Mobility 2.0: "Real change requires leadership"
Experts discuss the future of mobility at the VI Delphi Dialog 2020
No one disputes the fact that while the world's population is growing, the Earth's oil reserves are shrinking. So what can mankind do to stay mobile and keep the flow of goods going - and do so without harming the environment? A panel of top-notch experts considered this question at the Delphi Dialog 2020 in Bonn. They agreed that new mobility concepts are needed, that Germany has the opportunity to lead by example, and that the business world could follow Deutsche Post DHL Group's lead.
Head of Deutsche Post DHL Group's MAIL division Juergen Gerdes and Professor Stephan Rammler, Director of the Institute for Transportation Design in Braunschweig, Germany, at the discussion.
Over 80 guests from the private and public sectors as well as the media came to the Post Tower to hear the panel, which included former auto-industry manager Daniel Goeudevert, Professor Stephan Rammler, Director of the Institute for Transportation Design in Braunschweig, Germany, and Head of Deutsche Post DHL Group's MAIL division Juergen Gerdes. The question posed to them was: "How do we leave the fossil-fuel era behind us and generate new momentum for the German economy?"
The panel quickly agreed that the question was not easy to answer, but that it was certainly a crucial one. Carrying on as we have up to now is hardly an option, they said. The impact on the environment from the use of traditional combustion engines is already too high. Limiting mobility would mean restricting the flow of goods and limiting people's freedom of movement. So what could the future look like? Will electric vehicles take over? Do hybrid engines have a future or will vehicles with traditional but more efficient combustion engines become the transportation standard?
Wanted: new concepts
According to Professor Stephan Rammler, Director of the Institute for Transportation Design in Braunschweig, Germany, "the mass model private motorization" will become obsolete in the long term anyway.
The last option is not a solution, said the panel. After all, more efficient combustion engines will not prevent the Earth's oil reserves from being depleted. In any case, futurologist Stephan Rammler thought the question was misguided: "It's not about new products, but about new concepts. Our goal cannot be to replace one million combustion engine vehicles with one million electric vehicles," he said. That certainly wouldn't prevent gridlock - and even today traffic jams in urban areas around the globe cost us time and money, not to mention test our nerves.
"Instead, we need to develop new concepts that keep people mobile," said Rammler. And that won't happen unless we are willing to make sacrifices, added Goeudevert.
According to Rammler, "the mass model private motorization" will become obsolete in the long term anyway, meaning that in the future one car per person or family will be the exception, not the rule. An "integrated mobility approach" must take the place of today's model and include electric car sharing, pedelecs and bicycles as well as efficient local public transportation networks. In the future, we will also need to shed the notion that a car is a status symbol, said Rammler. This trend is already apparent among many young people, who prefer a chic smartphone over a fast car.
The protagonists of change
Former auto-industry manager Daniel Goeudevert : "The world is watching us. If we are able to make the change, then others will try, too."
Mobility will change for a number of reasons, but who might be the protagonists of that change? Daniel Goeudevert was a strong advocate of sustainability when he was a top auto executive at a number of major car manufacturers in the 1980s and 90s. The subject - as he says himself - met with a lot of resistance. Based on that experience, he doesn't believe we should expect the industry itself to serve as the catalyst. The impulse needs to come from customers. "When there is sufficient demand for electric vehicles, the industry will have to respond with the right products," he said. He sees large customers like Deutsche Post DHL Group as being in a strategically important position. After all, the Mail division in Germany alone operates over 60,000 vehicles and could therefore have a key impact on demand.
Deutsche Post DHL Group recently retrofitted its fleet in Bonn with electric delivery vehicles - an initiative that sends a signal to the business world. If this pilot project is successful, other companies and large fleet operators will be put under pressure to act. Goeudevert believes that real change requires leadership, and in the case of 'Mobility 2.0' Germany could very well assume this role. The German automotive industry is, after all, the global leader: "The world is watching us. If we are able to make the change, then others will try, too."
Good image and competitive advantage
Deutsche Post DHL Group unveiled the new StreetScooter, an electric delivery van specially developed for Deutsche Post in cooperation with the RWTH technical university in Aachen.
Undisputed among the experts was the notion that though the pioneers would be taking a risk, if successful they would reap the rewards of an improved image and competitive advantage. Juergen Gerdes explained that the decision to re-equip the Deutsche Post delivery fleet in Bonn was based on both environmental and financial factors. "On the one hand, we want to accept our social responsibility as a large company," he said. "On the other hand, we are switching to electric vehicles in response to rising fuel prices.".
His team intends to have 141 electric vehicles on the streets of Bonn by 2016. In addition to testing vehicles from well-known manufacturers, Deutsche Post joined forces with StreetScooter GmbH and the RWTH Aachen University to develop its own vehicle, which in addition to the standard requirements for parcel and mail delivery also focused on ergonomics. The StreetScooter is currently being tested in day-to-day operations. So far couriers are very satisfied with the vehicle, said Gerdes. The Mail CEO believes that among the reasons for this is the fact that the couriers themselves played a role in the vehicle's development. "When it comes to 'Mobility 2.0', it is not just about sacrifice, but also about innovation and enthusiasm," stressed Gerdes. "We have to win the people over in order to achieve change."