Four trends that could clean up road transport

(EurActiv, 25 Jan 2017) The move towards autonomous vehicles, driven by the progressive electrification of transport, and backed up by road pricing schemes, all carry the potential of radically cleaning up Europe’s transport system, writes Greg Archer.

Greg Archer is clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, a green campaign group.

Our current transport system is profoundly unsustainable producing more than a quarter of Europe’s CO2 emissions. It is the dominant source of air pollution causing the deaths of almost half a million citizens annually. Our current cars are grossly inefficient too, typically using just 1-2% of the energy in the fuel to move the person. Economically, congestion imposes an annual cost of €100 billion reducing GDP by 1%. This cannot go on. Fortunately, it does not need to. Four trends are likely to dominate mobility in the next 10-20 years with the possibility, but no guarantee, that they will collectively deliver more sustainable mobility.

Firstly, vehicles will be progressively electrified and work in tandem with modernised, smart grids that will be increasingly powered by renewables. Electricity will be entirely decarbonised by 2050 and the steep reductions in the price of wind, solar and batteries create the conditions for an electro-mobility revolution. That’s not just electric cars but also trains, bikes, scooters, vans and, ultimately, hybrid and electric trucks that can be recharged through overhead lines. These vehicles will support the grid by providing a flexible source of storage and demand – charged mainly at night when demand is low.

The dieselgate scandal has helped show the car industry the writing is on the wall for the infernal combustion engine. Nissan-Renault was an early mover in developing battery electric vehicles, but in recent months billions in investments have been committed to by Volkswagen Group and Mercedes, while both have teamed up with BMW and Ford to develop a fast charging network that will charge the car while you have a cup of tea. Other manufacturers have similar plans. This is no longer greenwash.

External link

EurActiv, 24 Jan 2017: Four trends that could clean up road transport