Energy and mobility solutions

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Increased fossil fuel use is a major cause of global warming, leading to Climate Breakdown[1]. A lot of energy is expended in the energy and mobility systems used to move citizens around cities. This UrbanA approach cluster addresses technological interventions that can support the transition to a low-carbon society[2].

This page is part of an ongoing, open-ended online collaborative database, which collects relevant approaches that can be used by city-makers to tackle unsustainability and injustice in cities. It is based mainly on knowledge generated in EU-funded projects and touches on fast changing fields. As such, this page makes no claims of authoritative completeness and welcomes your suggestions.

General introduction to approach

The technological interventions presented here point to changes in energy and mobility systems that can support the transition to a low-carbon society. These interventions mostly relate to good practices and recommendations based on research and case-study analysis, surveys and future studies (e.g. good practices in urban schemes with decarbonised transport and energy system, innovation roadmap for urban bus systems, research blindspots for vehicle-to-grid and electric mobility diffusion). It also includes a transnational pilot deployment towards advancing Smart Cities (e.g. through Intelligent Districts and Smarter Energy applications). Actors coming from business, academia and research, public / city authorities and policy makers, and citizens and the wider public were involved to varying degrees and combinations.

Shapes, sizes and applications

Some approaches aim to show proof of concept of a Smart City (see: Smart Cities) that is not only technologically driven, but in which the end-users, in particular public authorities and citizens, also influence the Smart City design. This means end-users are active shapers of a Smart City that fits their needs and nudges desired behaviours (e.g. increased energy savings). These approaches are part of a transnational pilot across different building-sites with a focus on Intelligent Districts, Smarter Energy, and Smarter Lighting interventions.

Smart cities are still an emerging concept in Europe that is being explored through small-scale pilot projects, such as those in cities across the Mediterranean through ESMARTCITY. Most of these pilots are still in the initial phases of massive data gathering, which then would determine the investments in building infra-structure. The biggest challenges arising from these pilots relate to data privacy and handling. Who owns the data collected from the end-users? What are the threats and opportunities to making all the data publicly available? How can the data be used and translated into benefits for all citizens and for the sustainability of the city? These are questions that remain unanswered for the time being, and which could hamper the scaling and transfer of Smart city interventions. See also Data collection.

Other approaches herein identified good practices, and defined investment and research priorities for the diffusion of technologies such as electric mobility and vehicle-to-grid, or for the increased performance, accessibility and efficiency or urban bus systems. The latter culminated in an Innovative Bus System Roadmap (2015) developed and supported by diverse stakeholders , such as industries, Public Transport operators and authorities, suppliers and research institutes, indicating areas for innovation and priorities research. These were stronger EU political commitment to improve public transport market shares (namely with quantitative targets), campaigning for a new identity of bus systems that would re-dignify the bus, creating financial support mechanisms to accelerate the modernisation of the bus systems in EU cities and supporting market uptake of newer and cleaner propulsion technologies, and ensure institutional investment for long-term innovation in the bus system.

Relation to UrbanA themes: Cities, sustainability, and justice

All the approaches refer to cities, with applications in buildings or public spaces such as squares and streets, neighborhoods or system scales. Justice is identified as a key research area for ensuring accessibility and safety measures to bus infrastructures and vehicles, particularly in light of ageing population trends, and also as a blindspot in research related to the diffusion of electric mobility, vehicle-to-grid (V2G), and Smart Cities. The link between justice and sustainability is not addressed in depth in these approaches, but highlight that although a vehicle-to-grid or Smart city transition has much to offer society, less is understood about how those benefits are distributed, especially among vulnerable groups.

Sustainability topics cover smart and sustainable Green Growth, factors that shape energy demand from the viewpoints of both infrastructure and lifestyle and behaviour, and improved efficiency and reduced emissions from transport from a mobility perspective.

Narrative of change

Transitioning into a low-carbon society through smart and sustainable green growth of the energy and transport sectors, while promoting broader uptake of technological innovations and participation of end-users (in particular citizens and public authorities), and reducing traffic and pollution in Europe's cities.

Innovation ecosystems such as those brought about by Smart Cities, and taking system approaches to energy and transport development (namely linking end-users, vehicles, infrastructure and operations together with a high-quality service) are key elements of change. Sharing good practices to stimulate the deployment of key solutions at scale and exploiting research outcomes through sectoral and cross-sectoral networks are also fundamental.

Criticisms exist around the lack of a narrative and vision for a mobility system (rather than a transport system). Such mobility system would also have to be designed to serve the needs of the end-users first, rather than being mostly technologically driven. Today there is a lot of investment being directed to e-mobility and to make cities technologically smart, based on moving people from one place to another as efficiently as possible. These are important measures, namely to transition to a low-carbon society, but they are also are missed opportunities for wider well-being.

Designing and implementing a sustainable and just mobility system is an opportunity to bring about broader change in lifestyles and attitudes towards life in cities. What should be the importance of cars, when compared with smooth mobility (such as walking and cycling) or public transport systems? Could we have more grassroots development of mobility solutions, locally attuned and in a way that enhances the quality of the public space (e.g. a cooperative of privately owned cars[3])? What new business models and community interventions could support the further transition from an integrated transport system to a mobility system that gives access to the city, improves its quality of life and nurtures the freedom to imagine different ways of living it (for inspiration see [4], [5], [6])?

Transformative potential

One approach, as part of a foresight study, looked into enablers and obstacles of the energy transition towards a post-carbon society from a technological societal process and a political societal process. Furthermore, making public the data coming from the digitisation of cities, such as through Smart Cities interventions, without further consideration and or assessment structures for its further uses and ownership might be problematic given the e.g. commercial or surveillance value it carries.


A transport roadmap for developing new bus systems based on more-electric technologies and alternative fuels in Europe´s cities

A transport roadmap for developing new bus systems based on more-electric technologies and alternative fuels was developed under the FP7 project 3 IBS - The Intelligent, Innovative, Integrated Bus Systems, and promises to reduce traffic and pollution in Europe's cities. The roadmap for an European Advanced Bus Systems was based on surveys conducted on European bus system strategies. It presents a snapshot of the bus fleets in operation in urban areas across Europe and helps understanding the role of bus systems in local mobility policies for the coming years, a step towards a stronger competitiveness of the bus in the urban environment.

It identified six research areas:

  • A “bus system” perspective should be prioritised in order to manage efficiently interfaces with infrastructure, traffic and all users’ needs.
  • IT platform integration; standardization and harmonization of information system and open architecture as a logical answer to efficient bus system integration
  • Sustainability of the bus system can be reached via smart use of energy all along the bus system (of which electrification offers an important contribution), and the improvement of the environmental, economical and social performances under a life cycle perspective
  • Research on innovative vehicle technologies;
  • Modularity can bring an important contribution to the attractiveness of the bus system, through the optimization of the capacity, consumption (and emissions), as well as frequency of services during different hours according to the demand
  • Meeting the mobility challenges of an ageing society; where future bus systems must also be attractive for elderly people and their needs


  1. George Monbiot, Sep 2013, Guardian UK: Climate change? Try catastrophic climate breakdown
  2. Robin McKie, Apr 2019, Guardian UK: Slow burn? The long road to a zero-emissions UK
  3. DEEL - mobility cooperative in the Netherlands,
  4. MobiCascais - an integrated mobility system in Cascais, Portugal,
  5. Happy Mobility movement,
  6. Hopkins, R., 2019, From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, Chelsea Green Publishing