A more judicious use of technologies, regulations, behavioural changes
Based on these scenarios, the researchers then determined which innovations and changes are required to further reduce energy consumption. By doing so, they aim to demonstrate that their zero-emission vision is feasible without unrealistic assumptions regarding massive governmental regulations or ground-breaking new technologies that have yet to be developed.
However, the scientists expect zero-emission, lightweight and fully automated transportation systems to be available by 2050. This will be achieved both technically, through the use of fuel cells and batteries, and organisationally, through automation, improved route selection, avoidance of peak hours and better traffic fluidity. Automated freight trains and ground-based transport robots for the last mile are central elements of this strategy. Underground transport systems also play an important role.
The new technical means also open up completely new business models, such as the local production of goods using 3D printers, which considerably shortens transport routes.
In addition, the researchers are counting on new legal framework conditions that will increase the attractiveness of efficient and energy-saving transport systems. For example, lorries in cities are to be limited by an auction system, and the use of road infrastructures is to be regulated by mobility pricing, which also favours CO2-free vehicles. In addition, a mandatory declaration of the energy consumption of products, both in terms of production and transport, should be introduced. This ought to encourage customers to favour less energy-intensive products. The introduction of limited road capacity should encourage transport companies to cooperate in order to optimise the use of their vehicles and thus further contribute to energy efficiency.
The investigators also believe that consumer behaviour will change. Acquisition will give way to sharing: objects will be borrowed as needed, and in this way be used more often. This sharing economy will become simpler as digitalisation progresses and, above all, «quite the thing to do». In addition, products will once again become more durable and easier to fix. All these elements lead to less transport traffic, higher efficiency and therefore improved environmental friendliness.
However, these changes, some of which are far-reaching, will not simply happen on their own. The scientists emphasize that it is important to strengthen cooperation between companies on the one hand, and between companies and authorities on the other. This will allow for greener, more efficient and qualitatively improved freight logistics and waste management in urban areas.