Future mobility: the challenges we face

Road transport fulfils the overwhelming majority of needs for companies and individuals, giving us mobility and delivering the goods and services we take for granted. Cars are our number one source of mobility, taking the average European almost 13,000 kilometres a year.

Over 70% of journeys are made by car – be it private car, taxi or car-sharing. Road freight transport is the backbone of trade and commerce on the European continent. Trucks and vans move more than 14 billion tonnes of goods per year, delivering 75% of all goods carried over land in Europe. Buses are the most widely-used form of public transport in the EU, serving cities as well as suburban and rural areas –  they are also the most cost-efficient and flexible form of public transport, requiring minimal investments to launch new lines or routes.

In parallel to providing mobility, Europe’s automobile manufacturers are also fully committed to further reducing CO2 emissions. Our industry has already made great strides in improving the CO2 performance of new vehicles. In 2015 average new car emissions in Europe were 36% lower than in 1995, an impressive decrease in just two decades. CO2 emissions have been cut by improving engine efficiency, developing advanced powertrains with ultra-low carbon footprints, and building lighter vehicles. These savings have been achieved in conjunction with strong decreases in pollutants and noise levels. By 2021, CO2 emissions from new cars coming on to the roads will be 42% less than in 2005, and the sector is committed to do even more in the future.

At the same time, manufacturers have significantly reduced the environmental impact of vehicle production, with recycling being part of the ‘design for sustainability’ concept. Water consumption per car produced, for instance, has been reduced by a staggering 35.9% since 2006. Significant investments in safety have resulted in a range of built-in mechanisms that protect occupants in a crash (airbags, adaptive restraint systems), and give more control to the driver in emergency situations (anti-lock braking systems and electronic stability control). Clearly, the automotive industry has made significant progress over the past decades, but what are the challenges that we will have to face?

Rising transport demand and environmental challenges

Despite the CO2 reductions delivered by automobile manufacturers, total greenhouse gas emissions from transport have grown since the 1990s, largely due to huge increases in transport demand. All existing forecasts show that demand for passenger and freight transport will only continue to grow in decades to come. They suggest an increase in mobility demand of 2.6 times the current levels by 2050. Global trade-related international freight is also projected to grow by a factor of 4.3 by 2050, with road freight’s share up from 6% to 10%, driven by increasing intra-regional trade. At the same time, the very nature of our mobility needs is also changing rapidly. The expectations of younger generations are defined by the smartphone revolution; they increasingly demand transportation that provides the level of digital utility and capability to which they are accustomed when it comes to other services.

In parallel, ideas of ownership are changing as well. With each generation, people seem to become less committed to vehicle ownership. And when looking at society as a whole, changes in consumer demand are transforming the types of goods that are being delivered, their distribution and the organisation of deliveries. Think, for example, of all those parcels delivered to people who are shopping online, all of them expecting rapid, regular and direct deliveries. But also demographic changes will play a role in redefining the future of mobility. Europe’s population is becoming older – by 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in the over-80s. How can we make sure that the elderly can continue to drive in the future?

Another phenomenon that is redefining mobility is urbanisation. It is estimated that our planet will count 9.7 billion inhabitants by 2050, with two-thirds of people living in urban settlements. Urbanisation is an ongoing phenomenon in Europe, both in terms of urban land expansion and increasing population share. By 2050, more than 82% of people in Europe will live in cities, compared to 75% now. Besides the fact that mobility demand will increasingly need to meet the needs of city dwellers, cities are also among the areas where exceedances of air quality standards occur. Reducing air pollution therefore remains a priority as well, even though it is challenging to reduce CO2 and pollutants at the same time – as reducing both simultaneously requires conflicting measures.

So what kind of future mobility solutions will tomorrow bring? And how do we get there? Learn more about the future of mobility in ACEA’s Manifesto for Clean, Safe and Smart Mobility by clicking here.

This is the first article in a series on the Manifesto for Clean, Safe and Smart Mobility, which was launched on the occasion of ACEA’s 25th anniversary.

The Manifesto presents an overview of what progress has been made to date by Europe’s automobile industry. It also identifies where we stand today, by explaining the environmental challenges and rising demand for transport we face. Finally, the Manifesto provides a glimpse of what tomorrow will bring, by exploring the potential of future mobility solutions. This Manifesto also makes 10 key policy recommendations to ensure that the mobility of the future will reach new levels in terms of environmental performance, safety, as well as automation and connectivity.

Click here to discover ACEA’s Manifesto for Clean, Safe and Smart Mobility.

Content type News article
Vehicle types All vehicles
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