Looking Forward to 2035

factory title Mobility

Isn’t mobility in Germany just great nowadays? While it was formerly a tricky matter to have meetings regularly with your co-workers, I can now travel to the country’s furthest corners with an autonomous bus — and return even late at night. Depending on the weather and the amount of time I have, I can also choose to use the e-bike sharing system. In a pinch I can take an e-convertible. And thanks to maintenance by Audi, Benz and co., everything is in excellent condition.

EV charging stations are almost everywhere and the batteries can also be quickly changed.  However, depending on your mood, the best part is to be driven around while reading a book or chatting. The public transportation system is well connected and perfectly coordinated, even the spoiled Swiss praise us. There is almost no wait and if there were, then there is good relief, because everything proceeds nearly too smoothly.

Only few vehicles still exist and these are less than a quarter of the five million that existed in 2019. The air in the cities is clean. Instead of traffic noise you can hear the birds singing in fruit trees at the curb of single-lane ring roads, which function as shady bikeways, and former parking lots are now green parks. 

On the last mile to the customer, the suppliers distribute their products on freight bikes. Electric trucks supply the urban logistics hubs. Overall, the distance between producer and consumer is shorter nowadays, because local production has been increasing. We move fast, thanks to streetcars, buses, and bicycles. As mentioned, the transportation system goes as far as the periphery, bike sharing systems are everywhere, and many of us walk more often.

The freeways are mainly used for long-distance travel and 80 percent of them are electrified through overhead contact lines, which power electric trucks. Then the trucks drive the remaining distance fueled by ecofriendly synthetic fuels. Almost half of the goods are transported by means of an expanded rail transport system and waterways. Most of us prefer to use the train or an electric bus. In the countryside, cars which are electrically powered are usually used.

Only 43 percent actually own an e-car. It does not longer serve to enhance one’s prestige.  The ‘electric smile’, which appears on your face the first time you drive an e-car, is a common experience. The electric engine’s acceleration mesmerizes everyone. We get our speed rush at events like the Formula E, eSports, and in bike parks. Roaring engines are frowned upon and electric ones are a must-have.

Mobility in 2035 — no longer a necessity, but wellness, fitness, and even entertainment are. The days of traffic jams, searching for parking lots, and train cancellations are over. The number of accidents has decreased by 80 percent. The transport sector achieved its climate goals, advanced the electrification and the energy transition, shut down the last coal-fired power plants, and in place of former brown coal districts, battery factories and research centers were established. The German automotive industry builds almost exclusively e-cars as well as practices mobility services and with that it makes sales worldwide. Transformation is a German word now.

How did all of this happen, what only a few dared to believe in 2019? You will find the prescriptions in this issue of factory. We wish you pleasant reading.

Ralf Bindel and the factory team

More articles on the topic of mobility and transport transition you will find in our correspondent factory-magazine Mobility. This you can download free of costs and it is pleasantly readable on screens and tablet-computers. As every time it is also nicely illustrated and contains all articles in the compact tablet-format plus appropriate numbers and citations. Online in our topics section a few articles are also available – there you can comment and rate them.

Messgerätskala zeigt Kohlendioxid-Wert an

Decarbonization by 2030

Renewable mobility, a combination of e-mobility and energy transition, is considered the crucial key to achieving a real emissions turn, and with that the agreed climate goals. Nevertheless, the turn is affecting major corporations in the automotive, oil and construction industry. The mobility industry is now on the verge of upheaval. But it is not only ambitious climate goals that call for action. It is the economic success of renewable energies worldwide that, in combination with digitalization, is changing the predictions and shifting decarbonization by 2030 into the realm of possibility. This is already shown by current applications.

By Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti. Translated by Alexandra Bartelt & Denis Francis

In the German transport transition, the focus was on on-board efficiency measures for a long time. But because of the increasing traffic capacity and increased motorization, emissions were slightly higher in 2016 than in the base year 1990. The transport sector, alongside industrial production, are the only ones in which greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase in 2017. In 2018, the German Advisory Council on the Environment, which advises the Federal Government, came to the conclusion that a switchover to alternative drives has to be made as soon as possible. Complete decarbonization, a greenhouse gas-free Germany, is now in the focus of the efforts. The target for this is still the year 2050. According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is clear that the deadline has to be moved forward as far as possible. Some consider a target of 2030 to be possible.

At the moment, e-mobility is seen to be a great harbinger of hope. It is not yet really clean. During the production of electric cars, considerable amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. To even out the carbon dioxide released during battery manufacturing and the electricity needed for operation with today’s power mix, electric cars would need a total mileage of around 150,000 kilometers. The balance is only improved when the production is gradually changed to clean electricity. It will look even better if vehicles get their electricity directly from solar and wind power.

Many countries such as Norway, India or China push for an exit from combustion engines by stating a concrete end date for new vehicle registrations such as the year 2035 or quotas for e-vehicles. Still, economic decisions seem to be more important than political choices. This is why the current dynamic cost reduction of renewable energies could prove to be an important driver of the development. In 2014, Stanford professor and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tony Seba pointed out that the efficiency of photovoltaics (PV) is developing exponentially just as the Internet did in the past. He expects that the worldwide energy demand can be covered by solar power in 2030. From a German point of view, Seba’s prognosis does not seem to be very realistic. But according to a report by the World Economic Forum, solar and wind power cost the same as energy sources coal and natural gas in 30 countries in 2017 . 

Seba expects that the costs for e-vehicles will decrease as fast as those of solar panels. The costs for photovoltaics have decreased by 22 percent for every doubling of industry capacity because of a learning curve of 22 percent. The disruption will be reached when the monthly costs for an e-car are close to those of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. The costs of batteries are not pivotal, because similar to the competition between the smartphone and the landline, an e-car is not a replacement for a conventional vehicle. The electric motor is more energy-efficient, the charging cheaper and the maintenance easier. E-cars can also be used for energy storage and therefore contribute to the stabilization of the power supply system.

Fewer Vehicles Because of Digitalization

Tony Seba is not the only one who is of this opinion. Karl-Thomas Neumann, former head of the Adam Opel AG until 2017, who worked for the Californian e-vehicle start-up EVelozcity, agrees with Seba. In the Handelsblatt, a German newspaper for business and economic issues, he said recently. “In reality, this is all disruptive and in the end it will completely destroy the existing industry.” He therefore recommends that large companies invest in the new business with adaptable start-ups. EVelozcity want to roll out their first electric vehicle in 2021 and they set their hopes on commuter cars, ridesharing and delivery vehicles to reach their goal. Rather than having range as the distinguishing feature, it is actually having a price of less than USD 50.000 that is important. This is made possible with components from the US and China. 

The market is therefore shaken up from the top. Today, Tesla dominates the US-American market in the price segment of high-quality limousines, and the segments in the lower price range will follow. This development is followed with a sharp eye at the stock exchange. Already in 2017, Tesla was rated higher than the traditional US car manufacturers General Motors and Ford. It looks similar for companies like Alphabet or Mobike that pin their hopes on digitalization in mobility. Studies of the Wuppertal Institute such as the one regarding the transport transition 2035 expect that the transport sector could get by with only one tenth of the number of today’s cars, if the possibilities of digitalization of autonomous driving and ridesharing are used consistently.

California is far away. But there are also considerable changes in Germany, although on a small scale — in a vast and windswept area in Northern Germany. The region of Northern Friesland is currently a pioneer in the expansion of charging stations and the number of vehicle registrations of e-cars in Germany. In the Friesian municipality of Sprakebüll for example, there are 20 registered e-cars for every 240 inhabitants. The inhabitants of Sprakebüll did not accept having their wind turbines switched off when the electrical grid was in overload, so they looked for alternative possibilities to use the generated power. Sprakebüll claims to have the highest density of e-cars per person in Germany. If the entire country functioned as this municipality does, there would already be seven million e-vehicles. 

In a blog entry, the small municipality celebrated itself as an e-mobile village and the inhabitants founded an association of the same name. The association provides its members with e-carsharing for an hourly charge with the so-called ‘Dörpsmobil’, which is charged at its own carport. This development is being promoted by the Andresen family. “We wanted to use our own electricity and not petrol from the station”, say Hans-Christian Andresen and his son Christian, who serve as CEOs for the communal citizen-owned wind farm. But the inhabitants of Sprakebüll are not yet satisfied with their achievement. In the future, they want to supply agricultural vehicles with fuel generated from the electricity from the citizen-owned wind farm.

Also in Northern Friesland, there are currently tests with three autonomous e-buses to try out public transport ‘on demand’. After the tests on the site of the GreenTEC Campus in Enge-Sande, the buses are supposed to be used in commuter transport in Northern Friesland and in tourist traffic on the island of Sylt. The passengers are supposed to call for assistance using an app and the new bus service will thus be able to close mobility gaps in rural areas. Besides the SVG and Autokraft bus companies, many specialized companies as well as Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel are working on the North Frisian bus project. 

Digitalization with its advantages for networking is the game changer in the transport transition. It allows the use of decentralized structures efficiently with relatively little effort and expense. In regard to the resilience of networks, a decentralized management is crucial, which means e-cars play a new role as mobile batteries. As early as 2013, a report by the California supervisory authority for public utilities came to the conclusion that owners of e-cars could be paid up to USD 100 a month if they provided electricity to stabilize the power supply system. 

Mobile storage power plants

At the moment, however, the public debate on the expansion of e-mobility is still dominated by the question of what happens when the many new e-vehicles charge every evening, causing overloaded power lines at the municipal utilities. This question focuses on a centralized provision of energy — but not on decentralized power generation, which would already be possible on site with today’s state-of-the-art technology. It is a little reminiscent of the discussion in the late 1990s, when it was suspected that the livestreaming of voice messages and moving images would completely overload the internet. Shortly thereafter, companies like Skype launched successful voice and video services using peer-to-peer technologies. 

E-cars and computer junctions could play a similar role in a peer-to-peer structure and store energy when there is a surplus of sun and wind energy production in order to be able to release it in a controlled manner in the event of bottlenecks. A current project in rural Allgäu (part of the alpine region in Bavaria) shows that this works. Together with the Research Centre for Energy Economics in Munich, the Augsburg utility company LEW has set up a project at the Buchloe train junction, where many commuters board trains to Augsburg or Munich. All 14 research participants were provided with an e-car, which they were to connect to the electric vehicle charging stations, also called EV charging stations, at the train station every evening. They were then supposed to indicate the time at which they will arrive at the EV charging stations on the following day. The charging schedules for the car batteries were calculated on the basis of the data and forecasts for insolation. As a result, the vehicles were able to absorb 40 percent more of the local green electricity and avoid peak loads in the grid.

Often technical rules still interfere with the integration of e-mobility into the grid. For example in Hagen, in October 2018, Nissan and The Mobility House (the EV charging station manager) started their vehicle-to-grid-project. Only after years of preparatory work was it possible to meet the regulatory requirements for the so-called primary reserves of power plants. Now connected e-vehicles automatically register with the energy center in Hagen as a control power system and are integrated as such into the power supply system. In this way, they can contribute to the stabilization of the power supply system and reduce the cost of expanding the grids and the need for fossil-fired control power systems. In Germany, this is regarded as the biggest problem which transport transition supporters criticize. Despite the long technical lead time, there are still no standardized adjustments to facilitate the integration of e-mobile storage power plants.

The founders of Ibitricity, a Berlin startup, have been working on the idea of bidirectional charging since 2008 — they also had to overcome countless regulatory hurdles. After years of collaborative research, pilot projects and field tests, they have been on the market since 2016 with a cable which can even be used for direct billing. It has been compliant with the calibration law since 2018. Since 2013, they have been represented in Berlin with their charging infrastructure on several street lights. However, the breakthrough came in 2017 with a major contract from the London municipal administration. 

Speaking of regulations, it is especially mentioned when it comes to the question of why the development of e-mobility in Germany is lagging far behind expectations. It is the construction and property law, the charging across supplier boundaries, the calibration and measurement law and a resilient network expansion that hinder the expansion. If policy makers now want to speed up this process, they have to tackle all this and even more whole heartedly. If they force the energy and automotive industry onto a sustainable path, it will do them and society more than one favor. Otherwise the economic disruptions could be severe.

Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti is a freelance media and IT journalist who has been involved in different projects in the areas of foresight, innovation management and media development. She mainly writes for c’t, a computer magazine, VDI-Nachrichten (a news portal for engineers), the Stuttgarter Zeitung (daily newspaper in Stuttgart) and also for online portals like Heise online (news on computers, IT, science and politics) and Golem (IT news). Together with Christopher Schrader and Alexander Mäder, she founded the KlimaSocial channel on the Riffreporter platform (an online platform publishing projects and research about coral reefs). The main question is: What is really driving climate protection forward — is it politics or are completely different factors involved?

More articles on the topic of mobility and transport transition you will find in our correspondent factory-magazine Mobility. This you can download free of costs and it is pleasantly readable on screens and tablet-computers. As every time it is also nicely illustrated and contains all articles in the compact tablet-format plus appropriate numbers and citations. Online in our topics section a few articles are also available – there you can comment and rate them.

Kleiner Junge fährt kreischend auf Kinderfahrrad durch eine Pfütze und reißt die Beine hoch

Cities Use the Space

The strategies for changing cities range from a city congestion charge and free local transport to car-free days. Bicycle highways, streetcars and electric busses are also part of the strategy. Municipal administrations and urban economy can do a lot for the attractiveness of this range of options by creating their own transport transition, which is driven by the citizens.

By Thorsten Koska and Stephan Rammler. Translated by Julia Baur & Bianca Bauer.

Stuttgart, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Essen: In autumn of 2018, court judgments on driving bans in major German cities were issued almost weekly. For years now, the threshold limit values for nitrogen oxides have been radically exceeded. In order to put an end to this illegal situation, the Federal Administrative Court cleared the way in February 2018 for driving bans, which cities now have to implement gradually.

For years, politicians have turned a blind eye to the health-threatening air pollution caused by car traffic. For example, the Federal Government has shifted the responsibility for action onto the municipalities and blocked possible solutions — from a Blue Badge (a label for marking diesel vehicles) that is effective in the short term to the funds needed in the long term for better public transport. The municipalities have at best dared to make small changes to their transport policies— and hoped that newer vehicle technology would solve the problem on its own.

And the automotive industry, which contributed to the problem with its unlawfully high vehicle emissions, also continues to act as if it had nothing to do with the consequences. Instead, newly-sold cars are getting bigger, heavier and faster, while the number of vehicle registrations continues to rise. In the end, all of these players have shown at the diesel summits that they are not yet willing to take decisive action, but would rather limit themselves to symbolic policies.

Like under a magnifying glass, the current driving bans show the problems of urban traffic — and it is becoming clear that the pollution load is by far not the only challenge. The Federal Government states that in order for Germany to comply with the Paris climate goals, however, the CO2 emissions from traffic must be reduced by at least 40 percent by 2030. But while emissions are decreasing in all other sectors, greenhouse gas emissions from traffic are rising. 

The Cost of City Traffic

Moreover, car traffic restricts the quality of life in cities and at the same time exacerbates the already growing social inequalities. Traffic noise makes living on main roads unattractive and unhealthy. Fast and dense traffic is dangerous — especially for the more vulnerable road users that do not travel by car. The high speed level as well as the lack of safe bike paths and sidewalks frighten off the cyclists and deprive the children of the ability to move freely around the city. It is because of these dangers that parents prefer to take their children to school by ‘parent taxi’, that is to say, by car. The lack of movement not only harms learning, but also makes it harder for children to participate independently in traffic later on.

Last but not least, car traffic takes up the spaces that cities are so urgently in need of. A stationary car occupies 12 square meters of public space that is provided almost free of charge; at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour, the car already takes up more than 100 square meters — space that is not available for green areas, street cafes and playgrounds.

This list shows that it is not enough to replace the dirty combustion vehicles with electric cars, thus ensuring an ‘energy transition in traffic’. Without a doubt, alternative drive systems can and must make a major contribution to reducing pollutants and CO2 emissions in the future. But in order to free the cities from gridlock and create livable environments with democratic mobility, this is not enough. We need a new paradigm for urban mobility, a transport transition.

The good life Is possible

An urban transport transition would increase the quality of life in the cities. Where cars still park today, green oases, street cafes and playgrounds can emerge tomorrow. There would be less noise and people of all ages could use the street space safely. Throughout the city, the speed limit would be 30 kilometers per hour. Instead of going by car, many more people would travel to work by other means of transportation. For instance, people could get to the train station using their own bike, take the city train from there and then, for the last kilometer, use one of the rental bikes that are to be found at every corner. The job ticket would be sponsored by the employer, making the changeover  worthwhile for almost everyone. Another option could be the Bürgerticket (citizen ticket), a ‘semester ticket for everyone’. In future, autonomously driving minibuses could pick up the passengers and carry them from door to door where the bus and train connections are poor. And if you want a car for a trip to the lake or to do the weekly shopping, you can use car sharing. 

Germany’s cities have a good chance of approaching such a transport transition and bring it to fruition, as they do not start from scratch, but have role models in many European cities who show how it can work. 

There is Copenhagen, for example: The cityscape is dominated by cyclists and every third trip is taken by bike, as bike paths are wide, safe and the first to be cleared of snow, even before the streets. Moreover, cyclist get to enjoy the green wave at the traffic lights. Through ongoing encouragement and financial incentive, the former dominance in traffic of the car was reversed, and today even children and old people on bikes feel safe in the dense city traffic. 

Then there is also Vienna, where one of the densest public transportation systems in Europe has been combined with an unrivalled low-cost ticket — for EUR 365 a year, i.e. one euro a day, citizens are mobile within the metropolis using public transport. This way, the share of public transport has doubled within 20 years.

And London avoided the gridlock by using a mixture of carrot and stick: A dense network of bike rental stations as well as new bike paths made leaving the car behind more appealing. If you would still like to drive into the city by car, you have to pay a city congestion charge.

With a little imagination it is possible to envision how a transport transition is possible in German cities, too. The prerequisite for this is the consistent implementation of what has so far only functioned on a small scale. Mobile Internet allows for mobility to be organized as a service that is available from everywhere and on the go. Car sharing, rental bikes and on-demand driver services enable intermodal mobility, i.e. mobility that comprises various means of transportation. This eliminates one of the greatest emotional arguments in favor of the car — the freedom to decide yourself when and how to get from A to B can be experienced with a smartphone as a Mobilitätsassistent (mobility assistant) instead of with a car key in your hand. Mobility stations are enabling the switchover — with charging points of electric car-sharing vehicles, secure and weather-protected bicycle parking, parcel collection points and much more.

Redistributing the space

To make this possible, cities have to set firm objectives — and then pursue them consistently. A bike path is only as secure as its weakest point, and if it ends abruptly at the road after 100 meters, many people prefer not to use their bike. And what use is there in a dense network of streetcars and car-sharing vehicles in the city center when in the residential area on the outskirts only one bus stops per hour and no car-sharing options are available? Cities have to not only spend money, but also set conditions for new mobility providers, so that their innovative transportation concepts reach all citizens. If that is done successfully, current car companies also have the opportunity to secure their future as mobility service providers with new business models.

However, new and better offers of EcoMobility alone, which includes cycling, public transport, walking and car-sharing, are not enough. After many decades of car-friendly urban planning, preference given to cars in street space and financing of car traffic, today it is still very attractive to use a private car. Here again, urban policy must have the aim to use not only pull factors that increase attractiveness of EcoMobility but also — admittedly, unpleasant — push factors that decrease the attractiveness of using a car.

Some of these instruments are already in the cities’ own hands. They can redistribute street space, reduce traffic lanes for cars and allocate them for bicycle traffic. And they can make a charge for parking in order to achieve, at least to some degree, true-cost pricing in the highly subsidized public parking space. In doing so, good interaction between the different measures is important. If alternatives to cars are promoted and developed, it may be easier for road users to accept that parking spaces and traffic lanes are reduced and prices for parking are raised.

Policy makers must emancipate themselves from the car

As important as these measures of municipalities in cooperation with new mobility providers are, the transport transition cannot be successful without any help from federal policy making, as many of the privileges of car traffic are established at the federal level. It starts with fiscal policy, as the special treatment for official vehicles makes it still possible to deduct vehicles that are highly motorized in an absurd way from taxes as operating materials, and as diesel fuel continues to be subsidized. And it is similar with regulatory law, where traffic regulations make it impossible to introduce a general speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour in cities and where the law on transportation of passengers hinders the implementation of innovative concepts of mobility that are a combination of busses, car-sharing and taxis. After all, it is the German Federal Government that constantly torpedoes stricter CO2 limits for cars at the EU level — in an attempt to protect the automotive industry and with the effect of endangering its transformation and therefore its sustainability.

If the transport transition has so many advantages and offers prospects even for the automotive industry to renew itself — why has nothing been done yet? First, policy makers are apparently afraid of drivers as voters who might perceive an eco-friendly transport policy as a threat. However, there are a number of reasons not to be afraid of that. In fact, people want livable cities, and where they witness the transport transition, like in Vienna, Copenhagen, Paris or London, they are satisfied with their local politicians.

Second, decades of support to the automotive industry have left behind corresponding structures, routines and ways of thinking in the administration, whether it be in planning agencies or ministries. In order to overcome them, it needs pressure from within and from outside. In 2017, Berlin citizens showed with the Bicycle Referendum how this is possible. With a bottom-up mobilization, they organized a citizens' initiative that demanded a radical transport transition. It was only after feeling this pressure that the city introduced the Berlin Mobility Act in mid-2018. The Act said that — for the first time in Germany — the priority given to EcoMobility over cars was not only described as a noble objective, but made legally binding. 

Even though policy makers are not taking action yet — or maybe for this very reason —, a bottom-up transport transition is possible, if citizens take matters into their own hands.

Thorsten Koska is a political scientist and sociologist and works as a project leader in the area of energy, transport and climate policy at Wuppertal Institute. Stephan Rammler is the founding director of the Institute for Transportation Design (ITD) and professor for Transportation Design & Social Sciences at the University of Fine Arts in Braunschweig. Since October 2018, he has been the director of the Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment (IZT) in Berlin. The second edition of his book Volk ohne Wagen (a people without cars) was published in 2017 by Fischer Publishing House. In 2018, oekom Publishing House issued Der blinde Fleck der Digitalisierung: Wie sich Nachhaltigkeit und digitale Transformation in Einklang bringen lassen (the blind spot of digitalization: how sustainability and the digital transformation can be reconciled), which he had written together with Felix Sühlmann-Faul.

More articles on the topic of mobility and transport transition you will find in our correspondent factory-magazine Mobility. This you can download free of costs and it is pleasantly readable on screens and tablet-computers. As every time it is also nicely illustrated and contains all articles in the compact tablet-format plus appropriate numbers and citations. Online in our topics section a few articles are also available – there you can comment and rate them.

Eine Spirale aus aufgestellten Dominosteinen von oben

The Domino Effect: the Mobility Transition as an Engine for the ‘Great Transformation’

In a number of ways, the change of today’s car-dependent society is like a domino for a ‘Great Transformation’. There is hardly any field that is as intensively linked to the other key ‘transitions’ to a sustainable society, and there is no other field with such a close connection with the specific functionalities of the current economy. Therefore, ‘future literacy’ in the area of mobility goes far beyond the transport sector.

By Uwe Scheidewind. ?Translated by Kevin Bongard & Kevin Beckmann.

The term great transformation that was introduced in the eponymous flagship report of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU 2011) describes the comprehensive technological, economical, political and cultural transformation of modern societies towards a sustainable development.

In the course of this, the Great Transformation is taking place as a process of closely interconnected transitions (see fig. 1 in the factory magazine Mobilty): These range from a fundamental energy and resource transition to the development of new consumption patterns and models of wealth. They take concrete form in a comprehensive transformation of our cities (urban transition), industrial production (industrial transition) or nutrition habits and food production (nutrition transition). 

At that point the mobility transition plays a key role. The transport sector alone consumes almost 30 percent of the required delivered energy in Germany. The resource challenges of the automobile production and automobile use take on a new dimension with the transition to electric engines. And today nothing stands more for prosperity and consumption transition than mobility in cities, where heavily developed bike, foot and local public transport are the new symbols of high urban livability, as such cities as Copenhagen or Groningen show. Therefore, the urban and industrial transition are not only taking place especially in the German mobility sector but also in Copenhagen and Groningen. The mobility and transport transition is a central domino for all further transitions of the Great Transformation.

The Automotive Industry as the Key Industry of Today’s Economic System

In the case of mobility, it is also becoming clear how closely our modern car-dependent society is linked to the side effects of our modern economic order (see fig. 2 in the factory magazine Mobilty): No other sector owes its current economic success to the extensive use of ecological resources without having to pay their ‘real prices’. Few other industries are currently so aimed at growing in order to stabilize their successful model and have such an intense impact on the cultural code of modern affluent societies. And both the current organization of traffic — especially in cities — and the emerging structural change are associated with considerable social distortions.

A sustainable development of the mobility sector is therefore also a compass for a future-oriented development of our economy as a whole.

The Art of the Automotive Transition

For the art of an ‘automotive transition’, politicians and companies must interact intelligently along four dimensions (see fig. 3 in the factory magazine Mobilty). It is particularly the automobile manufacturers that need to assume a special role.  

On the one hand, the massive disruptive potential of new technologies (such as electromobility, autonomous driving, digital networking) must be translated into business models that meet the requirements of sustainable development (see this factory p. 28 and 43). On the other hand, it is just as important for industry to take on a new regulatory and ‘culture-shaping’ co-responsibility. It is a question of political participation that is not limited to protecting the status quo for as long as possible. This has been the practice of the past decades and it is becoming an increasing threat to Germany as a business location. In China, but also in the USA, new alliances between policy-makers and the mobility industry have long been emerging, creating innovative boundary conditions for the industrial transition to new mobility. 

It is also important to use the tremendous communicative power of the industry in a different way. Only if it is used for the positive communicative charging of new forms of mobility will industry live up to its responsibility for securing society's future.

Make the Domino Fall in the Right Direction

The mobility transition is key for the Great Transformation. It is hoped that both the mobility industry and the policy-makers at local, regional and national level will use wise future literacy to make this domino fall in the right direction.?

Prof. Dr. Uwe Schneidewind is President of the Wuppertal Institute and, among other things, a member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, which advises the German Federal Government. His latest book was published in October 2018 and is called Die Große Transformation. Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels (The great transformation. An introduction to the art of social change) at the Fischer-Verlag (German publishing house).


Schneidewind, U./Wuppertal Institute (2018): Die Große Transformation. Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. (The great transformation. An introduction to the art of social change). Fischer-Verlag, Frankfurt 2018.

WBGU (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen: German Advisory Council on Global Change) (2011): World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability. Berlin: German Advisory Council on Global Change, Berlin 2011.

More articles on the topic of mobility and transport transition you will find in our correspondent factory-magazine Mobility. This you can download free of costs and it is pleasantly readable on screens and tablet-computers. As every time it is also nicely illustrated and contains all articles in the compact tablet-format plus appropriate numbers and citations. Online in our topics section a few articles are also available – there you can comment and rate them.

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