Greening the fleet with intelligent transport systems

greening the fleet
© iStock/Sven Loeffler

ERTICO – ITS Europe explains its goals for “greening the fleet” and how different tools and technologies can contribute as part of a coherent strategy.

Smart mobility solutions can be a key contribution to reducing the impact of transport on the environment, particularly in terms of reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Transport currently accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Sustainable transport is therefore among the most crucial policy areas for governments, the European Union and international organisations.

Deployment of intelligent transport solutions can help reduce the carbon footprint and emissions by helping transport users make smarter decisions. To achieve this, systems and services need to be made more efficient and attractive through greater interoperability and better information. ERTICO – ITS Europe approaches its work on clean mobility or “greening the fleet” with this perspective. Innovative technologies, connectivity and automation can drive the decarbonisation of transport, improve the use of cleaner technologies for better air quality and tackle congestion.

ERTICO is a multi-sector partnership association, which co-operates with and supports its partners in the development of smarter, greener and more efficient services and products, the assessment of impacts (on safety, the environment, etc.), and the effective deployment of these solutions. For example, ERTICO works on the development of electro-mobility in the road sector, by addressing interoperability of electric vehicle (EV) charging and other related services.

ITS solutions can have a lasting positive impact in the automotive sector

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) can act as enablers for cleaner mobility by supporting policies towards cleaner mobility. This can be done in various ways, provided they are deployed in a joined-up way as part of a coherent strategy. They can assist in rendering different transport modes more efficient, reducing emissions from individual vehicles, tackling congestion and accidents which contribute to pollution, making it easier for people to make greener travel choices and making freight and logistics more efficient.

A vast amount of applications have already been deployed, such as infrastructure-based systems such as traffic monitoring and control; automated incident detection and enforcement; and roadside driver information systems such as Variable Message Signs. These contribute to smoother and safer traffic flows in urban areas and on inter-urban corridors, providing drivers with the information they need to make better decisions, such as the most efficient route to take or the nearest available parking space, delivery space or electric vehicle charging point. Variable signs can impose traffic restrictions in certain urban zones or modify speed limits in case of pollution peaks, as well as informing drivers about alternatives such as nearby park-and-ride facilities. Safer roads with rapid detection and response to incidents that do occur, as well as efficient re-routing of traffic away from accidents or areas of congestion, all contribute to greening the fleet.

ITS is key to user information, from multi-modal pre-trip information for travellers, to on-trip real-time information for drivers and for public transport passengers. Increasingly, navigation applications are linked to real-time traffic data and can provide the most efficient and least polluting route according to the time, day and traffic conditions. Examples of transport systems which have already been deployed are in-vehicle ITS applications for map-enhanced driver assistance systems (ADASIS) and cooperative systems such as platooning and V2X.

At ERTICO, we believe that the contribution of ecological innovations is where ITS solutions can effectively have a lasting positive impact in the automotive sector. EU legislation sets mandatory emission reduction targets for new cars. This legislation is the cornerstone of the EU’s strategy to improve the fuel economy of cars sold on the European market. Since monitoring started under current legislation in 2010, vehicle emissions have decreased by 22 g CO2/km (16 per cent). By 2021, CO2 emissions for all new cars will be set at an average of 95 g CO2/km (phased in from 2020, when 95 per cent of each manufacturer’s new cars will have to meet this target). However, “super credits” will apply to vehicles with extremely low emissions, to manufacturers incentives to produce such vehicles (such as electric vehicles) and “eco-innovations” also allow manufacturers to be granted emission credits (up to 7 g/km per year). This is something that ERTICO is looking at: the contribution of innovative technologies and how to measure the effects in a robust and verifiable way.

Ensuring a balanced transport strategy

An element of utmost importance which cannot be overlooked if we really want to achieve a consistent reduction in CO2 emissions across Europe and encourage cleaner transport networks is transport infrastructure. We deem infrastructure, across all modes, to be the most important asset if we want to develop a good multi-modal system across Europe with regard to greening the fleet and encouraging cleaner transport networks. Existing infrastructure needs to be exploited in the most efficient way possible, with maximum connectivity between modes. Delivery-as-a-Service (DaaS) for goods will also contribute to this trend. We believe projects like CO-GISTICS, NOVELOG and AEOLIX (as global architecture) also showcase the benefits when shifting towards a reduction of emissions.

It is important to bear in mind that cleaner mobility and solving issues such as congestion cannot be achieved by ITS alone. A prime example is the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs). Much has been said on whether electric vehicles can actually alleviate traffic congestion. There is no magic wand which can immediately ease the pressure on roads which experience traffic gridlock on a daily basis. It all boils down to a matter of balance.

While electric vehicles alone will not help congestion, they need to be part of a balanced transport strategy. It is not a case of either one or the other: more efficient, attractive, affordable and easy to use public transport, as well as increasing walking and cycling through better facilities and awareness, are essential ingredients for such a strategy. In less densely populated areas and for certain types of trips there will always be a need for cars; and encouraging a switch from internal combustion engine to EVs is key to reducing pollution.

Electric cars can also contribute to a shift from vehicle ownership to mobility services through sharing and other usage schemes, potentially as part of a multimodal MaaS (Mobilitiy-as-a-Service) offering. Let us remember that EV does not only refer to electric cars, but also includes electric and hybrid means of public transport (buses, trolleybuses, minibuses, and taxis), electric utility vehicles (deliveries, waste disposal and other municipal services) and electric light and micro-vehicles (micro-cars and mopeds, e-scooters, electrically-assisted bicycles and hover-boards). Electro-mobility therefore gives the opportunity to change the propulsion of essential service vehicles and deliveries, as well as for single car users to use smaller space-saving EVs (including in conjunction with public transport journeys for the first- or last-mile), thus reducing the need for road space and parking for full-size cars. ERTICO is part of the ELVITEN project, which works towards integrating light electric vehicles with transport and energy networks in six European cities.

The future of smart mobility in greening the fleet

As previously stated, there is no magic solution which will solve problems. Consider that electric vehicles are a connected, ITS-enabled means of transport, and therefore only part of a smart management of traffic. ITS can reduce congestion but once this is achieved, private citizens might be inclined to revert back to old habits and use their vehicles more often. Thus, ITS provides a toolbox of solutions, and it is then up to the traffic management authority to choose the right tool, one of which should be demand management.

We believe that we are moving in the right direction. Vehicles for all transport modes are greener and more efficient than ever before, and awareness of the need to tackle localised air pollution as well as climate change goals is high, particularly at city level. However, progress is very uneven across Europe, with some countries having older and more polluting vehicle fleets and fewer resources at the public sector level to provide clean and attractive alternatives. It is vital for all countries across Europe to keep up with innovations in this field, given the impacts on the environment and public health. Here at ERTICO – ITS Europe we see it as both a necessary and an exciting opportunity for us all to build a better and cleaner future.

Andrew Winder

Clean mobility expert



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