Outlook and recommendations for policy makers and business
By Jan Konietzko, Juana Camacho-Otero, Emilia Ingemarsdotter, Lucy Chamberlin, Glenn Aguilar Hernandez, Carl Kuehl
A circular economy
A circular economy can be useful tool to decarbonize and dematerialize mobility. For a circular economy, firms can make four types of changes to their resource and energy flows. They can 1) narrow: use less products, components and materials during production, delivery, use and end-of-life, 2) slow: extend product and component lives through long-lasting design and product-life extension services, 3) close: find ways to use again everything that is currently considered waste, and 4) regenerate: use renewable energy during the production, delivery, use and end-of-life; use materials and processes that are clean and safe for humans and the environment; and regenerate natural ecosystems (figure 1). More about the theory behind these strategies can be read, for example, here and here.
A workshop on circular mobility
This blog article summarizes the outputs from a workshop on circular mobility, which hosted around 40 participants during the World Resources Forum 2019 in Antwerp.
At the beginning of the workshop, we asked:
- How might mobility look like in a future circular economy?
- What do policy makers and businesses need to do to make mobility circular?
During a short panel at the beginning of the workshop, five experts shared their concise answer to the first question. The panelists included:
- Helen Versluys, Business Consultant for Sustainability at Moebius
- Paul Ekins, Professor of Resources and Environment Policy at University College London and Co-Director of the UK Energy Research Centre
- Arnold Tukker, Professor of Industrial Ecology and Director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University
- Karl Vrancken, Research Manager Sustainable Materials at VITO
An outlook on circular mobility
The panelists proposed that, for a circular economy:
- Mobility needs to be viewed and understood in its entirety. This includes people who walk, bicycles, scooters, cars, metro, subway, bus, vans, trucks, trains, metro, subway, airplanes, ships, and more.
- Mobility will be about the software and the service, not the product.
- Self-driving cars are not a panacea: they may lead to more vehicles on the road.
- Policy makers need to prioritise human-powered modes of transportation (walking, cycling) and aim at reducing the overall number of vehicles in cities.
- City centers will need to be car free.
- New startups and innovation projects will continue to experiment with and shape shared mobility design.
- Vehicles will need to be based on electric drive trains.
- Vehicles will be powered by batteries and/or fuel cells, and zero-carbon electricity and/or hydrogen.
- Batteries will be standardized and compatible across products and components in all kinds of applications (also beyond mobility assets). They will be reused in a second life (e.g. in household heating/energy storage applications), remanufactured for a third life, and then recycled.
- Technology will design out critical materials and radically increase battery performance.
- We will have to find ways of dealing with piles of waste from out-dated battery technology.
The participants then spread out in five groups to generate further business and policy recommendations.
Here is the output from the workshop:
How to innovate business models for circular mobility
- Stimulate and engage in new forms of cross-sector collaboration (e.g. mobility, energy, ICT).
- Engage in collaborative city experiments to research and implement circular strategies.
- Ensure the availability of public “playgrounds” — free from too many legal constraints — where diverse stakeholders and users can come together to test and co-create new mobility solutions.
- Experiments should prioritize human-powered mobility solutions (e.g. walking, cycling).
How to increase user acceptance for circular mobility
- Create local hubs and ecosystems with co-located offices and living areas to reduce travel distances.
- Provide financial incentives for users to opt for more circular mobility solutions.
- Establish clear legal frameworks that minimize risks for consumers in access-based models for mobility.
- Organize seamless, multi-modal mobility ecosystems to enhance convenience.
- Integrate circular solutions into everyday life through advertising and other cultural devices.
- Create customizable offerings. There is no one size fits all solution.
How to develop technology for circular mobility
- Research how to substitute critical materials to reduce future supply risks.
- Demand and establish clear rules for product safety and producer responsibility.
- Provide digital services to maximize capacity utilization of the mobility assets.
- Develop digital services for small-scale energy systems that can charge vehicles.
- Monitor the condition of batteries to enable high-value reuse and faster diagnostics at their end-of-life stages.
How to measure impact for circular mobility
- Establish a ‘waste hierarchy’ for mobility to understand the potential environmental impacts of reduce, reuse and recycling possibilities.
- Evaluate the potential impacts of policies that incentivize circular mobility.
- Analyze infrastructure plans: will they decarbonize and dematerialize mobility?
- Understand future vehicle/battery stocks: how much, where, and when will their components and materials will be available for a second use?
- Consider new technology: how will new stuff impact the environment, and how will disposing of old one impact the environment?
- Assess the potential benefits of minimizing material losses through circular strategies.
How to organize supply ecosystems for circular mobility
- Fund research on how to substitute critical materials to reduce future supply risks.
- Provide financial incentives for firms to increase the circularity of their supply (e.g. tax credits, subsidies).
- Localize reuse and recycle options.
- Enable information sharing about components and materials across supply chains (e.g. through RFID, blockchain).
- Increase cross-sector collaboration, engage in industrial symbiosis.
Do you agree with these recommendations? What else is important? Please share your perspective in the comments section.