Future Transport Fuel Forum co-hosted by School of Engineering hears speakers outline options for Cleaner, Greener, Fuel alternatives

Posted on: 23 July 2010

A  debate in Trinity College Dublin  this week co-organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and the Centre for Transport Studies in TCD’s School of Engineering, heard that Ireland could become a pioneer in the area of transport fuel alternatives that could simultaneously benefit the environment and foster growth in a key industry.

The comments were made at the CILT/TCD ‘Future Transport Fuel Forum’ at which the keynote address was provided by the Minister for Sustainable Transport, Ciarán Cuffe TD, who outlined the Government’s commitment to cleaner, greener transport including the development of the electric vehicle industry in Ireland.

The President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Paul Mallee, praised the Government’s commitment to promoting transport fuel alternatives and called on them to further incentive this innovative sector in line with their Smart Economy strategy. In doing so, he said, Ireland could become a “global test bed for alternative transport fuels.”

Dr Brian Caulfield of the School of Engineering, Trinity College Dublin warned, however, that price remains the key determining factor for the public in considering the purchase of alternatively fuelled vehicles.

L-R: Dr Brian Caulfield; Frank McDonald; Aidan Murphy; Patrick Callanan; Paul Mulvaney; Conor Faughnan; Minister Ciaran Cuffe TD; Jerry Kiersey; Dr Laurence Gill

Other speakers at the debate included representatives from Bord Gáis, ESB, and transport and logistics operators. The debate was chaired by Irish Times Environment Editor, Frank McDonald.

In his address Minister Cuffe commented: “In recent months the Government has signed a second memorandum of with a major manufacturer to promote the development of the electric vehicle industry in Ireland. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to strengthen and develop Ireland’s international position as a first-mover for this innovative sector and a pioneer in cleaner, greener transport.”

CILT President Paul Mallee added, “The transport sector must capitalise on the Government’s enthusiasm for sustainable transport options and demonstrate the added-value this can bring in terms of fostering growth and supporting their Smart Economy strategy. ”

“Developments in this area are likely to focus on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as the forerunner to electric vehicles, but progress in this area remains painstakingly slow due to cost implications. Bio-fuels or compressed natural gas forming part of the fuel mix will also provide for transition or even longer-term solutions. Now is the time to consider the options. ”

Speaking at the event, Dr Brian Caulfield of the Centre for Transport Research and Innovation for People, TCD School of Engineering, presented some initial findings of research into individuals’ motivations when purchasing vehicles, focusing on what factors would encourage them to purchase hybrid electric vehicles or alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Dr Caulfield commented: “While environmental issues were found to be important, the results of this research show that cost is the most important factor when encouraging people to purchase an alternatively fuelled car. The lack of outlets yet to start selling biofuels is still a deterrent when purchasing alternatively fuelled cars, which leaves society with a chicken and egg problem.”

The Centre for Transport Research and Innovation for People (TRIP) is actively involved in research to examine the future fuel needs of vehicles. Ireland’s first ecar trial-project is currently being conducted by Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering on behalf of ESB. The TCD ecar trial research programme is being led by Professor of Civil Engineering, Margaret O’Mahony of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Structural Engineering and her research team.