Mobility and transportation consume 20% of the world’s energy – most of which is powered by fossil fuels.

With the growing trend of mass urbanisation comes increased congestion especially as more cities emerge out of lockdown, which can rapidly accelerate the energy demand and emissions driven by transportation, writes Dirk Wollschl├Ąger, industry GM: global automotive, aerospace and defense at IBM.

Reducing carbon emissions is an imperative for us all, and thus: the future of mobility must be sustainable.

Many cities and automakers are already rapidly working on cleaner solutions to reduce emissions for daily transit and mobility.

For example, at the start of this year, General Motors announced it would cease the sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035; Daimler has already started on its “Countdown to Zero” (emissions) strategy; and the city of Copenhagen aspires to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

However, there is still much more cities, citizens and automakers can do to reduce the emissions generated in daily transit.

To better understand consumer attitudes and identify potential barriers around sustainable mobility, IBM commissioned Mobility Consult to field the “IBM Sustainable Mobility Consumer Survey”. The online survey measured attitudes of 5 000 adults in five cities: Chicago, London, Munich, Rome and San Francisco.

Here are the key findings:

Speed and convenience top sustainability for daily transit choices

While overall the majority of those surveyed (77%) agree that reducing their individual carbon footprint is important, only about half of the adults surveyed consider sustainability when making local transit choices.

Instead, most consumers – and especially Americans – opt for convenience and speed.

For example, public transportation was ranked among the most environmentally friendly modes of transit, yet approximately half actively choose public transit to reduce their carbon footprint. Nearly half (48%) of Europeans and more than two-thirds (65,5%) of Americans surveyed stated that getting to a destination quickly and conveniently is a higher priority than doing so sustainably.

Unlike other consumer studies, such as the IBM and NRF 2020 consumer retail survey, which found that consumers are willing to pay more for more sustainable goods or services, when it comes to mobility, speed and convenience win-out for those surveyed.

Because of this proclivity toward convenience and speed, it is incumbent on the industries themselves to remove the barriers inhibiting a consumer change of behaviour.

Overcoming hurdles that inhibit EV adoption

For the automotive industry, electric vehicles hold promise as a more sustainable transport option. In our survey, we found that the majority (71%) of those surveyed agree that electric vehicles are a truly environmentally sustainable option for travel.

In fact, more than half of all respondents (57%) indicated they currently own/lease or plan to own/lease an EV within the next few years.

The primary barrier reported by participants as inhibiting widespread adoption comes down to cost. This was followed by concerns around battery lifespan and charging.

While not heavily pronounced in other cities, residents in Munich reported much higher levels of skepticism around the efficacy of sustainability claims and ethics around mining for battery materials.

Here are three ways the automotive industry can overcome these hurdles:

* Reduce upfront cost of ownership by monetising connected car services: Our “Automotive 2030: Racing toward a digital future” report found that surveyed consumers now equally value the connected, personalised and seamless experience inside the car as traditional attributes, such as handling, horsepower or styling. Automakers are experimenting with new ways to monetise in-car experiences and subscriptions such as navigational services, alerts on traffic, road conditions or weather that can improve the experience of getting from point A to point B. For the past several years, IBM has been working closely with PSA – the parent company to Peugeot and Citroen – on developing and monetising connected car services as the foundation of the future driving experience. While most of this work is still in early-stage experiments. However, the approach can help create new lines of revenue to give automakers flexibility on pricing new vehicles.

* Establish cross-industry ecosystems to remove the friction in the EV charging experience: Much like charging any electronic device, “refueling” an EV takes time. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours to charge, depending on the voltage and available supply. This process can get complicated when a sudden surge of EV charging can place significant strain on the grid. EV adoption can’t be solved by just the automakers alone. Instead, automakers must collaborate with utilities to provide energy marketplaces where EV owners can opt-in to sell off excess energy in times of demand. IBM worked with European utility TenneT to build a blockchain platform to help manage and automate the orchestration of renewable energy. TenneT can store excess supply and cater to peak demand by using an interconnected pool of EVs, charging stations and home storage systems.

* Overcome lurking skepticism with greater transparency through open platforms: EV battery production relies on lightweight, powerful and compact lithium-ion batteries, built using raw materials such as cobalt, nickel, lithium and copper. Many of these materials are sourced through artisanal and small-scale mining, a sector known for harsh and hazardous working conditions. RCS Global, a leader in collecting and verifying data to assure responsible practices in supply chain, partnered with IBM to establish a commodity tracking technology, called the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network. This helps assure RCS Global’s many automotive partners that those materials meet ethical standards for sourcing.

Achieving emission reduction targets and accelerating EV adoption cannot be done in isolation. However, through collaboration underpinned with the technologies, automakers can overcome the barriers inhibiting EV adoption and drive forward a path to sustainable mobility.