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The mobility of the future: economic and infrastructure challenges

  • Milano
  • 6 May 2024

        As one of the focal points of the ecological transition, mobility accounts for 25% of European emissions. Its impact on the daily lives of citizens and on the rapid rate of technological innovation pose challenges that require urgent attention. The first of these is an economic one, and prompts consideration of the investments necessary for the future of mobility. Particularly pivotal are transport infrastructures and the 300 billion euro they are going to require over the next decade, which will have considerable impact on both public and private sector finances. That will be in addition to the 200 billion in investments in telecommunications and energy that will be needed to make the transition. Another major challenge concerns the energy mix. In order to complete a true ecological transition, “green” mobility will have to be fueled by renewable sources. Indeed, the growth predicted in the use of electric vehicles will call for additional investments in both production and in making energy available during peak hours – all of which necessarily poses an industrial challenge to European competitiveness. 

        At the same time, however, evolving behaviors and individual preferences are essential factors not to be underestimated. The revolution seems already to have begun in some spheres, with a 5% reduction in the annual amount of traffic on European roads and a simultaneous increase in the spread of electric and hybrid vehicles, whose numbers over the past 5 years have gone up by 60% and could dominate sales by 2030. 

        The automobile is surely one of the keys to confronting mobility challenges, which must nevertheless be assessed against other transport means, both passenger and freight (which cannot enjoy the benefits of electric technology) as well as new, rapidly evolving paradigms such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The debate must also center on public transport, in terms both of infrastructure and in light of the new local public transport (LPT) emissions reductions laid out in European regulations. Consideration must also go to long-distance transport, which has perhaps not been adequately considered, as demonstrated by the scarcity of railway interconnections across Europe. The cultural change needed must generate new models of governance for planning and administering urban areas, not least in relation to expanding sectors such as logistics. In this sense, the technological transition can become part of broader major European reforms and undertakings concerning communication corridors, smart mobility and even road safety programs capable of influencing individual behavior and citizen well-being.

        In general, this increasingly complex regulatory and technological framework calls for close coordination between public and private projects aimed at a common effort at overcoming remaining obstacles. Economic studies show the need to confront the challenges of the ecological transition rapidly because failing to address current problems will lead in the future to greater costs and negative effects on the environment and the quality of life. After all, only if we view future mobility as part of a broader sustainable development strategy will it be possible to optimize the major financial, organizational and cultural commitments that are going to be necessary over the coming years in order to transform private investments and public financing into multipliers of growth and prosperity. 

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