Expert Panel: A discussion on sustainable mobility and air quality

As part of our Sustainable Mobility & Air Quality In-Depth Focus, Intelligent Transport asked a panel of experts: What do you think the future of sustainable mobility will look like?

Sustainable mobility
Funke cristobal Agustín Guilisasti
Dr Thomas Funke Enrique R. Gómez Cristóbal Agustin Guilisasti

Head of Transport & Automotive in Germany and Global Co-Head of Competition at Osborne Clarke

Director of Consultancy Services & New Technologies at SENER

Founder and CEO at HumanForest

FUNKE: Access to data and interoperability will be key for sustainable mobility that is attractive and affordable. The journey towards e-mobility or hydrogen will only be as swift and smooth as the user experience.

More important than the range of an electric vehicle is the number and accessibility of nearby charging stations. Their interoperability is at the heart of a German antitrust investigation and European Union (EU) regulatory efforts. With many electric vehicles re-charging overnight, fuel stations will see fewer customers, but these will stay longer – working, eating, shopping – while their cars power up.

Efficient repair and maintenance must be assured. Garages or roadside assistance providers need access to in-vehicle data. As EU legislators refine relevant regulations, we are litigating over automotive data in Europe’s highest court.

Autonomous driving will receive a boost where data from multiple sources can be combined, in compliance with privacy regimes. E-scooters are part of urban life. Vehicle sharing services may rebound post-pandemic where they are exempt from city tolls, or enjoy preferential access to parking infrastructure. Whether shared taxi rides will gain momentum will depend on how the regulatory framework evolves. In collective transport, we will see high-speed trains win market share from airlines.

CRISTÓBAL: The privately-owned car will lose its supremacy sooner rather than later, replaced to a great extent by autonomous car sharing services. Mass transit will have to be further improved and promoted in order to increase its share, as will healthy modes of transport (cycling and walking). Intermodality and transport integration will also be a field for improvement, both physically and in terms of information, booking and payment, leading to real Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

Vehicles will be powered by 100 per cent green energy, either electricity or hydrogen, for which infrastructure will have to be adapted. Indeed, transport infrastructures themselves will be used to generate energy (solar, wind, etc.), minimising the need of external supply.

Efficiency will be another key point, in terms of routing, timetables, vehicles drive and ancillary systems (climatisation, lighting, etc.), for which data will become an essential asset.

We will also see a rationalisation of mobility, with a lot of unnecessary journeys disappearing due to better urban and land planning, the rise of teleworking and the huge potential of virtual reality (VR).

Finally, we will have to see what new modes of transport – such as hyperloop or drones, as well as others that we don’t imagine yet – can bring.

GUILISASTI: The future of sustainable mobility rests on creating the conditions for more people to have access to affordable, clean transport.

We’ve seen a technological revolution in recent years, with household names like Netflix and Airbnb placing the emphasis on access rather than ownership. This model is less capital intensive and allows a level of flexibility which outright ownership doesn’t provide. The future for mobility will be much the same – driven by demand and disruptors.

Affordability is key to making sustainable mobility a success. At HumanForest, we offer every rider 10 minutes’ free riding every day, which we believe encourages more users to change their daily routines and join the cycling community.

Sustainability depends on integrating environmentally positive aspirations into a mobility company’s core mission. Both our operations and our bikes are powered by certified renewable energy, as well as by a passion to change the way in which people get around our cities.

The future of sustainable mobility will see more people on both traditional bicycles as well as modern, safe and sturdy shared electric bikes. Bikes are quick and easy, but also much safer than the newly introduced e-scooters. Given growing concerns about air quality and climate change, as well as a recognition of cycling’s health benefits, I have little doubt that more and more journeys will be made using bicycles.