The Energiewende – Germany’s transition to clean, affordable energy – has become deeply rooted in German collective consciousness. But public debate about the Verkehrswende – the transformation of Germany’s transport sector towards sustainability – has only just begun, despite its crucial role in the energy transition and in safeguarding tomorrow’s mobility.
In response to this lagging development, Agora Verkehrswende published Transforming Transport to Ensure Tomorrow’s Mobility: 12 Insights into the Verkehrswende. The report looks at the current state of the transport system and describes the most important challenges facing the creation of a carbon-neutral, economically sound mobility system by 2050.
This goal of making transport sustainable is not just about replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors. It’s also about lowering energy use and covering the remaining demand with carbon-neutral energy. Accordingly, the transport transformation involves both a change in mobility (the “mobility transition”) and a change in the energy used (the “energy transition in the transport sector”).
The mobility transition seeks to reduce the number of kilometres travelled and the number of motorised vehicles on the road. This transition needs a political and regulatory framework, but only now do federal and local governments have enough leeway to align transport sector regulation with climate targets. The opportunities afforded by digital information and communication technologies will help people make their travel behaviour more sustainable.
The clean-energy transition in the transport sector is primarily a technological undertaking. The goal is to make future vehicles carbon neutral. But the large and growing demand for carbon-neutral energy can be met in Germany only through wind and solar power. This renewable energy can go directly into propulsion or it can be converted into liquid- or gas-based fuels. The direct use of electricity in battery electric vehicles is preferable because the conversion process consumes additional electricity.
The 12 Insights report offers a wealth of new information, yet it also raises many questions. As such, it is less a finished report than the beginning of a long overdue discussion.