The End of Combustion and the Post-fossil Era
As planned by the European Parliament, the CO2 fleet limit value of all new cars sold from 2035 should effectively fall to zero. This decision made in 2023 has officially set an expiry date to the era of combustion engines in the EU, although exemptions could be possible for e-fuels. The stated goal is to make Europe the first continent to become climate neutral by 2050. Countries like Norway, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden want to phase out fossil fuel even faster.
Some players in the automotive industry, often considered a particularly restraining factor on the path towards a sustainable future, have been boldly working toward the end of combustion long before legislation was prepared to follow. smart was the first car brand to completely transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to BEVs in 2020. So smart has been proactively pushing the future of locally emission-free vehicles in the EU. This year’s market launches of the all-electric smart #1 in Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Spain as well as Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Portugal are another important step towards the future of mobility.
“smart has taken the right steps towards a more sustainable multimodal mobility – once again ahead of its time. It confirms the DNA of smart as a pioneer in urban mobility. With our new generation of smart products and services, we excite those looking for sustainable electric mobility and invite them to join us in shaping a smarter future.”
Climate neutrality, better air quality, less noise in city centres: All these aspects linked to an “EV-only” future are unquestionably positive. Nevertheless, many Europeans have concerns about rising energy costs and security, others question whether enough green electricity will be generated that countries need to successfully manage this fundamental shift in a truly sustainable way.1
Some of these concerns will be mitigated by simply increasing EV usage. According to a recent study, 91 per cent of EV owners do not want to return to a petrol or diesel fuelled vehicle.2 The main reasons for this were the decreased complexity of the powertrain as well as significantly lower repair susceptibility and operating costs. Moreover, another study shows that refuelling an EV in Europe is still cheaper than refuelling a combustion engine despite a general increase in energy prices in recent years.3
Apart from the cost factor, the remaining reservations need also to be taken seriously. Some of these doubts can be dispelled by the following examples. They show how European countries are ensuring that the future of mobility is truly green and that enough energy is produced. The best cases also demonstrate how new and different mobility players are joining forces to offer a holistic electric mobility experience in the future.
Charging Infrastructure: Expansion Needs Many Players
To make e-mobility more accessible and practical, the charging infrastructure must continue to grow - and it must grow quickly. One million charging points should be available in Europe by 20254, which is why many countries are pushing this expansion intensively. According to a 2022 study, there are on average 17 EVs per charging point.5 The numbers vary from country to country: There were 25 electric cars for every charging station in Germany, eleven in Italy, eight in Austria, five in the Netherlands and 15 in France. Switzerland already has more charging stations than petrol stations – 7,834 charging stations compared to 3,500 conventional petrol stations.
The topic of charging infrastructure is also actively promoted by car manufacturers. By cooperating with DCS, a leading provider of OEM digital charging services in Europe, smart #1 drivers have access to a wide public charging network with more than 460,000 charging points in 18 European countries.
“Giving drivers of electric cars the best possible support in accessing a comprehensive charging network is a key factor in driving mobility forward. Charging infrastructure and technology is an essential cornerstone for the future of electric mobility.” - Xuan-Zheng Goh, Head of Product Management, smart Europe
“Giving drivers of electric cars the best possible support in accessing a comprehensive charging network is a key factor in driving mobility forward. Charging infrastructure and technology is an essential cornerstone for the future of electric mobility.”
Energy Supply of the Future: a Green Mix of Wind, Solar – and Body Heat
The vast majority of Europeans encourage the expansion of renewable energies.6 But where is all this green energy going to be produced? There is more than one answer to this question. Currently, the spotlight is on solar and wind energy in particular. More and more wind farms and solar parks are emerging across the continent, laying the foundations of a seamless and sustainable energy supply in the post-fossil age. Off the coast of eastern England in the North Sea, the world’s largest wind farm is under construction. It will supply up to six million households with electricity – an enormous number.
When it comes to renewable energies, there are also creative ideas apart from solar, wind and weather. Railway stations are busy places, and that’s exactly what Stockholm is taking advantage of. The hustle and bustle at the main station in Sweden’s capital generate heat. A ventilation system absorbs this heat and uses it to warm up underground tanks filled with water, creating a heat reservoir for surrounding office buildings.
smart also promotes the use of renewable energies and introduces energy-saving devices in its offices. Already 65 per cent of the electricity consumed in smart’s offices in Germany is generated from renewable energies. The company has also offset the consumption of electricity from non-renewable sources by purchasing international renewable energy certificates. All these measures support smart’s declared goal to offer a climate-neutral purely electric vehicle model by 2045 – five years earlier than the EU plans to become climate-neutral.
Electrification Across all Modes of Transport
Nitrogen dioxide from combustion engines pollutes the air in many cities. Amsterdam wants to change that. The bicycle city is set to become a global pioneer in electric mobility and has created an initiative that fosters electrification across all modes of transport and serves as a role model for many other European cities and suburbs. Apart from the goal to become a leader in emission-free taxis, the “Amsterdam electric” initiative is also working toward a more sustainable water transportation system. By 2025, all petrol- and diesel-powered boats are to be banned in the city centre. In addition, the individual purchase of electric cars has been subsidised, along with a steadily growing network of charging points. It is already one of the best in the world according to the Urban Mobility Index.7
“Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are pioneers when it comes to all-encompassing local-emission-free mobility, It goes far beyond electric drive trains replacing combustion engines. We are very happy to actively contribute with our all-electric smart #1 and its mobile key feature making car sharing as easy as possible.”
Eventually, Amsterdam’s plan is to reduce private car numbers on the street in general. As a result of all these different measures, life in the biggest Dutch metropolis – and many other places following in its footsteps – will be quieter, cleaner and healthier in the future.
This is a vision of the future toward which smart is also actively working: “We see that the car is steadily displaced from the city centres and welcome this movement, even as a car manufacturer,” says Dirk Adelmann, CEO smart Europe. “We are optimistic about the future because we believe that the car will be one of the crucial elements in the solution for a multimodal and more sustainable future. To achieve this vision, we have decided to only engage in purposeful technology that has an enriching impact on people’s lives.”
Numerous players - not only countries, but also cities, regions and companies like smart - are actively working on the green energy supply of the future. Together, we can successfully accomplish this fundamental change in a truly sustainable way.