The new mobility is going through a very delicate and unpredictable transition. After the first boom generated by the energy transition drive, the Covid pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict impacting the energy dynamics, have further disrupted how work, the environment and thus integrated travel in smart cities are conceived. But where are we going? Fabrizio Zerbini, Marketing Management lecturer at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and Scientific Director of MobiUS, the lab on Future Mobility set up in partnership with Atlantia to study integrated mobility, takes a picture for Infra Journal of the new dynamics and unknowns at play that could in part rewrite the future scenarios postulated only a few years ago.
Why is mobility experiencing a new resurgence?
“There are three different but equally important aspects that are changing its evolution. The first aspect is demographics. The World Bank predicts that by 2050, more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. A phenomenon that will need to address an urgent and complex need. The second aspect relates to environmental impact, as 25% of the world's CO₂ is the result of means of transport for mobility and politicians are highly focusing on transitioning mobility towards sustainability. And the last factor of change concerns the post-Covid period and, in particular, the way new generations generate demand for mobility. This also ties in with the demands for remote working and remote living, on which mobility is dependent.”
How does remote working and living impact mobility?
“Over time it leads to the development of a new demand for mobility, compatible with remote living needs. And if on the one hand it rewrites the rules, on the other hand it could counterbalance the first point, i.e. the problem of a greater concentration of people going to live and work in cities.”
How is the energy crisis affecting sustainable mobility?
“Before the crisis, we had scenario analyses that considered certain factors at the macro level. Whereas now a question mark has been raised. As of today there are no predictions, but at this stage it is clear that the order of priorities for the environmental impact of business, politics and people has changed. Politicians are focused on managing the international crisis; companies see a slowdown in demand and have an economic urgency (geared more towards paying their bills rather than when to change their car). In the short term, this could also have a negative impact on CO₂ production. In the medium term, however, there could also be a recovery and a greater acceleration towards a demand for sustainable mobility.”
Is the evolution towards electrical power at risk?
“Not necessarily: one has to distinguish between short-term shock effects and long-term trends. Reducing the environmental impact of mobility is an inescapable necessity. Moreover, electric cars should reach price parity in two years' time. Of course, other problems still persist and the challenge is wide open, starting with the spreading of charging stations, which is particularly important for people who do not have a garage to park and charge their cars.”
What is lacking in this sector of the industry?
“There are two major challenges: not only to increase the spreading of charging stations, but also to make sure we have enough batteries to produce the cars.”
Urban mobility and Maas, the state of the art
“It is a challenge for everyone. How to configure the value network and who the key players will be is an open question to which no single answer has been found. Our Italian cities are trying out various scenarios to figure it out. Sometimes, even looking at examples such as Germany (where they tried to introduce a flat travel rate of 9 Euro), it occurs to me that simple architectures can be very effective.”
How is the labour market changing in the industry?
“When it comes to mobility, there are so many sectors involved. As MobiUS, we did a study on electric mobility and identified how more than 50% of the world's manufacturing and service sectors revolve around electric mobility. It is, therefore, a matter of job offers from very different companies. Looking at two major trends, we can say that if mobility is evolving towards integrated service provision, as with all service businesses, we will need front-line personnel, people who can handle the end customer. Furthermore, in order to move towards smart mobility, the strong link between mobility and digital technology will make computer engineers more attractive than mechanical engineers.”
What do you hope mobility in Italy will be like in 2030?
“Thrifty (making us move less), giving us time to do other things (wishing we were less busy driving) and less under the magnifying glass of policy makers, because it is eco-friendly.”