Scenarios,
discourses and strategies for the decarbonisation of the transport sector by

2050

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12 Insights into the Verkehrswende

  • Transforming the transport sector is crucial for the success of the clean-energy transition.

    In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions in Germany’s transport sector were almost as high as in 1990, even though emissions in other sectors of the economy have declined. Unless the transport sector is decarbonised, Germany will be unable to achieve its own climate targets, let alone honour its commitments to international agreements. Today’s challenge is to make the transport sector climate neutral by 2050.

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  • Transforming transport requires decarbonisation and sustainable mobility.

    To decarbonise the transport sector, we must use energy more efficiently and more cleanly. To achieve this aim without restricting mobility, people will need to travel in more sustainable ways, while conventional fuels are gradually replaced by renewable energy from wind and solar power. The right sorts of policies and legal frameworks are crucial for achieving these goals.

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  • Efficiency is the guiding principle of the transport transformation.

    Transforming the transport sector will bring major changes to millions of people’s everyday lives. These changes must be shaped by the principle of economic efficiency, so that the sector’s sustainability targets can be reached as affordably as possible. Efficiency should not become a dogma, however, especially where it runs up against the limits of public acceptance.

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  • In cities, the mobility transition has already begun.

    Private vehicles are an import means of transportation for many people. But their importance in larger cities has been dwindling. More and more people are cycling, walking, taking public transport or using car- and ridesharing services. The government must encourage this change of travel behaviour so that cities can regain valuable space and become more attractive for residents and visitors alike.

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  • Rural areas also benefit from the mobility transition.

    Outside larger cities, private vehicles are hard to replace, and they will remain the number one means of transport. Electrification and other alternative technologies can make them climate neutral, however. What is more, carless options such as electric-assist bicycles and flexible public transport services are gradually becoming available for rural commuters.

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  • Driverless vehicles are ideal for shared use.

    Digital technology is revolutionising the transport sector. But if it is to help make transport more sustainable and not less, the government must introduce policies that push it in the right direction, particularly those that promote the creation of networked vehicles and infrastructure.

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  • Electrification is key to an energy transition in transport.

    Direct electricity use in battery-powered vehicles is the most efficient and affordable way to decarbonise the transport sector. And with battery costs falling and their ranges increasing, electric cars have become an appealing alternative to conventional vehicles.

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  • Carbon-neutral fuels can supplement wind and solar energy.

    For the foreseeable future, liquid- and gas-based fuels will be needed as a supplement to direct electricity. These fuels must be produced from renewable power if they are to be climate neutral. Another option is the use of low-emission biofuels, though their potential for expansion is limited. The government must enact policies to prepare the phase-out of petroleum and the introduction of climate-neutral energy sources.

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  • The freight sector needs an improved rail system and climate-neutral roads.

    Making the growing freight transport sector climate-friendly requires two courses of action. First, more freight must be shifted from roads to rails, a good deal of which is already powered by electricity. Second, trucks must be made more efficient and, ultimately, climate neutral. Considering that trucks will remain dominant for the time being, it is important that governments quickly create a Europe-wide policy framework for lowering their carbon emissions.  [...]

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  • Power supply and transport benefit from sector coupling.

    The energy transition in the transport sector will succeed only if additional amounts of renewable energy are available, hence the need for an accelerated expansion of capacity. While the electrification of the transport sector may increase power demand, vehicle batteries can also benefit the power sector by balancing mismatch between demand and the supply of variable renewable energy. The government must introduce policies that incentivise this type of [...]

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  • Rethinking the development and financing of transport infrastructure.

    Transforming the transport sector requires more policy planning and coordination today than it did in the past. The German government must devise a 2030 plan for the sector that describes a feasible path to decarbonisation. This includes identifying the infrastructure needed to shift traffic from roads to rails, mapping a route for the adoption of electric vehicles and digital traffic management, and defining funding mechanisms for new infrastructure projects.  [...]

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  • The transport transformation can strengthen German industry.

    The phase-out of internal combustion engines in favour of alternative types of motors poses the greatest challenge the automobile industry has ever faced. The size and importance of this economic sector mean that its efforts to cope with this upheaval will send ripples through the German economy. If the decarbonisation of vehicles adversely affects employment, public support for the transport transformation may decline. On the other hand, if car manufacturers [...]

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  • The transport transformation will be driven by its benefits to society.

    Beyond the long-term and still uncertain effects of the transport transformation on mitigating climate change, sustainability measures stand to deliver concrete benefits to individuals and society in the short and medium terms. In particular, they will improve people’s quality of life in numerous ways – for example, by improving air quality and decreasing noise pollution. As a result, public support for the transport transformation is likely to increase, [...]

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