Meeting Details
Cars, Trains or Planes? Biofuels – food or fuel?
Thursday 8th Feb 2007

The report of the meeting is online (77kB).

Speakers were:

  1. Prof. Roger Kemp, Lancaster University, discussing energy efficiency in public transport. Download his presentation (1.08 MB PDF download).
  2. Dr. Gail Smith from Unilever's Sustainable Agriculture group working on tropical oils. Download her Biofuels: Fuel or Food" presentation (6 MB PDF download).
    Also, Unilever have recently produced a report on biofuels and Unilever's approach to the subject (4.3 MB).
  3. Simon Harris is a director of Lysanda Ltd., a local business with a novel method for monitoring vehicle emissions. Download his presentation and notes (10 MB PDF download).

See also the October 2007 Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) Report (1.1 MB PDF download).

We covered the practical availabilty and sustainability of biofuels from tropical agriculture and when trains are, and are not, more or less fuel efficient than Airbuses and Audi Quattros.

Few realise that trains have about the same fuel efficiency as cars, and that high-speed trains are about as fuel efficient as jet aircraft; but that these numbers are crucially dependent on how full the vehicle is. However, in principle, electric trains could run today on carbon-free electricity (nuclear and wind) which cars and planes can’t. Ground transport today needs liquid fuels, and aircraft need high density liquid fuels (e.g. not ethanol nor first generation biodiesel). Can we really grow enough biofuels to make a significant difference (yes), but can we make enough to “solve” the ground transport problem ?

Our speakers on the subject were:

  • Roger Kemp FREng, CEng, FIET, FIMechE is Head of the Engineering Department at Lancaster University. Prior to joining academia in 2003, he spent almost 30 years in the rail industry except for two years as Development Manager for the Lucas Electric Vehicle Project. He was Engineering Director of GEC Transportation Projects where he was responsible for projects as diverse as the Class 91 locomotive, Docklands Light Railway and Seoul Subway Line 4. After the merger forming Alstom, Roger moved to France and spent two years as Directeur des Études d’Ensemble in the Paris head office and was Project Director of the consortium building Eurostar. Subsequently he worked on projects in Australia and Taiwan and, from 1997, was UK Technical and Safety Director for Alstom Transport. At Lancaster he is a member of the sustainable energy group.
  • Gail Smith, did her PhD in Cambridge, and after working as a postdoc here, she joined Unilever where she started work on coconut in vitro propagation. She then moved into coconut and oil palm plant breeding, selection, agronomy and environmental aspects of agriculture; including working on-site at several tropical plantations. She has since worked on other tropical and temperate crops, farming systems and supply chains and is now one of the leaders of the scientific programmes for Unilever’s sustainable agriculture project, working to improve the social, environmental and financial sustainability of major food supply chains. Oil palm is one of the 5 'key' crops in the Unilever programme.
  • Simon Harris is an entrepreneur and technology investor. He is a director of Lysanda Ltd., a local business with a novel method for monitoring vehicle emissions. The technology enables the monitoring of toxic and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, in real time. It records values of individual pollutants and builds an accurate profile of the vehicle’s environmental performance. The data gathered is transmitted to a data management centre, and enables commercial fleet operators to control fuel and running costs and demonstrate a clean bill of health. The system is now fitted to a demonstration vehicle, and field trials are taking place with a commercial goods fleet.

Light refreshments were provided before and a buffet meal with wine after the event. Attendance was free, but space was limited and registration was required.

The meeting was held in central Cambridge on the Sidgwick Avenue / West Road site with registration at 16:30 and the talks beginning at 17:00.


Reddie & Grose
Powered by Tanasity smoothstream © Cambridge Energy 2004-06