We should aim to cease the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation as a matter of urgency. This would result in a rapid reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, giving the dual benefits of reduced global warming and of reduced smog in our cities. We should also be able to cease the importation of crude oil, except for special products such as lubricating oils and greases.
Freight Systems
Inter-city rail systems should be electrified, perhaps by the use of fuel tanker rolling stock, fuel cells and electric traction motors. Suburban rail systems may use pantagraph electrical supply, to reduce the safety hazard of live rails.
Where practicable, freight should be containerised. Inter-city freight may be consolidated at container depots.
This would facilitate flexibilty in the choice of forwarding by road, rail or marine services, whichever is the most appropriate. It would result in considerable reductions in freight handling costs, and reduced loading upon the road infrastructure. For this reason, updating and extension of the railway network should have a higher priority than major highway construction projects.
The local collection and delivery of freight may use conventional transport, presumably changing over time to the use of hydrogen fuel. In the interim, diesel fuel should be produced locally from underground coal, as is now being developed at Chinchilla in Queensland.
Sea Freight
In recent years a number of wind-powered freight ships have been tested. Wind energy is collected by steerable metal aerofoils. Google lists over 10,000 links to wind powered ships.
As necessary, marine propulsion systems can be powered by renewable fuels or by nuclear reactors. The feasibility of applying nuclear power to ships has been adequately demonstrated by both the U.S.A. and Russia.
Moving People
Mass transport in metropolitan areas may be provided by a combination of electrified train and tram services.
Introduce medium speed standard-gauge railcars, with frequent services, for transport between capital cities and regional centres. Ensure that these are a convenient alternative to personal transport using hybrid motor vehicles.
Hydrogen-fuelled fuel-cell based electrical vehicles may replace existing bus services. The technology already exists and is in service in Germany. The hydrogen fuel may be stored at reasonable pressure in metal hydride "batteries". It will be necessary to provide rapid hydrogen gas replenishment facililies at suitably-located bus depots. It was recently announced that a contract has been let to provide hydrogen generation and distribution facilities for the city of Delhi in India.
There are already several designs of personal commuter vehicles, which may be used for local transport, e.g for shopping, employment, school. Operational range of battery-powered cars seems typically to be 120 - 200km. Charging points could be installed at homes, transport hubs, parking stations, or at shopping centres. For persons who regularly need to travel longer distances without using public transport, hybrid vehicles offer extended operational range. The installation of a fuel cell and hydrogen/lpg/lng storage tank would allow inter-city travel.
Until hydrogen re-fuelling points are installed for public use, hybrid vehicles must use small i.c. engines or fuel cells, running on diesel oil, gasoline, lpg or bio fuels, to re-charge the traction batteries.
(Note that some years ago, NASA patented improvements to the design of the anodes in lightweight silver-zinc storage batteries, which substantially increased reliability and the achievable number of charge/discharge cycles. Since Australia has abundant quantities of silver and zinc, the local manufacture of re-cyclable modified silver-zinc batteries should be a promising venture, as an alternative to the more-expensive lithium cells which seem to be favoured at present.)
Super capacitors, which have a low weight/storage capacity ratio when compared with conventional batteries, have a high permissible charge/discharge rate. For this reason, they may in future be used in electric vehicles, in combination with batteries, to improve acceleration and regenerative braking performance.