Around three-quarters of the EU’s citizens live in or around cities and urbanisation is growing. Europe’s urban areas consume over 80% of the continent’s total energy supply. With growing pressure on resources, achieving a sustainable quality of life in cities is one of Europe’s major challenges.
To be environmentally sustainable, economically competitive and remain attractive to live in, cities need to reduce their total energy consumption, increase their use of renewable energy, adapt their physical and communication infrastructures and find solutions to mobility issues – in particular personal mobility.
The free movement of people and products is an essential element of our modern urban environment. However mobility comes at a cost: the consumption of a vast amount of energy (30% of the total energy consumed in the EU).
And with energy consumption – especially energy derived from fossil fuels – comes pollution. Mobility contributes considerably to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides or small particles. Urban mobility accounts for some 40% of all CO2 emissions by road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants generated by transport.
Clean air – it’s your move!” and reflects the power that citizens have to clean up air quality through their mobility choices. It is a reminder that we all have a part to play, and that even small changes, such as commuting by bicycle rather than taking the car, opting for public transport, or choosing to walk, can enhance our quality of life.
Smart mobility requires a mind-set change in commuting habits. We need to re-think our reliance on a singular means of transportation, such as, walking, driving, biking, or taking public transportation to one that considers using a combination of these methods to achieve the most efficient commuting solution at the lowest carbon footprint.
So what is sustainable chemistry doing to meet the mobility challenge for Smart Cities and help stem urban air pollution?
The answer is a huge amount with aspects of chemical science and engineering enabling innovative solutions to numerous mobility issues! Here are just a few examples.
- Lightweight materials, particularly composite and hybrid materials can drastically reduce the weight of vehicles without compromising safety requirements. And lighter vehicles mean lower cost, increased recyclability, better energy efficiency and therefore fewer emissions.
- And designing vehicles using recyclable materials such as bio- and smart-materials can ensure that vehicles do not become waste at the end of their useful life.
- New fuels, for example hydrogen produced from renewable sources, are potentially emission-free alternative to fossils fuels. The environmental and health benefits to society are even greater when hydrogen is produced from low- or zero-emission sources, such as solar or wind energy.
- Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more popular and have significant energy security and local zero emissions benefits. Battery technology is a key enabler here and future electric vehicles need smaller batteries that can provide a longer range between charging. Chemistry is key to ensuring that these very high energy density batteries are safe and can make electric mobility more attractive, cheaper and reliable.
- Catalysts are a key enabling technology for improved air quality and mobility whether as an essential element of new clean fuel cell powered cars or cleaning up emissions from fossil fuel powered vehicles. Catalyst exhaust systems remove a range of pollutants and using photo-catalytic coatings on the walls of tunnels and other transport infrastructure mean noxious pollutants can also be removed directly from the atmosphere.
You will be able to find more information on mobility issues and sustainable chemistry solutions at SusChem’s dedicated Smart Cities website due to be launched soon.
What is European Mobility Week?
European Mobility Week is an annual campaign on sustainable urban mobility supported by the European Commission’s directorates for Energy and Transport. The aim of the campaign is to encourage European local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable transport measures. The main theme for 2013 is ‘Clean air – it’s your move’.
The week runs from 16 to 22 September every year and will see events taking place across Europe and also globally. The week culminates in an ‘In Town Without My Car!’ event which sees participating urban areas setting aside areas solely for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport for an entire day.
In Brussels ‘Car Free’ day will be on Sunday 22 September and will see the whole 160 square kilometres of the capital region closed to traffic from 9 am to 7 pm transforming Europe’s capital into a pedestrian and cyclists’ paradise.