Environmentally friendly mobility

Research results from Switzerland on sustainable mobility behaviour

Switzerland is regarded as exemplary in terms of “multi-optional traffic behaviour” and that means that many people already rely on an environmentally friendly transport mix. The flexible combination of all forms of transport such as cars, busses, trains, walking or riding a bicycle is important for the transformation of the transport sector. The use of a mix of different means of transport offers great potential for more energy-efficient and sustainable mobility. But even in Switzerland, energy consumption in the transport sector is still too high. As part of the National Research Programme for Energy Saving, the Swiss Federal Council has therefore commissioned numerous projects to investigate which measures are sensible and practicable for reducing energy consumption in the transport sector. As a member of the steering committee of this programme, ISOE mobility expert Konrad Götz has been intensively involved in the research work for many years. Together with his co-author Prof. Ueli Haefeli of Interface, Lucerne, Götz has developed recommendations for action and which are described in the newly published “Synthesis Mobility Behaviour”. 

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Modern cityscape and various transportation network (©chombosan/Thinkstock)
Modern cityscape and various transportation network (©chombosan/Thinkstock)

Transport accounts for more than one third of Switzerland’s energy consumption. Measures that can make Switzerland’s mobility behaviour more energy-efficient are therefore particularly important for the transformation of the energy system. But how exactly can mobility behaviour be influenced? In the course of Switzerland’s National Research Programmes for Energy Saving (NRP 70/71) this question has been investigated within the framework of several projects. It turned out that there have long been many attractive sharing and pooling concepts around that have a positive impact on energy efficiency. However, they are all based on voluntary participation and are therefore rarely practised. 

“We have seen that voluntary participation only contributes to a limited extent to the major changes that are necessary to make the transport sector more energy-efficient,” says ISOE mobility researcher Konrad Götz. “In order for mobility behaviour to move in an energy-saving direction and for the new concepts and products to actually lead to energy savings at the end of the day, there is no way around appropriate regulation.” That is why, in addition to the further development of attractive mobility offers with a target group-specific approach, there must be intelligent flanking measures that have an effect on traffic behaviour through incentives and sanctions. The state must actively accompany the new developments and reconsider previous misguided incentives, for example in the taxation of air traffic.

Regulations for energy efficiency in the choice of means of transport

According to the experts Götz and Haefeli, the use of new technologies is another key factor for energy efficiency. “The digital possibilities that we have today are not yet consistently geared towards energy saving.” They could make a far greater contribution to mobility being understood as a service with which individual mobility behaviour can be made more energy-efficient. “By cleverly combining all forms of transport that make sense for the envisaged route via apps, not only can we create a more environmentally friendly mode of transport but we can also obtain a higher degree of freedom to use different means of transport compared to just relying our own car.” However, energy saving is seldom at the heart of the design and use of digital aids. The same applies to energy-efficient logistics. Here, too, digital automation technologies are the key to success, but there are only a few helpful energy-saving tools.

Another recommendation on mobility behaviour in Switzerland relates to rebound effects. This means that savings in energy costs elsewhere, e.g. by covering longer distances or increasing leisure travel, are overcompensated. This results in increased consumption instead of the intended savings. “That is why it is important that all programmes and offers aimed at energy-saving mobility are regularly checked for possible rebound effects,” says mobility expert Götz. 

The complete synthesis on the main topic of “Mobility Behaviour” is available on the web portal https://www.nfp-energie.ch/en.