Green transportation in Davos provides a globally sustainable model

ABB-enabled systems show that electric vehicles’ time has arrived

As world leaders convene in Davos for their annual gathering, they will experience for themselves one path toward a better planet: sustainable transportation.

The Davos local government, through a public-private partnership that includes ABB and the local utility, has adopted electric vehicles powered by clean, renewable energy. The system is ready just in time for use by the 3,000-plus attendees expected for the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting.

An electric bus will be able to run continuously through town and between conference venues, thanks to ABB-supplied flash-charging technology at one of the bus stops. Such charging stations can refresh the batteries in 20 seconds, as passengers alight and board.

Similarly, the many electric cars that will be transporting attendees around Davos will be able to recharge their batteries at eight ABB fast-charging stations.

These newly installed bus and car charging systems are no mere temporary demonstration project for WEF. Plans call for the new infrastructure to integrate permanently into a system that already includes the region’s ABB-enabled electric train system and the local utility grid, which is powered by hydroelectric generators and solar installations and also employ employs ABB technology. In short, Davos has adopted an end-to-end e- mobility system that will serve as a potential global model for clean, climate-friendly sustainable transport.

Indeed, for more than a century, ABB’s expertise has been central to making the Alps accessible via gondolas, cable cars, mountain railroads and other specialized forms of transport. Recent examples include the world’s steepest funicular railway the Stoosbahn and Switzerland’s first chairlift suitable for children and the physically disabled, located at the popular Klosters-Madrisa mountain resort near Davos. Energy-efficient equipment supplied by ABB is enabling people to travel in comfort and style at high altitudes nearly anywhere in the world, including the Alps.


As Europe’s highest-elevation town, Davos demonstrates that electric transportation can be reliable and resilient even in an environment subject to harsh weather, extreme temperatures and challenging terrain. The ABB technologies that are also integrating the systems with the local utility’s power-generation and grid network, and that can remotely monitor and optimize use of the charging stations, are readily transferable to other climes and locales around the world.

The era of sustainable transport, as Davos demonstrates, has truly arrived.

Crucial role in fighting climate change

Zurich-based ABB is an international leader in developing and deploying energy-efficient technologies that are transforming transportation in globally sustainable ways.

This is a crucial role, because in the fight against climate change, the transport sector presents a tremendous opportunity. Fossil-fuel powered cars, trucks, trains and planes account for approximately one-quarter of the world’s energy consumption – and about the same proportion of global fossil-fuel emissions. Switching to cleaner forms of transport would not only dramatically diminish the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, but also reduce harmful emissions of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and lung-damaging particulates.

No wonder ABB considers sustainable transportation an important part of the company’s global offerings of clean, energy-efficient technologies for utilities, industry and buildings and public infrastructure.

At Davos, the ABB capabilities in evidence will include the electric buses that can whisk people around towns and cities with little noise and no pollution. The bus’s flash-charging bus system, recently inaugurated in Geneva, will also be implemented in Nantes, France.

For electric cars, ABB is already the global leader in fast charging, with more than 6,000 stations installed around the world. In Germany, for example, ABB’s fast-charging systems for electric cars are being used in a growing network of service stations along the country’s motorways. The company has also rolled out car chargers in Russia, the United States and Canada.

And through its recently announced partnership with the Formula E electric-car racing organization, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, ABB will help further refine the design and functionality of electric vehicles to push the boundaries of e-mobility.

ABB has more than a century’s experience helping Switzerland use electric-train technologies to master the Alps. The company’s electric cable car and chairlift motors also serve many of the region’s ski resorts – including the slopes at Davos.

But ABB’s transportation solutions are not limited to the land-based movement of people and goods. The company also enables ocean-going tankers, freighters and passenger ships to use electric propulsion to ply the world’s waters more cleanly and efficiently. ABB’s propulsion units, known as Azipod systems, power vessels with steerable, high-efficiency electric-drive propellers that makes ships significantly more maneuverable and can reduce their need for onboard fossil fuels by 40 percent or more.

Moreover, ABB’s technology, which includes sophisticated sensors, also make ships easier to maintain and greatly reduce the need for onboard engineers and portside mechanics, thanks to the digital capabilities of ABB AbilityTM. The ABB Ability platform can use the internet “cloud’’ for remote monitoring and diagnostics from on-shore operations centers that are already serving more than 650 vessels around the world.

Even the feasibility of electric-powered flight became evident when the sun-powered airplane Solar Impulse, bearing ABB’s logo, circumnavigated the globe in 2016. The plane, capable of flying either day or night, was designed and built with the guidance of engineers from ABB, who drew from the company’s on-the-ground experience in maximizing the output of the solar cells and integrating renewable energy into electricity distribution systems.

“ABB contributes to climate goals with innovative solutions that improve energy efficiency and performance while extending the lifetime of equipment and reducing waste,” said ABB’s CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer. “We are showing that sustainable transport is a pattern for the world of the future.”

Meeting global energy demand

Even as pressure mounts to curb the environmental impact of energy consumption, the world’s demand for energy is growing – driven by population growth, urbanization and rising economic expectations in developing countries.

That’s why “sustainable” transportation cannot refer only to cleaner vehicles. It needs to include complete, integrated transportation networks that are capable of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while also reducing the environmental impact of energy consumption.

Skeptics like to point out that e-vehicles are only as green as the source of the electricity that powers them. A city full of electric buses where the local utility burns coal might be no cleaner than if the buses continued running on fossil fuels. The skeptics might say, therefore, that e-mobility is viable only in places with nearby sources of renewable electricity – like Davos’s hydro-electric generators

But modern technology means that electricity generation need no longer be bound by local geography. High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission systems developed by ABB can now efficiently carry clean power thousands of miles.

In India for example, a UHVDC (ultrahigh voltage direct current) link provided and supported by ABB has begun carrying hydroelectric power from the Brahmaputra river basin in northeast India to the densely populated Uttar Pradesh region that includes Delhi.

At more than 1,700 kilometers, the link is among the longest in the world, supplying enough extra electricity to serve some 90 million people. It is enabled by a transformer made by ABB that is one of the most critical components in the link, converting 6,000 megawatts of power from the hydro plants into a form compatible with the UHVDC transmission system

ABB’s HVDC technology is capable of integrating remote renewables and transmiting power thousands of miles to serve consumerss and electric-transportation systems in densely populated places.

“HVDC is a game-changing technology that enjoys pride of place in ABB’s pioneering innovation heritage” said Claudio Facchin, President, ABB Power Grids. “We continue to push the frontiers of HVDC technology, which is playing a key role in shaping an increasingly digital and interconnected power network. It is a key element of ABB’s Next Level strategy, as we reinforce our global leadership as a partner of choice for enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid.”

ABB technologies are also making possible a multitude of other novel clean-transportation solutions – like solar-powered charging stations for electric rickshaw taxis in Jabalpur, India. If widely adopted, the stations could help all of that country’s teeming cities eliminate the two-stroke gasoline-powered rickshaws that are a major source of noise and pollution.

Not just cleaner – but better

ABB, with its more than 125-year heritage of innovative technologies, believes clean and efficient transportation can help to drive economic growth in a sustainable way.

Of course, a truly sustainable technology must deliver a better product at a lower cost.

As technical advances give electric vehicles ever greater range, for example, consumers are discovering that e-cars can offer the same comfort and convenience as conventional cars, but at a reduced operating expense. The fastest ABB charging stations can also enable vehicle manufacturers to install smaller batteries, making it possible to produce cars, buses and trucks that are lighter in weight and therefore all the more efficient.

And ABB Ability™ can enable operators to remotely monitor e-vehicle charging stations and allow fleet operators to plot optimal routes and avoid equipment failures, among many other mission-critical tasks.

It is all part of innovation’s virtuous circle. The better the electric vehicles and support infrastructure, the faster they will be adopted by consumers, businesses and transit agencies. And, in turn, the more sustainable the world’s transportation will become.

Ideally, as thousands of global opinion leaders experience sustainable transportation first-hand at the WEF meeting in Davos, they can help share that global message.


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