Transport plays a critical role in economic, social and environmental development. It connects people to jobs, education and healthcare, enabling global trade.
Transport systems need to be greener, more efficient and safe. This requires a holistic approach that links the environment, public health and equity.
Electrification can be used to reduce the carbon footprint of many different types of transport. For example, buses that run on electricity instead of fossil fuels can significantly lower CO2 emissions since they do not produce tailpipe emissions. Electrification of vehicles could also benefit communities by improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion.
In the industrial sector, electricity can substitute for natural gas furnaces in the production of a variety of products including glass, paper, and steel. In addition, electrification of industry processes can significantly reduce GHG emissions from manufacturing processes. However, this is a relatively challenging process that requires the replacement of existing equipment and the development of new technologies.
Electricity can also replace fossil fuels for transportation in the form of hydrogen or renewable ethanol for trucks. These can be produced from excess or captured renewable resources.
The electrification of heavy-duty freight lorries can help to meet the growing demand for long distance road transport while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving efficiency. In Germany, for example, lorries are being equipped with overhead lines to provide electrical power at any speed.
In addition, electric vehicles can be retrofitted to replace petrol or diesel cars and trucks. This can be done by converting older vehicles into electric ones or re-engineering new cars to have a battery rather than an internal combustion engine.
Using EVs to commute in urban areas could also have a positive impact on air quality as they do not produce tailpipe emissions. Moreover, the cost of electricity is generally much lower than the cost of gas or diesel, making this an attractive option for many families.
Energy efficient buildings can also save money by replacing inefficient fossil-fueled heating and cooling systems with more efficient, electric options. For example, a new report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that a move to all-electric buildings could lead to more than 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
Electrification is an important strategy for decarbonizing the economy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. In fact, it has the potential to be a game changer in our efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Ultimately, this will improve the health and well-being of all Americans and the planet as a whole.
Increasingly, citizens are relying on micromobility as a sustainable transport option to help solve some of the most pressing transportation challenges. Rising populations in cities around the world have pushed car traffic to its limits, and the rise of shared fleets is changing how urban residents get from point A to point B.
Micromobility can offer a less expensive and more time-efficient alternative to driving a vehicle, especially in areas where parking is difficult or inconvenient. It can also be an important “last mile” transit solution, reducing the number of trips made by cars and encouraging people to use public transport.
When integrated with public transit, micromobility services can reduce emissions and congestion. However, scaling electrically powered micromobility vehicles can create new types of congestion that have a different set of environmental impacts than car-based congestion.
A recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the University of St. Gallen found that many consumers would be willing to pay a lower price for bundled public transit and micromobility options that save them time, money and carbon emissions.
The resulting efficiencies can be particularly significant in dense urban environments, where car and bike traffic are prone to gridlock. For example, a commuter who lives in the suburbs, but travels into town by train or e-scooter may save an hour of time and hundreds of dollars per year by avoiding car parking at the train station or bus stop.
Another benefit of micromobility is that it can help promote more active lifestyles and encourage the development of more active transportation-friendly infrastructure. Bicycles and e-scooters are generally the least carbon-intensive modes of transport, so using them can lead to reduced emissions in addition to the direct physical activity that comes with riding.
In contrast, walking can be an unsustainable way to reach the same destinations, especially when it takes longer than a trip by bicycle or e-scooter. For this reason, a broader approach to mobility is needed that integrates micromobility with other forms of sustainable transport.
Safety concerns remain an issue, but a number of cities are actively working on how to manage these challenges to ensure positive outcomes for users and pedestrians. Some are focusing on setting service areas, regulating speeds and times of operation in areas with high micromobility ridership, and encouraging helmet use.
As the global economy slowly re-enters normal operation and people return to urban areas, transport infrastructure is under pressure to transform in order to stay sustainable. From now until 2040, an estimated $2 trillion in transport infrastructure investments will be needed to fuel economic development.
Transportation accounts for a significant share of oil consumption, energy use, and carbon emissions. It is also the world’s largest source of air pollution, contributing to climate change and air quality degradation.
To meet this challenge, stakeholders must collaborate to develop and apply sustainability concepts across the full range of infrastructure construction and operations. Ultimately, sustainable infrastructure should be resilient to climate change, socially inclusive, technologically advanced, productive, and flexible.
One of the most important elements of a sustainable transport strategy is reducing the demand for private vehicles. The European Commission estimates that if all of the motorized transport in Germany was replaced with public transport, it would save 10.5 million tons of CO2 per year (HLAG-ST, 2016).
Another key element is investing in clean transport options, particularly electric cars and buses. Increasing the electrification of transport leads to improvements in urban air quality, as well as reduced emissions and noise levels.
But cities will still need to build more charging stations and ensure that their regional electrical grids can accommodate their new transportation needs. This means that infrastructures will need to become increasingly flexible, so they can withstand sudden and unexpected changes in demand.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many European cities took measures to reduce traffic and encourage alternative transport modes, such as walking and cycling. These initiatives have led to improved livability and reduced travel demand, especially in the context of commuting and shopping trips.
However, it is still not clear how these measures will affect long-term mobility behavior in cities. In the short term, they have had an impact on awareness of the benefits of reduced traffic and on shifts towards sustainable mobility (Table 2).
Smart cities are designed to make life easier and safer for their residents. They use Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and report on issues such as traffic, parking spaces, weather conditions, security and public health. In this way, city services are optimized to reduce energy and water consumption and improve public safety.
A smart city is built on three layers: a critical mass of sensors, smartphones and high-speed communication networks. These are connected to specific applications, which translate raw data into alerts and insight that lead to action.
For example, smart meters can wirelessly send power usage rates to help cut down wasted energy use. Similarly, IoT-enabled cameras can monitor crime and pinpoint crime hotspots in real time.
Many countries are pursuing smart city initiatives to improve livability, reduce pollution and boost tourism. The city-state of Singapore, for example, is building a new eco-forward town called Tengah that will feature car-free roads, charging stations for electric vehicles and more advanced sanitation facilities.
While smart cities may offer many benefits, they can also pose potential problems for some citizens. For example, some people fear that surveillance cameras will be used to spy on them or monitor their behavior. This can create an asymmetry of power between the government and the people.
Additionally, the adoption of smart city technology is often a costly undertaking that is difficult to manage and implement, unless the city has a clear strategy for how it will use the technology. However, it is a necessary step for developing sustainable transport systems that address the needs of a growing population.
In some cases, it may even be the only viable option for a particular city. Nevertheless, the smart city model should be based on research and development that considers the needs of local communities.
For example, Vienna, Austria, has adopted the third generation of smart cities by involving its citizens in co-creating the city’s Greenest City 2020 action plan. The municipality is working to make energy production and consumption more sustainable by including its citizens as investors in local solar plants.