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Future of mobility

Mobility is an essential human need: without it people struggle to access the goods, services and social and economic connections needed for a fulfilling life. 

A growing global population, increasing affluence and urban sprawl, and declining transport costs are pushing the demand for mobility upwards. However, the number of vehicles sold worldwide has plateaued and electric car sales are on the rise. 

Even so, the use of cars still come with environmental, economic and public health challenges. Transport is resource and energy intensive, for instance, and responsible for a sizeable proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions. Congestion holds back economic productivity. And, transport-related emissions are harmful to human health and the environment.

Recent years have seen advancements in innovation in the mobility and transport sector; electric vehicles are expected to supersede those powered by fossil fuels. Mobility modes such as ride-hailing, car sharing, and bike/scooter sharing are blurring lines between public and private transport, displacing buses and trains as well as car ownership.

Looking further ahead, autonomous vehicles promise to make driving skills redundant. There is a growing trend towards cooperative intelligent transport systems and driverless piloting activities. These expect to greatly improve road safety and energy efficiency.

However, efforts to reach global targets to reduce emissions need to be greater. The cost of air pollution from road transport remains high, due to congestion and a growing demand for transport. Action towards supporting emerging innovations that reduce the sector's contribution to emissions must be supported by governments worldwide.  Furthermore, innovation must be harnessed to provide equity so that every person has access to safe and affordable transportation.

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Current trajectory

  • World carbon emissions totalled 33.1 Gigatons in 2018. In 2015, at least 33% of the final energy consumption and 24% of the greenhouse gas emissions (23% more greenhouse gas emissions than in 1990) in the EU stemmed from transport.
  • According to the UK’s National Travel Survey, the average distance travelled per person in 2017 was 6,580 miles, which is 27 miles less than 2012. 
  • The number of vehicles sold worldwide has plateaued. Even decreasing from 79 million in 2017 to 78.7 million in 2019.
  • In 2017, the number of electric cars on the road surpassed 3 million worldwide, and expansion of over 50% from 2016.
  • Globally, scheduled commercial international and domestic flights carried approximately 2.3 billion passengers in 2018, down from 3.1 billion passengers in 2013.
  • China has the largest motor vehicle fleet in the world, with 322 million motor vehicles registered at the end of September 2018. By 2030, China’s annual car sales are expected to reach 39 million, or 28% of global sales.
  • The US has the highest vehicle ownership per capita in the world with 832 cars per 1000 people. 
  • According to the World Economic Forum, traffic jams worldwide already cost up to US$1.4 trillion annually. And global traffic fatalities are projected to triple to 3.6 million per year by 2030. 
  • Car ownership is expected to dip by 2025, as growing number millennials have a different attitude toward cars than previous generations. Transport disruptors such as ZipCar and Drive Now have over 1 million users. 
  • In the Netherlands, hybrid vehicles represented almost 5% of the new registrations of passenger vehicles.
  • In 2017, world trade volume grew by 3.6%, world container traffic and air freight tonne-km increased by 4.8%.
  • Estimations from the International Transport Forum show an increase of rail freight across the board, with Russia rising 6.4%, the US rising 5.3% and the EU rising 3.5%. Road freight tonne-km has also continued to expand in the EU area and there is a slow but steady recovery in Russia, according to preliminary estimates.
  • According to The Economist, Electrify America, a subsidiary of VolksWagen, plans to install 2,000 charging points across America by June 2019, including fast chargers that can replenish a battery in a matter of minutes at 100 Walmart stores.
  • In the Netherlands, hybrid vehicles represented almost 5% of the new registrations of passenger vehicles.
  • In 2015, the transport sector represented 9% of the total Gross Value Added of the EU economy and 9% of the total EU employment. Transport employs around 10.5 million people in the EU - providing goods and services to citizens and businesses in the EU and its trading partners.
  • The sector is also important for the EU’s international trade: in 2016, 17.2% of the EU’s total export of services were transport related.
  • Aviation emissions are forecast to increase dramatically as air traffic increases worldwide. CO2 emissions have increased by about 80% between 1990 and 2014 and are forecast to grow by a further 44% between 2014 and 2035.


  • As new approaches and technologies are adopted, the positive economic, environmental and health impacts of greener mobility ensures the sector's existence in a sustainable future. 
  • The increasing affordability of electric vehicles and transportation tax on those powered by dirty fuels is likely to have a significant effect on consumer preferences when purchasing a car.
  • However, the increase in automated transport systems threatens the employment of those working in the mobility industry. Steps need to be taken to provide training to transport workers to operate the automated systems and ensure job security.
  • The emerging innovations should not deter governments from taking further action towards reducing emissions. The mobility sector continues to be one of the largest contributors to overall global emissions and efforts towards tackling this is essential to preventing climate breakdown.

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