Energy efficient transports

Transportation is the second largest final energy consumer and accounts for over a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in France, according to the ministry of sustainable development. The concern is heightened in cities, which are home to most of the population and are characterized by high levels of air pollution. According to ADEME (French Agency for Environment and Energy Management), the increase in traffic, rather than manufacturing activities, is the leading cause of air pollution. European governments are assisted by EU-based programs to tackle this issue, targeting private as well as public transportation.

How to cut transport pollution

Municipalities support innovative ways of encouraging city-dwellers to leave their cars in the garage, in an effort to lower transport energy consumption. The current massive use of cars in cities is indeed unsustainable: each car is parked (that is, useless) 90% of the time, taking an average 10 m2, with other vehicles driving around in a search for an available spot. We must therefore rethink the way we use cars, especially in a period of economic downturn. The 2014 Mobility Survey shows that 47% of French people have been using their cars in the city less often. This trend is made possible by the rise of car-pooling, which has become increasingly popular in France (cf the success of Blablacar) among individuals as well as businesses, and car-sharing, with short-term rental systems such as Autolib’ in Paris.

However, these new public/de-privatized transportation schemes are far from upstaging private vehicles, which have retained a strong symbolic socio-economic value. Nevertheless, cars themselves are starting to change. The main manufacturers have embedded a lot of electronics in their cars, thus connecting them to smart-city environments.  Cars can now optimize each journey through technologies that calculate distances and provide drivers with real-time information on roadworks and congestion. Parallel to that, electric vehicles are on the rise, which benefits both the environment and energy resources. Thanks to vehicle to grid (V2G) systems, plug-in electric vehicles can be used as mobile power storage units. A one million-electric car fleet could represent a 10 GWh storage capacity; as for the French government, it plans to have twice more electric vehicles on the roads by 2020.

EU measures towards energy efficient transports

In order to meet the ambitious energy efficiency goals it set itself, the EU has established a whole host of programs aiming at supporting local authorities. On top of its efforts to spur the development of smart cities, it has launched a European Green Vehicle Initiative.

The Green eMotion project was launched in 2011 for a four-year period. It is based on the sharing and comparing of various national and local initiatives among member states and aims at pooling common experience in the field of electric or hybrid cars, buses and two-wheelers and examining various technical aspects, from direct current recharge to payment systems. The goal is to establish a set of integrated norms that will help deploy electromobility solutions across Europe. The project also includes the installation of 10,000 charging stations in eight pilot regions.

OpEneR (Optimal Energy Consumption and Recovery) is a Commission-based flagship research project to cut energy consumption in electric vehicles. It has a budget of 7.7 million euros and involves six private European partners such as the French PSA Peugeot-Citroën and the IT Research Centre (FZI) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

European research projects are not confined to electric vehicles, as other programs have been  implemented to step up to the challenge of individual mobility and freight, such as GINA (road user charging), SINAFE (water transport) and GIANT2 (air transport). Rail freight transport is a priority as well.