Europe’s transport system is experiencing an unprecedented transition in the quest for a more sustainable and smarter mobility paradigm (EU COM(2020) 789). Transport is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and – for the transition to a carbon neutral economy to be successful – the sectors’ ongoing greening must be also met by a shift in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approaches to represent the new reality and fully assess the sustainability of the future mobility system.
While electrification can partly solve the problem, new fuels – e.g., methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, etc. – will be key as well to solve the issue of Tank-to-Wheel (TTW) transport emissions in the use phase for most transport modes and applications, a circular economy approach applied to the transport system is necessary to fully understand the impacts of mobility solutions, internalise externalities and minimise life cycle emissions through shared metrics. Material use and energy consumption needs to be cut in the production phase, while the lifespan of components needs to be extended, repair must be straightforward, and reuse and recycling must increase at the end of the life cycle. The environmental impact of alternative fuels also needs to be considered for transport modes where electrification is more challenging on the short- to medium-term.
The shift in technologies, propulsion systems and energy storage solutions, or new fuels, will require the products, the producers, and the infrastructure to meet new mobility concepts, complemented by policies for changing consumer behaviours, which might not coincide with ownership all the time and may require circular business models. In this context it is necessary to have the best mechanism available to reach an informed decision for private, shared, and public transport alike. An LCA approach shared amongst the entire transport system is understood as the basis for a coherent assessment of the environmental footprint of mobility solutions, enabling an informed decision for users and private or public purchases, including public procurement processes. Such an approach is needed to minimise the environmental footprint over the entire life cycle of each mobility solution.
Furthermore, new developments are needed to allow practitioners to access environmental performance and emission data in real use for the considered technologies and include circular material flow and supply chain management into the LCA considering regional and interregional material flows.
While LCA approaches can provide a sound holistic evaluation of the sustainability for each mobility solution, it is important to remind that their economic and societal impacts must be assessed as well, to ensure a positive impact on the work force and that no gap in accessing mobility services is created at the disadvantage of the most vulnerable.
The main objective of the session is to provide a place for discussion on the possible visions for LCA approaches shared amongst the entire transport sector, contributing towards a cost-efficient, sustainable and inclusive future mobility.