Features
21 Jan 19

Mobility is going the way of your CD collection

Disruption. Artificial intelligence. Smart. Connected. Electric. No new terms here. But when, how, what to and why should you shift your mobility? That was on the menu of a conference at the Brussels Motor Show.

Each year, the Brussels Motor Show organiser Febiac invites expert speakers from the mobility industry to discuss the future of mobility under the heading We Are Mobility. This year, the discussions focused on cross mobility, digitisation and smart cities and energy.

At times, the so-called Inspiring Talks came very close to being sales talks, but a number of speakers managed to transcend the sales pitch. Here are some highlights.

Overload

Nicolas Paris, Head of Product Development Electric Vehicles, Total Lampiris, addressed the importance of electric vehicles beyond the mobility sphere.

According to numbers of electricity regulator CREG, a fleet of 2 million EVs on Belgian roads would account for only about 7.5% of total electricity production, a share the current production capacity could provide for, except for a couple of hours in winter. Additionally, the potential storage capacity offered by EVs would actually be beneficial to the electricity grid, as it would help balance it.

Nevertheless, widespread EV adoption does require a rethink of electricity use and production. Buildings would need to optimise their local grid and would need to install more solar panels. EVs would need to be connected to enable smart charging so as not to overload the grid, the charging speed needs to be flexible and EVs’ batteries need to be used for storage to help balance the grid.

Energy density

Khurram Gaba, Policy Planning Executive, ExxonMobil, presented a new bio-fuel his company has been working on for over 10 years. It is based on algae, produces lower emissions than traditional fuels, can be harvested year-round and doesn’t impact fresh water supplies. Importantly, it does not require arable land and can be cultivated on land that is not suitable for other uses.

The new fuel’s future is guaranteed, said Mr Gaba. Today, 98% of all vehicles on the road still use liquid fuels and a large portion of vehicles will continue to do so for many decades to come as liquid fuels still offer the considerable advantage of a high energy density coupled with affordability and availability.

ExxonMobil’s challenge today is to produce this fuel at scale and to make it affordable but Mr Gaba is confident this can be achieved.

Artificial intelligence

Thierry Geerts, Country Director, Google Belgium, stated more roads are no solution to our traffic congestions problems, he stated. It’s better to reinvent mobility in a step by step approach. The first priority should be to avoid moving around altogether. If that’s not possible, we should look for alternatives (to car usage). Sharing should be a next priority, followed by optimisation, automation and CO2 reduction.

So mobility of the future should be shared, smart and autonomous.

Nevertheless, psychological barriers to owning self-driving cars remain strong. What’s more, self-driving cars will most likely be shared, also something many people object to. However, the transition away from owning has already been done with music - you don’t own a CD collections any more, you pay for Spotify access. Mobility will follow this model.

Meta Storm

Jo Caudron, Founding Partner and Co-CEO, Duval Union consultancy, introduced the concept of the Meta Storm. Our society is undergoing three perfect storms at the same time: in mobility, the way we live and the way we work. These three perfect storms combined form a meta storm, and we will be in the eye of that storm for the next decade or so.

Importantly, said Mr Caudron, you can only solve one issue by taking on all three. In the post-meta storm future, we will all move less frequently and smarter, we will live and work differently and we will see new business models and players emerge.

Image: Thierry Geerts, Country Director, Google Belgium

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck