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E-mobility as part of the change in transport

Jul 4, 2022

The consensus in the scientific community is that traffic is a major part of climate change. Even though, all that is widespread information, the car stock is ever increasing in Austria. Approximately 30% of Austria’s GHG-emissions stem from traffic – therefore a lot needs to be done in the near future to reach the climate goals.

In 2021, the Austrian government published its ambitious Mobility Masterplan 2030, which set the tone for a transformation of the traffic sector, which runs through government initiatives and a well-designed plan of actions. Various goals were set in this strategic paper, e.g. in 2030 all new car and two-wheel registrations will be zero-emission. Phasing out combustion engines is also the target for new busses and heavy-duty vehicles by 2032 and 2035 respectively.

While transforming all combustion engine vehicles to electric powered vehicles is an important measure, the next step is to make vehicles, especially cars more efficient. Sports utility vehicles or SUVs are still the number one choice of the Austrian customer, when buying a new car. Considering the transformation process from ICE to EVs and the everlasting questions surrounding the range of EVs, a reduction in size and weight is obvious. This allows the automaker to reduce the size of the battery and therefore avoids using critical and scarce material.

Another major hurdle in the adaption cycle of electric vehicles is the current situation of the charging infrastructure. Through the Right-to-Plug, a part of the obstacle was removed. Since the beginning of 2022, this amendment allows parking space owners in apartment buildings to build their own charging stations, without going through the lengthy process of getting approval of every single other owner. To further accelerate the adoption of high-powered charging infrastructure on highways across Europe, the European Union is writing a Regulation, which controls the maximum distance between HPCs and requires a minimum amount of power at any given charging station. All these measures are part of the technological traffic change; however, this is not enough to reach the climate goals.

The societal transformation of transport

While technological innovation is key to achieve better results in motorized traffic, the focus when reducing greenhouse-gas-emissions is to avoid traffic at all and to transfer it to low carbon intense transportation options. In Austria, there is enormous potential to avoid GHG-emissions, e.g. 40% of all car trips are less than 5 kilometers, which categorizes as bicycle distance. New mobility concepts will play a key role to make car alternatives more attractive. E-scooter sharing in Vienna is one example. However, a new technology is not always required for a new concept, as bicycle sharing is booming. Sharing cuts the upfront costs and is easy to access. These concepts are easy to implement in cities, where distances are short and parking spaces are rare. In rural regions, other concepts find their place. On-call buses are already in use ever since the 1990s and play a critical role to overcome the first and last mile.

Freight transport between problem child and potential

While the transition from internal combustion cars to electric cars is already on track. In September 2021, 20% of new cars were battery electric vehicles. When it comes to heavy-duty vehicles, the numbers are not very impressive. Nevertheless, the potential in this sector is huge. Heavy-duty vehicles are some of the largest GHG-emittent on the road. When electrifying these vehicles, the savings potential is massive. To get the transition going, the government announced two major funding programs, EBIN and ENIN, to electrify the bus and heavy-duty fleets. The EBIN and ENIN programs are financed in part by the European Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is intended to help rebuild the economy in the European Union in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic.

E-mobility as part of the energy transition

The switch to electromobility requires a coordinated approach by all stakeholders - from industry to the energy sector and politics to users. Moreover, the issue is polarizing: For example, the danger of overloading the power grid is thrown into discussions. Yet electric vehicles offer part of the solution to future bottlenecks in the power grid: vehicle-to-grid. Here, the plugged-in vehicle serves as battery storage for the power grid, but also for surplus electricity produced by the in-house photovoltaic system on the roof.

A second important factor that electromobility can play in the energy transition is to help get energy communities up and running. Decentralized energy generation and supply will play a key role in the transition to renewable energy. This is because the expansion of photovoltaic systems on the roofs of private houses will massively increase private electricity generation. In order to protect themselves against possible grid failures or other disruptions, private individuals, but also entire communities, can join forces and share the electricity produced among themselves. These practices not only serve to secure the power supply, but also support awareness-raising in communities.

The goal must be to allow all parts of the population to benefit from this change and to create non-discriminatory access to mobility. AustriaTech supports this change by participating in a variety of sustainable mobility projects and monitoring these developments.