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Getting there

The pandemic and ensuing supply-chain chaos upended assumptions about where we shop, how we travel, and ways to resupply the global economy. Shipping companies are reinventing themselves, vehicles are ditching fossil fuels, and artificial intelligence is taking the wheel. The world is on the verge of the greatest mobility and supply-chain transformation in a generation, and the business of moving people and goods around the planet will never be the same.

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  • When will supply chains go back to normal?

    Supply chains should slowly recover in 2022, assuming overstuffed ports and warehouses finally get a chance to clear out the glut of containers piling up in shipyards and surrounding neighborhoods

    But that will only happen if there aren’t any major new disruptions, like another mega-ship blocking the Suez Canal, future covid variants that shutter factories and ports, or other disasters that gum up the mechanisms of global trade.

  • Why shipping lines are buying planes

    The world’s largest shipping lines are using their pandemic windfall to expand into new, potentially more lucrative lines of businesses:

  • The environmental footprint of shipping

    50,000: Number of commercial ships in the world, nearly all of which burn carbon-emitting marine fuel oil

    4.5 million: Barrels of fossil fuels the shipping industry currently uses per day

    3 million: Global electric vehicle sales in 2020

    450,000: Metric tons of green methanol fuel Maersk will need each year to run 12 carbon-neutral ships

  • What supply backlogs look like from space

    In 2021, the supply chain crunch got so bad that satellites could see port traffic jams from space. Spire Global compiled a series of satellite images into a time lapse video of ships stuck waiting outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    Image copyright: Spire Global
  • Decarbonizing shipping

    $1.9 trillion: Total cost to decarbonize global shipping over the next 20 to 30 years. The industry is far behind doing its part to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but in recent years, retailers and shipping lines have begun making public pledges to decarbonize freight—and they’re starting to put their money behind their promises.

  • The falling price of batteries

    The price of an electric car battery fell 90% between 2010 and 2019, paving the way for the rise of a mass market for electric vehicles. But if automakers want to cut costs further while extending their cars’ range, they’ll have to explore new battery chemistries.

  • How soon will we have self-driving cars?

    Autonomous vehicle startups claim they’ll be able to surpass human performance in the latter half of the 2020s. Most companies are trying to do that using a mix of cameras, radar, lidar, and high-definition maps of the world’s roads. But in 2021, Tesla announced that it would attempt to cut costs by selling self-driving cars that rely on cameras alone.