Canadians are getting serious about clean transportation, and the government has announced the first 10 awards in a four-year program that will see $2.4 million committed to developing emissions-free solutions for aviation, rail and marine transport.
While much of the world’s investment in the transportation sector is focused on road vehicles, Canada’s looking for innovation in other sectors that contribute to its overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Transport Canada says the sector is the second-largest source of the nation’s emissions and accounts for 25 percent of the total. That’s risen by 42 percent between 1990 and 2016, the latest year for the data.
So they’ve committed to research and development primarily in the nation’s top universities, with a few companies in the mix – all focused on a wide range of solutions. The program focuses on specific challenges such as retrofitting ship propellers to increase efficiency, increasing rail connections to reduce emissions from idling time, or developing biofuels to reduce GHG emissions from planes.
“Through smart investments in clean transportation solutions, we are building a sustainable transport infrastructure that benefits all Canadians,” said Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. “The Clean Transportation System Research and Development Program advances new technologies to reduce carbon pollution, and protect the environment and well-being of our communities.”
The University of New Brunswick will be looking at how to lightweight boats and trains by switching to aluminum parts, which is a common technique in the aviation industry. They’ll also study a spray-on material to make carbon-fiber coatings. Meanwhile, the University of Carleton will be working on a database to better understand and measure the health impacts of pollution from aviation sources.
Redrock Power Systems, based in Prince Edward Island, is a company that works on fuel cells to provide alternative clean energy for fishing vessels, tugboats and other marine transport. They’ll be working on how to implement a high-speed, zero-emissions shuttle ferry that serves Lake Ontario.
Another company, the Global Spatial Technology Solutions firm, will work on environmental impact improvements for ocean-going vessels. Over at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, they’ve received funds to develop rapid electrical charging stations for marine vessels, while Waterfalls Advisors Group will work on marine biofuels. Data on using biofuels is the research plan for University of Toronto.
Some of the most interesting R&D work is focused on the rail industry, and will be done at University of British Columbia, University of Calgary and Université du Québec à Rimouski. Their projects, respectively, are to develop a standard-gauge rail vehicle that can haul small loads while running on a low power fuel cell or hybrid system; conduct research on locomotive lubrication systems with the goal of reducing friction; and develop mechanical innovations that will allow engines to run as compressors to reduce fuel consumption in both rail and marine engine systems.
All of the work is meant to help Canada meet the goals of its climate plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and align with Paris Agreement commitments.