of armed drones is like a flying minefield…they are so numerous that they are impossible to defeat… each one presents a target just 4-inches across… and shooting down a $1,000 drone with a $5,000 missile is not a winning strategy”. Our notes on the book are included in the data-file.

 

Boeings and batteries?

We have applied the equations of flight to a Boeing 747. Fuel economy of 5-6 gallons per mile is calculated as a function of the plane’s mass, velocity, distance travelled and aerodynamics. Hence for a 10,000km journey, jet fuel makes up c30% of the take-off weight (which is more than all the passengers).

To fuel the same journey with battery-power would require the batteries to weigh 12x more than the entire plane, at batteries’ current energy density. The maximum range of a battery-powered 747 is currently around 90km.

With some heroic assumptions over the next 10-20 years, a battery-powered 747 could be extended to cover c1,000km. But overall, because of the long range, Trans-Atlantic air travel looks immune to electrification.

Download the model and you can see our calculation methodology, as well as testing your own inputs.

Aerial Vehicles: why flying cars fly

Aerial vehicles will do in the 2020s what electric vehicles did in the 2010s. They will go from a niche technology, to a global mega-trend that no forecaster can ignore.

These conclusions stem from a deep-dive analysis into the technology, the fuel economies and the costs, all of which will be transformational.

This 20-page written-insight summarises the evidence, reviewing over 100 different companies’ efforts, checking the equations of flight for leading concepts, and bridging to competitive costs. Aerial vehicles accelerate the energy transition.

Aerial Vehicles Re-Shape Transportation Costs?

This model calculates the costs per passenger-kilometer for transportation, based on mileage, load factors, fuel prices (oil and electricity), fuel-economy, vehicle costs and maintenance costs.

Ground level vehicles are assessed using data from around the industry, on gasoline, electric, owned and taxi vehicles.

Aerial vehicles could compete with taxis as early as 2025. By the 2030s, their costs can be 60% below the level of car ownership.

This model shows all of our input assumptions and calculations.

Who’s Afraid of Aerial Vehicles?

This data-file tabulates consumer attitudes towards aerial vehicles, based on the best perception study we have seen in the technical literature.

It summarises attitudes towards aerial vehicles in four countries, covering overall attitudes, and how they are influenced by geography, income, age, gender, education levels and length of commute.

It also identifies the top six concerns, and how sensitive each one is to different input parameters.

Vehicles: fuel economy and energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency (%) and fuel economy (passenger mpg) of different vehicle types

Vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency are quantified in this data-file, looking across different transportation types: cars, trucks, buses, hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen cars, planes, trains, helicopters, plus other smaller vehicles such as bicycles, scooters, motor-cycles and simply ‘walking’.


Our numbers are built up for each category, in kWh-per-mile, miles-per-gallon, energy efficiency percentages and ultimate CO2 intensity per mile of travel. In turn, these numbers are built up from physics calculations, enthalpy calculations and technical disclosures of underlying companies.

A good rule of thumb is that a passenger car achieves 20-40mpg and 15-20% efficiency, depending on its size; a bus or truck achieves 5-10 vehicle miles per gallon, but this is equivalent to up 50-250 passenger-equivalent miles per gallon, because of a higher load factor; and likewise a plane might achieve 0.2-0.5 vehicle miles per gallon, translating into 50-70 passenger miles per gallon, when you think of a plane as just a flying bus.

Electrification generally offers a c4x gain in vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency, especially for ground-level vehicles, increasing efficiency from c15-20% on conventional oil-powered vehicles to c60-80% on electric vehicles. Hybrids and hydrogen also yield modest efficiency improvements.

Smaller vehicles are surprisingly exciting. This is just physics, but a bicycle achieves an effective fuel economy of 1,000 miles per gallon-equivalent, which is about 8x better than an electric vehicle, and even 3x better than walking (note here). Moreover, an emerging class of electric transportation technologies is fast, convenient and yet achieve 4-120x efficiency gains per passenger mile (note here).

Further data dis-aggregating the CO2 intensity per mile of electric vehicles versus ICE cars, depending on how they are powered, is linked here.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.