The Future Of Urban Mobility – What is it?

According to research by the International Energy Agency (IEA), a significant part of the total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2035 are already “locked-in” by the existing capital stock. This means that the World is increasingly tied to large investments that move us further away from the emissions trajectory required to limit the average temperature increase to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2035. Many of these large, rigid investments are in the energy and industrial sectors. Transport, on the other hand, with its relatively short lifetime of energy-related capital stock, is more flexible and thus one of the main sectors targeted by public policy when it comes to introducing less carbon intensive technologies.

Notwithstanding the sector’s decisive role in any strategy that seeks to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, transport has proved to be one of the most problematic sectors at a time when global CO2 emissions are rising at the quickest rate ever. In fact, with the increasing mobility of citizens and goods and the significant cost penalties of alternative powertrain technologies, the sector faces continuing challenges to significantly curb emissions.

If the major changes set to occur in the EU’s urbanisation rate (81% in 2035 from 74% in 2009 according to the IEA) and in car fleets (287 million in 2030 with a 28% increase from 2010 according to CE Delft) are not managed in a sustainable manner, then we can expect further traffic congestion and added pressure on roads, parking and emissions. But change towards greater urbanisation could also provide benefits if the population growth is managed sustainably. Encouraging managed growth within cities along with corresponding employment opportunities will assist in greater utilisation of existing public transport and cycling facilities due to convenient proximity to the workplace.

The Future of Urban Mobility

Significant improvements in CO2 emissions and congestion require addressing the use of the private car that continues to grow notwithstanding falling sales of new cars. With research pointing towards a decreasing rate of improvement in fuel economy of the internal combustion engine (ICE) from 2020, focus is bound to shift from the ICE to alternative technologies, some of which still partially based on the ICE (hybrids).

The long-term solution is clearly to increase the use of public transport. In city centres, this can be achieved by improving the quality of door-to-door public transport while outside city centres the cost-benefit analysis of investing in public transport will most likely lead to a combination of private and public transport.

Meanwhile the traditional approach based on the investment in physical infrastructure has reached its limit. Although past infrastructure investments have partially accommodated the growing mobility demand by citizens and organisations, they have been unable to effectively address rising congestion and emissions in many metropolitan areas. Overwhelming opinion is that the current cost of new road infrastructure largely outweighs the benefits in congestion reduction.

As a result, one of the major changes set to occur will be the shift from policy essentiality based on incentives to policy that combines incentives with restrictions and aggravated price penalties. The additional revenue, together with a portion of the financial resources traditionally allocated to the construction of new roads, tunnels and bridges will increasingly be allocated to financing public transport systems.

Simultaneously, in order to optimise the use of the pre-existing infrastructure, investments must be made in mobility management systems that integrate information from citizens, public transport providers, motorists, roadside sensor systems, traffic lights, etc. With substantially lower investments, these systems can deliver significant improvements.

From the user’s point-of-view, information and communication technologies will continue to empower individuals by giving then information on the alternatives on how to go from point A to point B. Moreover, real-time, two-way ex-change of information between citizens and mobility service providers will enable a growing number of flexible links in the transport chain (e.g. car sharing, bike sharing or demand responsive public transport) with supply moving closer to the individual needs of the user.

Inside the car, major changes are also set to occur with mandatory eCall in all new passenger cars and light duty vehicles in Europe as of 2015. eCall supporting technologies include an in-vehicle telematics platform, allowing localisation via the Global Navigation Satellite System as well as the wireless communication to and from the vehicle. With minimal additional cost, these technologies are key enablers of added functionality such as navigation with real-time traffic information, remote vehicle diagnostics and infotainment.
In general terms, the major change to urban mobility will come from the integration of individual and collective mobility through real-time integration of data from citizens and private and public transport. The result is a system that enables seamless transitions between public and private transport and between different public transport modes, that generates accurate information on estimated times of arrival of vehicles and that delivers predictability and quality to the entire transport system.

Madrid Traffic Control Centre Source Eyevis

Madrid Traffic Control Centre – Source Eyevis

Ultimately, many of these changes will require support from society for measures that will, in many cases, lead to cost penalties for CO2 emissions. On the positive side, the implementation of these measures may result in significant savings (29 billion dollars per year in 2035 according to the IEA) in pollution control. It is therefore of the utmost importance that these savings be factored in when analysing new invest-ments as they may have a relevant impact on the overall cost of a solution/technology.

The overall conclusion is that there is still time to change the emissions trajectories we are currently on but, the more time we delay decisive action, the costlier it will be to achieve the same results. If nothing is done, the only way to avoid these added costs is by forfeiting of a part of our quality of life and health. A more in-depth analysis of these and other issues can be found in the BATERRIE Project reports.

Source: Further Information On The Future Of Urban Mobility can be found on the Batterie European Project website which is financed by the Atlantic Area Transnational Programme

The Pure Energy Centre is participating into the Batterie project which aims at improving the cooperation and links between various transport services within the Atlantic Area region and to promote the application of smart technologies and usage of alternative fuels. If you want to know more about  The Future Of Urban Mobility and how it plays an important part in the Batterie Atlantic Area financed project then do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Contact the Pure Energy Centre for more information on the Batterie Project and on the solutions for electric vehicles, alternative fuels, electric charging points, vehicle conversions, fuel cell vehicles and many more