Close close


Enter your search term below:



What technologies and trends are driving sustainable transport?

What technologies and trends are driving sustainable transport?

Established in September 2023, the Hydrogen & Sustainable Transport Economy Accelerator is a thriving support programme, delivered by SETsquared, which brings together a community of over 40 start-ups and SMEs in the sector in the South West.

Sustainable transport is key to a healthier, greener future and an essential component of reaching Net Zero by 2050. This environmental imperative, converging with rapid technological advancement, regulatory pressures, and global competition, has created dynamic conditions that are sparking innovation at every turn.

We caught up with Yuchen Gu, SETsquared sector manager, to explore the sustainable transport sector and understand the latest trends and technologies shaping it.


  1. Autonomous mobility

As well as making roads safer, autonomous mobility will also have a positive impact on the environment. The rise of electric and autonomous vehicles (AV) is reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and decreasing emissions.

For one, it’s a more accurate way of travelling than human control. It will choose the shortest most efficient route, meaning you save energy while driving.

Secondly, there is huge potential to integrate AV in tandem with other sustainable solutions into public transport fleets providing an alternative to car ownership.

The challenge with AV is the integration of these technologies into existing methods of transport, legal and regulatory frameworks, cybersecurity and issues around public trust that need to be resolved.

We have some interesting members that are doing groundbreaking work in this area, including:

Chassis Autonomy which has developed the world’s first fail-operation steering system for autonomous vehicles. In a world where autonomous vehicles operate without a human driver, safety is paramount. Chassis Autonomy is taking a new approach to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles. Its CS1 steer-by-wire system employs a unique mechanical, electrical and software architecture to ensure that autonomous vehicles maintain steering functionality even in the event of a system or vehicle fault.


  1. Green energy engine

Be it cars, aviation or railways – every mode of transport uses an engine. To reach Net Zero, we need full electrification of all these transport methods. Battery technology is one thing we need to look at, and hydrogen is the other.

In terms of batteries, materials are the biggest challenge – anodes, cathodes and materials. How can make sure they are not corroded during use? How can you make sure the conversion rate is high, and how can you prolong the life of those batteries? Equally, after use, how you are going to reuse those batteries is a challenge.

In terms of hydrogen, there are two ways it can provide the driving force for vehicles. Hydrogen fuel can be burned to create electricity, or it can be used in a fuel cell. The hydrogen reacts with the oxygen from the air in the presence of a catalyst. That strips electrons that can run through an electric circuit, charging a battery that can power an electric motor.

Looking forward, electric vehicles will still take the largest market share, but I see hydrogen catching up very soon.

Programme member, Battrevive, is looking to prolong the life of EV batteries by 5 to 10 years. This extension of life provides a higher financial incentive than recycling, meaning that repurposing can lower the EV’s total cost of ownership costs by adding value post-automotive life, which may increase adoption incentives.

The challenges around the EV charging infrastructure are well-known and go beyond simply scaling. Most grid infrastructure was not built to accommodate the high energy demand required by EV charging systems and the updates required are costly and lengthy. We are increasingly seeing innovators utilising Big Data and AI to overcome obstacles to optimise energy use, improve reliability, forecast demand and determine optimum charging station location.

There is a new concept called a ‘Community Based’ charging service, which will support users on where to find available charging spots and find out the optimal time needed to charge their car – using swarm and collective intelligence.


  1. Innovative materials and manufacturing

The most promising manufacturing technology is additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing produces more accurate and complex structures more quickly than conventional manufacturing such as injection moulding. It’s called ‘additive’ because the components are manufactured (through 3D printing) and then overlayed by adding materials layer by layer. This sustainable solution opens whole new possibilities for replacing and modernising system parts and upgrading vehicles with new components and it can be integrated into many existing manufacturing lines.

We are actively looking for businesses providing additive manufacturing solutions to join the programme.


  1. Smart infrastructure

Connectivity is no longer limited to computers and smartphones. Cars, cameras, and traffic lights/management can all connect through Internet of Things and AI-controlled systems to create intelligent transport systems to optimise traffic and make journeys more efficient and sustainable.

Optimising traffic flow and parking, dynamic routing, smart scheduling, EV support, air quality and noise reduction measures all form part of the smart infrastructure picture and are contributing to a decarbonised future.

Our member, MCG, is innovating in this area. It is developing a blockchain-based platform – VUILA – which captures the journey of products from manufacturers to individuals and aims to reshape the logistics distribution sector in an efficient and sustainable way.


  1. Future mobility services

Also known as ‘sharing systems’ or ‘mobility as a service’, this area of digital innovation uses smart collective intelligence to pool bikes, e-scooters or cars within the community as a way of making transport sustainable.

Again, we have a really interesting member company working in this space. Bizumi is developing an end-to-end travel management platform promoting traveller wellbeing and to empower organisations to achieve sustainability goals. Its Cero3 project aims to revolutionise business travel planning with its focus on sustainability and Net Zero emissions. This innovative digital tool will leverage extensive datasets and advanced technologies to assist businesses in making informed, low-carbon travel decisions, aligning with emerging legislative requirements.


Trends across different modes of transport

The aviation and maritime sectors have well-defined roadmaps towards sustainability, unlike road transportation which is less defined and with different viable solutions being explored.

By 2050, the solution for aviation will be hydrogen. The same is true for maritime: Hydrogen will take over.

For road transportation, the current signs are that hydrogen won’t dominate and electric vehicles will still be the biggest players in the future. We’ve seen EV and battery technologies and hydrogen go hand in hand for 20 years now. Hydrogen will win in some areas for example if you need high power, to cover a longer range or heavy use of vehicles.

We won’t see hydrogen powering street cars, but it will fuel heavy-duty and freight vehicles, buses or railways because they need larger quantities of power. The other area is charging. Charging takes a lot of time for EV batteries, and if you have a fleet of 10 tracks charging at the same time, you can easily deplete a small town’s electricity very quickly. Hydrogen charging is like conventional fuel charging – it just takes a few minutes – so there are clear advantages there.

As an example of this, our member Rhizome2 specialises in on-site hydrogen production and refuelling equipment. Its ZEPHYR station produces hydrogen on-site via water electrolysis, ready for refuelling freight vehicle fleets.

The Hydrogen & Sustainable Transport Economy Accelerator provides start-ups and SMEs with support to develop their business strategy, raise investment, and win grant funding for that all-important R&D.

It’s open to businesses innovating across all aspects of the sustainable transport value chain, including materials and components.

Predominantly aimed at businesses in the South West, there is flexibility for companies in the rest of the UK to join if you have partners or collaborations in the area or are looking to move into the area.

Find out more about the Hydrogen and Sustainable Transport Economy Accelerator

Close close

Mailing List sign-up

  • By submitting this form you agree to our privacy policy

SETsquared is a partnership between

Close close

Mailing List sign-up

  • By submitting this form you agree to our privacy policy