Season 4, Post 47: New ways of moving
We’re at that time of the year where inboxes and websites seem filled with year-ahead predictions. This – refreshingly – is not one of those pieces; rather a round-up of recent things we’ve read and heard about how the future of transport is evolving.
First up, we were intrigued to learn about several pioneering projects involving solar-powered vehicles. Expect possible launches in 2023. The high-level logic is compelling given both elevated petrol prices and the growing significance of climate change. Against this background, filling up with clean, solar energy certainly sounds enticing. Sono Motors, a German business, is trialling a vehicle called Sion. It has over 450 solar cells integrated seamlessly into its plastic hood, fenders, sides, roof and rear panels. According to the manufacturer, these can provide enough energy to extend the car’s 190-mile battery by an average 70 miles a week, or up to 150 miles in optimal conditions. The vehicle will only set you back about €25,000. Its costs have been kept competitive since much production has been outsourced (to Valmet) and the Sion currently comes in only one format. Over 20,000 people have apparently put down deposits. Watch this space. Other players also hard at work in the solar vehicle space include Aptera and Lightyear.
If a solar-powered car were not futuristic enough, then what about being transported by a drone? We discussed this possibility in our recent thematic white paper. Many see the transportation of people by drone (or vertical take-off and landing device) as being the holy grail for the industry, with a bigger addressable market opportunity than, say, moving parcels or pizzas around quickly. Your author remains sceptical. Nonetheless, it was interesting to read a detailed piece in The Economist which profiled the opening of Europe’s first vertiport. Located in Pontoise-Cormeilles, close to Paris, it currently serves just as a prototype – since passengers have nowhere to which they can fly for now. Its backers assert that the time from check-in to flight should take only 15 minutes and that services will be available in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024. Both regulators and, of course, travellers will need some reassuring prior to then.
Closer to home and away from the realms of hype, we spoke with one of our contacts in the transport space. He asserted – and we are sympathetic to this view – that the biggest trend to watch for in 2023 would simply be more data. Regardless of whether you are an automaker, a transport start-up or even a municipal government, everyone will need to rely more on data to meet their mobility goals. These could be as diverse as optimising traffic flow to building and managing better (smarter) infrastructure to determining where to locate new charging/ docking stations. What about autonomous vehicles (whether road-based or flying)? No time soon, but over the next decade, it does seem reasonable to expect an evolution of the technology and its further integration into both personal vehicles and public transport.
29 November 2022
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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Separately, and in case you missed it, interested readers can now view our 2023 Outlook piece, which was released earlier in November.
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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