The number of cars and trucks on the road worldwide is set to increase sharply in the coming years. But that doesn't necessarily mean that carbon and pollutant emission levels will automatically rise too. When it comes to transporting people and goods, there are a variety of ways to address climate concerns, technological challenges and changing user habits. Total has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to finding real-world solutions to reduce the environmental and health impacts of today's transportation options. Géraldine Pinol, sustainable marketing manager in Total's Marketing & Services (M&S) business segment, provides more detail.
The challenges confronting the mobility of the future
No one can yet say with any certainty what transportation will look like in the megacities1 of the year 2050, whether for passengers or goods. But current observations offer a clearer picture of the challenges posed by mobility, and four main concerns in particular.
At the Movin'On 2017 Challenge in Montreal, Total talked about future energy use on behalf of the mobility of tomorrow.
Health and well-being. As cities grow denser and more populated – some 70 percent2 of the planet's 9 billion inhabitants will be living in cities by 2050 – any corresponding increase in the number of urban automobiles will inevitably bring a surge in pollutant emissions. In some Chinese cities, such as Beijing, the situation has grown so alarming, indeed dire, that authorities have imposed drastic measures to reduce traffic. These include license plate lotteries, which give China's city dwellers no more than a one in 200 chance of being able to purchase a vehicle.
Climate. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. But excessive concentrations in the atmosphere pose a problem by exacerbating the greenhouse effect. To comply with the roadmap to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius that participants adopted at COP21, cities will need to make some tough decisions to encourage – or even mandate – low-carbon transportation options. Some cities, including Sønderborg and Copenhagen in Denmark and Mexico City, are committed to achieving carbon neutrality, in all sectors, not just transportation. As a result, an increasing number of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) and even Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), including one in London – ultimately destined to become Zero Emission Zones (ZEZ) – are being created.
Personal safety. One task will be to ensure that all forms of mobility can exist side by side, from pedestrians and bicycles to buses and cars. While this may seem a simple matter in the highly organized cities of the northern hemisphere, many major urban centers in Africa, South America and Asia have a long way to go to get there. And the figures from WHO are unequivocal. Of the 1.25 million road traffic deaths around the world each year, 90 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries, which are home to about 54 percent of all vehicles on the road worldwide. Nearly half of those killed are considered "vulnerable" road users, meaning pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. The economic and social toll is incalculable.
Broader access to mobility. In numerous countries, transportation for people and goods is a prerequisite for socioeconomic change and a key factor in future development. The major challenge facing residents of those countries is to gain access to mobility that is both affordable and reliable.
In other words, the transportation of the future will need to be cleaner, safer and more affordable. To address these issues, cities are becoming "smarter" with the help of new technology. In the future smart city, mobility will inevitably make substantial use of technology, notably for providing real-time information. Information – on traffic conditions, parking availability, ride sharing, current mass transit schedules and more – is and will continue to be a driving factor in the changing mobility landscape. Self-driving shuttles are already on the roads, and driverless connected cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction.
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Disparities are already emerging
But expectations must remain realistic. While it may seem "easy" to harness technology – electric vehicles are already on the road, after all – or change behavior in response to these challenges, there are two major concerns to bear in mind.
First, the transition requires funding. Infrastructure, new vehicles, road sensors, interconnectivity, big data, investment in new rolling stock, new lines and new mobility solutions, enhanced comfort and convenience – the list of needs is long and the price tag is high. Costing billions of dollars, these investments will need to be financed through a variety of sources, including new taxes, borrowing, public-private partnerships and consortia – but all ultimately borne by the user-taxpayer. In that regard, municipalities in OECD countries are undeniably in a better position than those in developing countries, where the number of cars on the road is set to explode.
According to a PwC Autofacts® study published in September 2014, emerging marketplaces will account for 86.5 percent of the rise in global auto manufacturing between now and 2020. Asia, and notably China, will drive demand with a total of nearly 184 million vehicles on the road, including 147 million privately owned passenger cars3. The IEA's 2 degrees Celsius scenario projects a sharp increase in the number of passenger cars worldwide between 2016 and 2035, from 1 billion to more than 1.8 billion units. Although plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles represent a growing share of the world's vehicles, they will only make up 25 percent of the total, or 450 million vehicles in all, under the most optimistic projections. More pessimistic scenarios suggest growth of only 8 percent between now and 2030.
As a result, demand for fuel4 will be rising as well – along with emissions of pollutants and CO2.
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Energy providers are part of the solution as well
The fact is, there are technological, legal, tax and behavioral tools for meeting the challenge. One thing is certain: There is no single option or company that can provide the whole answer. The solutions must come from every group with a stake in future mobility. Billing itself as the responsible energy major, Total has chosen to integrate climate into its growth strategy and, accordingly, is tackling the concept of sustainable mobility. Géraldine Pinol leads the Sustainable Marketing team in Total's Marketing & Services business segment. She has overseen M&S's efforts to create eco-efficient products and services and promote sustainable mobility since 2014. In her own words, she's "helping the company make the cultural shift to more responsible energy, by developing environmentally friendly solutions for Total's customers and turning eco-efficiency into a business asset."
She sums up Total's mobility strategy in this way: "To significantly reduce carbon emissions, action needs to be taken now, in particular by upgrading conventional forms of mobility that involve vehicles with internal combustion engines. We have an array of options for that: We can continue to improve vehicle energy efficiency, we can increase the share of renewable energy sources and we can advance various hybrid technologies and new alternative energies." In other words, Total wants to offer energy solutions that are tailored to every need, from cities to interurban networks, for passengers or goods, in the northern hemisphere or the southern. "Each of our segments is contributing," says Géraldine Pinol. "M&S is developing fuels, such as the Total Excellium range, along with additives and high-performance Fuel Economy engine oils, all carrying the Total Ecosolutions label and designed to cut fuel consumption.
We're also developing alternative fuels like natural gas vehicle fuel – an area where Total hopes to become the retail market leader, especially in Europe – as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG) for shipping. Plus, we will be investing in charging points to be installed at service stations on major roads and highways. In addition, we are convinced that biofuels have an essential role to play in meeting climate objectives for aviation and road transportation. Moreover, our Refining & Chemicals (R&C) business has been working for many years to reduce vehicle weight and make them more energy efficient. And we are active in electric mobility as well thanks to our new Gas, Renewables & Power (GRP) business, which is examining the potential for SAFT to grow in the area of energy storage. GRP is also looking at home energy systems that allow homeowners with solar panels to manage their use of the solar power they generate – to recharge their vehicles, for example."
What all that means is that Total is aiming to have a network of 350 natural gas vehicle fueling stations in operation in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany by 2022, and is planning to install ultra-fast charging points at service stations on major roads and highways in those countries. The Group is also a member of Germany's H2 Mobility project to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations across Germany by 2018-2019, including 30 under the Total brand.
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A presence across the entire transportation chain
"We need to be operating wherever the world needs energy for passenger or goods transportation," notes Géraldine Pinol. "We want to provide access to responsible energy that's reliable, affordable and clean. To do that, we're working with car and truck makers as well as original equipment manufacturers, vehicle users and university-based researchers. Mobility is one of the areas where we want to make a substantial contribution, by providing solutions to help meet the climate objectives in the 2 degrees Celsius scenario, and also by reducing the impact on public health. And it all needs to be affordable, so that mobility is within reach for as many people as possible."
As users adopt new practices and reduce their reliance on personal cars – a major factor spurring change in the world of mobility – Total has in recent years partnered with BlaBlaCar5, France's leading carpooling network, by offering drivers discounts on car washes or fuel to encourage more people to try ride sharing services. "It's up to consumers to choose how they want to get around," comments Géraldine Pinol, "and it's our job to come up with a range of solutions that match consumer expectations and changing practices."
Total is also seeking to expand its know-how with regard to big data, the internet of things and smart mobility. Says Géraldine Pinol, "When we have closer ties to our customers, we come to learn more about them. So for our B2B customers like fleet managers, for example, we'll be able to offer integrated solutions that identify and reward environmentally responsible behavior by drivers, and ecodriving practices in particular."
Ultimately, there's no single form of sustainable mobility. It can take a variety of shapes, in urban or suburban areas, in wealthy or developing nations, as a result of government mandates or cultural trends. Any assumption that the future of sustainable mobility is tied solely to electric vehicles is both misleading and simplistic. Never mind the fact that it will take time to replace the cars now on the road: The technology is still not available to manufacture an electric refrigerated truck that can travel long distances.
But technology is advancing rapidly, so a solution may be on the horizon. In the meantime, though, there are critical issues to explore here and now: alternative fuels, energy efficiency, vehicle sustainability and the creation of new ways to "consume" mobility. Comments Géraldine Pinol, "Total has truly embraced this transition, to become a leader in mobility today and the responsible energy major tomorrow."
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1 In the 1970s, the United Nations raised its defining threshold for a megacity from 8 million to 10 million inhabitants. A megacity must also play a major economic, cultural or institutional role on the world stage.
2 Source: United Nations, July 2014.
3 Source: Comité Français des Constructeurs Automobiles (CCFA), the French automobile manufacturers' association. July 2016 data.
4 Transportation consumed approximately 55 million barrels of oil per day in 2016. Under the 2°C scenario, the shift to electric vehicles would reduce demand for oil by some 4 million barrels per day by 2035. That's a significant decline, but on its own it will not offset the higher demand for petroleum products created by more cars on the road, especially in emerging economies. Source: Total.
5 BlaBlaCar operates in twenty-two countries worldwide.