Is sharing mobility the future?

19 December Dec 2016 1210 19 December 2016

Vita International posed the question to Veronica Aneris, Senior policy officer at Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe's leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport.

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Vita International posed the question to Veronica Aneris, Senior policy officer at Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe's leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport.

Shared transportation has grown tremendously in recent years as a renewed interest in urbanism and growing environmental, energy and economic concerns have intensified the need for sustainable alternatives. Additionally, more people are becoming comfortable with non-ownership options. According to a report released from the National Observatory on Sharing Mobility, and sponsored by the Italian environment ministry and the Foundation for Sustainable Development, bike sharing, car sharing and ridesharing (car-pooling, van-pooling) is a growing trend in Italy. Some 700,000 Italians engage in carsharing with Milan and Rome accounting for 60%, while 13,770 bikes across the country are used for bike sharing in 200 municipalities - a record for Europe

Mrs Aneris, how can sharing mobility contribute to a more sustainable mobility and maximise everyone’s benefits?

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 approaching half a million citizens annually. It creates a further 50,000 fatal heart attacks every year linked to noise; and kills 26,000 people in road accidents. Vehicles also create huge resource pressures: two thirds of the world’s oil goes into vehicles. In Europe there are 239 million private cars. This asset is parked for 95% (meaning idle, being useless) of the time and when used, it is often stuck in traffic with an average occupancy level of 1.6 person per vehicle. 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 €100Bn reducing GDP by 1%. This cannot go on! There is no space anymore for private cars. No space to move, no space to park them and no more clean air left to breathe! During last week the city of Paris has experienced the worst and most prolonged air pollution crisis since 10 years. Economically, socially and environmentally speaking, this way of moving is just unsustainable and let's say it, close to a nightmare.
Sharing mobility offers a much more logical, efficient way of getting from here to there. The environmental benefits are variegated and depend on the particular shared mode or better on the combination of modes we are considering and whether those vehicles are electric or powered by oil. It brings fewer car on the roads, less traffic congestion, a reduction in vehicle kilometers traveled (you pay the service for the time you use, so you will just use it only when you really need it) and a shift towards multi-modality with the use of less carbon intensive modes like bikes, e-scooters and e-quadrycicles that are becoming more and more popular. And as we read in the Report of the Sustainable Development Foundation that you mention above, thanks to car sharing many citizens have decided or are deciding not to own a car anymore. This cultural revolution and the potential improvement of the quality of life connected to this, is just stunning.


Veronica Aneris

What is the “state of the art” of sustainable mobility in Europe?

The sustainability of transport in Europe is increasing, but too slowly, with improvement in efficiency being outpaced by increasing on demand. Transport in Europe is the only sector which has seen emissions rising in the past quarter of a century. It is actually still depending on fossil fuel for 94% and it is responsible for more than a quarter of total CO2 emissions in Europe. Of all these emissions , 70% comes from the road! The health cost of transport is about 766 billion euro, with 467.000 premature death in 2015 due to air pollution. Stricter measures are urgently needed to accelerate the transition toward a low emission mobility. The feeling is that, even in the wake of the VW diesel scandal, the attention is too much concentrated on diesel, slowing down the transition towards hybrid and electrification. A key policy instrument is more ambitious CO2 standards for new cars, vans and trucks in 2025 and 2030.

These stringent CO2 limits for all road vehicles, together with real-world testing to avoid cheating, will persuade EU carmakers that there is no way but to invest in fuel efficiency breakthrough technology and electric vehicles. The dieselgate scandal has helped show the car industry the writing is on the wall for the infernal combustion engine. Nissan-Renault, the world’s largest producer of BEVs, was an early mover. But in recent months the Volkswagen Group has committed to produce more than 20 electric models and sell 25% BEV by 2025. Mercedes has similar aspirations and has announced $11bn in investments. They have teamed up with Ford to develop a fast charging network that will charge the car whilst you have a cup of tea. Other manufacturers have similar plans. This is no longer greenwash, these are serious business strategies and commitments – far too late but finally being rolled out.

People with disability are excluded from society due to several types of barriers, including physical, information and communications technology (ICT) or attitudinal barriers. Would sharing economy shape more inclusive city?

Sustainable shared mobility can without doubt contribute to shape more inclusive cities. The creation of more sustainable people-centered cities, in which the space is not only for cars, but for people who lives in and where vulnerable road users are as much important as drivers will guarantee more accessibility for everybody. Suppressing space for roads and making that space available for more parks, bike lanes and pedestrian spaces is the future of more liveable cities.

Roads will be safer, transportation more efficient but millions of currently employed people risk to be out of the job. Is it a real threat to the stability of the society?

More than a threat I would call it an opportunity. Consumers will benefit from more efficient, less-energy consuming cars. The economy will be stimulated and EU car industry and manufactures could regain their competitiveness and the energy sector will be able to plan investments into advanced energy for transport. This transition will mean a boost for jobs, growth and investments but of course will imply a transformation. Reskilling of the labour force for the green jobs of the future is crucial here.

Are we deemed to a future in which all cars are electric and largely self-driving?

The electric revolution is already there. Electric mobility is a key driver of the strategy and the European Commission is working for the creation of an effective framework for mass acceptance and deployment of E-mobility saying the "the ultimate objective will be to allow a journey across Europe where electric vehicle charging is as easy as filling a tank.". Electric vehicle sales are increasing, with Norway leading the way and batteries' prices have already dropped by two thirds. For autonomous driving, times are probably longer, but not as much as we believe. The car industry, driven by its own ambitions but possibly even more by fear of new players like Uber, Apple and Google, is pushing the boundaries of autonomous driving hard. Then, if this will be a real step towards sustainability it will depend very much on the way situation will evolve. Self-driving does not mean necessarily electric, nor shared. And even if the environmental advantages of electric mobility are indisputable, the e-mobility revolution should not be just the substitution of the actual fleet of internal combustion vehicles with the same or a major number of electric ones. But whether connected, driverless and electric cars really deliver more sustainable mobility will depend upon whether cars are largely owned or shared. If we don’t share, the more efficient use of road space connected vehicles can generate, the lower time and running costs of electric and driverless cars will simply pull more traffic onto the road. Traffic jams of singular occupant cars will be worsened by driverless cars. If it is cheaper to send a driverless car home to park; or for it to simply drive for an hour instead of paying to park then our cities will become congested driverless car hells. If we raise speed limits with our safer driverless cars the efficiency benefits will be eroded and they will be used more to undermine even more efficient electric trains. Driverless car offices and lounges will encourage ever longer commutes, urban sprawl and discourage public transport options. So we need shared vehicles to displace our inefficient, expensive private ones that anyway sit unused 95% of the time.

The "collaborative economy" also sees a number of characteristics of circularity. Is the time right to take advantage of the potential benefits of a "circular economy?

If not now, when?

Cover photo. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images