The CLIC™ Chronicles: A brighter future for transport beckons. But we have to seize it

rethink sustainability

The CLIC™ Chronicles: A brighter future for transport beckons. But we have to seize it

Kristina Church - Head of CLIC™ (Sustainable) Solutions

Kristina Church

Head of CLIC™ (Sustainable) Solutions

The roads outside our homes could be very different in nine years’ time. The low hum of electric scooters will replace the growl of petrol engines. Cars will be a dwindling feature as people choose to take the more practical route of electric bikes and micro vehicles to the office. As a result, the skies and the air will be clearer while the ageing fleet of fossil-fuelled vehicles will be close to obsolete.

This is a version of reality for 2030, one where our mobility system is overhauled and refocused, one where vehicles that take up less space on the roads are embraced and the petrol car plays less and less of a role in our lives. 

But it is not a version of reality that is beyond our grasp. If the goals of the Paris Agreement are to be reached, how we are transported must change. Otherwise emissions will continue to rise. The vision of a cleaner, fresher reality is necessary for our society to continue.

[we imagine a future]...where vehicles that take up less space…are embraced and the petrol car plays less and less of a role in our lives

A fresh reset

As we see an end in sight to lockdowns around the world, it is time to reflect on both what we have learned and how we can build forward better. Travel restrictions have seen emissions drop; giving us a short-lived glimpse of what is possible if the roads become less dominated by traditional methods of transport. 

Cities around the world are now looking inwards and asking - if we were to start again, what would we look like? Getting to the conclusion is to question the purpose and necessity of every trip, to devote space not to the car but to the benefits to our life from greener spaces. Paris plans to remove 60,000 parking spaces to make the city more cycle friendly. In Saudi Arabia, a 170-kilometre belt of communities connected without the need for cars or roads is being planned. 

Cities around the world are now looking inwards and asking - if we were to start again, what would we look like?

In the future, the role of the traditional vehicle is limited. There are currently 17 governments globally that have set combustion engine car phase-out targets. For instance, from 2030, new cars fuelled by petrol or diesel will not be sold in the UK. Instead we can expect to see our roads change as micro-vehicles take hold. E-scooters, electric bikes, micro cars, electric tuk-tuks - all will be part of the shift to micro mobility, vehicles that are smaller than cars and that reduce emissions. 

The reason is clear. In developed countries, some 60% of journeys are less than five miles in length. Of those, 70% are taken by car. This trend of heavy petrol fuelled vehicles often bringing one person a short distance is not just unsustainable but corrosive. But to reach the targets in the Paris Agreement, transport emissions must almost halve by 2050. The current model is flawed and needs to be changed to one that is CLIC™ (Circular, Lean, Inclusive, Clean).

In the future, the role of the traditional vehicle is limited…E-scooters, electric bikes, micro cars, electric tuk-tuks - all will be part of the shift to micro mobility

The shift has started

The revolution in mobility has already started. Electric bikes are perched and waiting to be rented in most major cities. Privately owned electric scooters are edging towards legalisation in the UK1 while electric vehicles are increasingly being used for deliveries2

Now that lockdowns are set to ease, the question is whether we will return to business as usual or take the opportunity to properly embrace more innovative and efficient mobility methods. There are problems of course. When bike sharing was launched in China, supply quickly outstripped demand and thousands were dumped by the side of the road. When Lime bikes launched their electric bikes in London, the service was criticised by users3. E-scooters meanwhile have been associated with a series of crashes4. And when lockdowns do eventually end, there is the question of whether people will want to return to shared public transport or to revert to their private cars.

We believe that the early buds of the transport revolution that we have already seen will blossom, and there will be a fundamental reshape in how people and goods move around. That cities such as Paris, London and Madrid are bringing in schemes to discourage car usage post-lockdown and encourage active mobility is illustrative of this switch and we also expect a renewed focus on shared mobility and zero-emission freight. Electric vehicle penetration is at a tipping point and technology improvements mean that life-cycle emissions are now lower for battery electric vehicles than combustion engine cars. 

We believe that … there will be a fundamental reshape in how people and goods move around

Ripe for opportunity

As we move towards a system which is equitable, accessible, resource-efficient, resilient, cost-effective and clean, it is estimated that a $2bn annual opportunity to investors will emerge. 

Market forces and technology advances will help to create the efficiencies needed in transportation and delivery - and it is here where investors can focus their attention. Some have already arisen. In the US, the electric vehicle company Arcimoto was recently valued at over $1bn5

Opportunities will not just focus on the companies making this new generation of vehicles but also those that work to create the cities of the future and utilise the space taken away from the car - those companies that can help in the construction of greener buildings and the infrastructure needed to adapt our living areas, for example.

Of course the companies which are already involved in this shift will have to prove that they meet the standards we will come to expect for a greener future. Some early iterations of e-scooters were built from components bought online and not fit for shared usage but now there is a shift towards the creation and maintenance of such vehicles in as sustainable a way as possible.

Regulation will play an important role, driving greener solutions also for long-haul transport and focusing on lifecyle emissions and circularity in vehicle production and usage. Materials will need to be efficient, batteries reused and recycled and emissions reduced through the entire vehicle supply chain and not just at the tailpipe. 

Regulation will play an important role, driving greener solutions also for long-haul transport and focusing on lifecyle emissions and circularity in vehicle production and usage

A brighter, cleaner transport system

The pandemic has brought us to an unexpected crossroads. Do we decide to build forward better and capitalise on the improvements that have started to emerge on our roads or do we return to the unsustainable system which is grinding us to a halt? With a glimpse of what clearer streets and cleaner skies can look like, now is the time to seize the initiative towards a greener future using alternative modes of transport. The quieter, safer roads of 2030 beckon.

1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54380251
2 https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-creating-fleet-of-electric-delivery-vehicles-rivian-2020-2?r=US&IR=T
3 https://www.sharecast.com/news/technology/lime-bikes-in-london-one-hot-green-expensive-mess--3684875.html
4 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55015277
5 https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2021/02/03/arcimotos-market-cap-1b.html
Statistic source: LOIM estimates using LOIM analysis; EllenMacArthur foundation (2015, 2017), ZeroHedge (2017), Government Technology (2015); Bank of America

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