EU Smart Mobility Strategy Unveiled
Professor Dato Dr Ahmad Ibrahim
Fellow Academy of Science, Head of Research of Confexhub Group
The world’s transport sector is a major contributor to global GHG emissions. Changing the fuel mix in transport, away from fossil, is one way to curb the emissions. Attempts to introduce the alternatives have intensified in recent years. However, progress has been slow. Rails have shown better progress than the others. Cars have also witnessed some shifting away from the traditional fossil-based internal combustion engine. Many predict the electric car will eventually nail the coffin of fossil fuel-driven cars. The transport segment which is the slowest in changing is aviation. There have been trials using renewable kerosene. But these are limited. Notwithstanding the resistance to change, countries around the world have put in place their strategies to hasten the shift to sustainable transportation.
It has been reported that the EU recently published its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy with an Action Plan involving 82 initiatives. That should guide transport policies in Europe for the next four years. The Strategy also includes transport industry transition targets by 2030, 2035 and 2050. The strategy contains some figures for road traffic target. At least 30 million emission-free vehicles, three million charging points and 1,000 hydrogen filling stations will be made available by 2030. Hydrogen is clearly an important feature of the strategy. The document is meant to serve as a basis for making the EU transport system greener, more digital and more resistant to future crises.
In addition to the 30 million vehicles mentioned above, 100 European cities are to be climate-neutral, while the high-speed train network is to double by 2030. Cities, where the world population is concentrated, are undoubtedly at the centre of the problems. Cities are also where the deployment of transport is most intense. By 2035, they want emission-free large aircraft to be ready for the market. By 2050, they target all new cars, vans, buses and heavy goods vehicles should be emission-free, rail freight traffic should double, high-speed rail should triple while the multimodal Trans-European Transport Network (TENT) should be equipped with “sustainable and smart transport with high-speed connectivity will be operational for the comprehensive network. A truly ambitious target.
The Strategy places particular focus on rail and multi-modal transport along with strengthening measures to increase the uptake of electric cars, vans and trucks. They aim for flying to be significantly reduced, while the maritime sector has been mentioned for special focus in decarbonisation. Admittedly, air and waterborne transport have greater decarbonisation challenges in the next decades. This is due to the current lack of market-ready zero-emission technologies, as well as the long development life cycles of aircraft and vessels. These modes, they maintain, must have priority access to additional renewable and low-carbon liquid and gaseous fuels since there is a lack of suitable alternative power trains in the short term. The Strategy states that the European Green Deal calls for a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight carried today by road to shift to rail and inland waterways.
There is a clear move to promote multimodal transport to reduce the overall number of motorised vehicles on the roads. The least polluting modes of transport will be prioritised, which is reflected in what the strategy calls “polluter pays, the user pays” models. Ending fossil fuel subsidies is also on the card. And the stipulation that the most sustainable choice of transport should be clearly indicated. With adequate information on the environmental footprint and a more systemic opportunity for consumers to voluntarily offset their travel, consumer and businesses will be empowered to make more sustainable delivery and transport policies. Smart mobility and greater digitalisation are addressed so that users can experience a seamless multi-modal experience throughout their journey. For electric and fossil-fuelled carmakers alike there is a clear thrust towards a more spatially-optimised modal mix of transport in urban environments. Here, the Strategy states that: “To create a truly smart transport system, efficient capacity allocation and traffic management must also be addressed to avoid the capacity crunch.” The COVID-19 pandemic has added more urgency to strategy. The more sustainable and less polluting trends, as well as vulnerabilities, were exposed by the crisis. Top of Form