Transportation innovations

Electric bicycle


China’s aim to build a world-beating electric vehicle industry is clear. The State Grid Corporation of China has announced a target of manufacturing 500,000 electric vehicles by 2015. But the rapid uptake of electric bicycles is less well reported. Thirty six million electric bicycles were sold in China during 2010, according to Luyuan, the country’s largest manufacturer. If electric bicycle use replaces car journeys, the uptake of electric bicycles could have a significant impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions from China’s rapidly urbanising 1.3 billion population.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: Luyuan


A collaboration between DHL and a group of German design students is aiming to drastically reduce the need for dedicated delivery vehicles and the additional CO2 emissions they produce with Bring:BUDDY.

Bring:BUDDY is described as an inner-city social logistics network which matches commuter movements with parcel delivery requirements. The idea is that commuters are rewarded for collecting and delivering parcels along routes they would be taking anyway.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: HPI School of Design Thinking, DHL


Drivers who are left without their cars for a period of time while they are in the garage being repaired, are being tempted to try out some more eco-friendly forms of transport they might otherwise not consider. In Spain, Fiat have partnered with bicycle maker Trek to offer free loans of electric bikes while customer cars are being serviced. A similar offer was made by a Volvo dealership in the UK who offered pedal bicycles while cars where being serviced.

Benefits: carbon reduction

Innovators: Trek, Fiat, Volvo


To meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, electrification of transport needs ‘major and sustained investment’ according to the EU’s Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050 report. The European Commission is helping Europe move towards this by awarding a coalition of organisations, businesses and cities €4.95 million to analyse, test and pilot electric vehicle charging and rail infrastructure. These pilot projects will help make the case for a renewable energy-powered transport network across Europe.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: Betterplace, ActewAGL, Green Mountain power, eVgo

London bike rental schemes


Bike rental schemes in major cities around the world provide locals and tourists alike with a cheap, eco-friendly way to get around.

Paris was the first city to introduce a public cycle scheme in 2007. The scheme offers over 17,000 bicycles in 1,202 stations across the city. With one station every 300 metres, it’s the largest system in the world.

London followed suit in 2010 with a self-service, 24-hour system where riders pay online or at a docking station to use the bikes. Similar schemes exist in Copenhagen, Germany, Luxembourg, Canada, Mexico and Dublin.

Find out more about London’s scheme

Benefits: carbon reduction

Renewable charging of electric vehicles


Partnerships between electric vehicle charging infrastructure firms and renewable energy retailing firms are an important step in cementing an emerging renewable energy system, allowing people to travel on 100% renewable energy. We’re seeing the first partnerships fall into place. For example, in July 2011 in the UK, Ecotricity, a renewable energy retailer, and Welcome Break, which runs service stations, launched a network of free electric car charging points, powered by renewable energy. This will eventually span 27 motorway service stations.

In the US, Envision solar have been installing solar tree arrays in car parks across the country.  These solar trees not only provide shade but are also charging stations for electric vehicles allowing cards to be plugged in directly to a renewable source of energy. Solar tree arrays can be found in university and superstore car parks as well as the car parks of some major companies such as GM and Dell.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: Ecotricity, Welcome Break, Envision Solar

For the shipping industry to be truly sustainable, sustainability efforts will need to encompass the entire value chain, including how goods are transported.


Cargo ships that are powered on 100% renewable energy. These ships typically combine modern sail technology to generate thrust from wind with biofuel-powered engines. Other examples include solar or hybrid powered boats and ferries, whilst some ships will go even further and actually generate energy themselves, store it and transfer it back to the grid.

Emissions from shipping account for around 3% of global totals - exceeding that created by the entire UK. For the shipping industry to be truly sustainable, sustainability efforts will need to encompass the entire value chain, including how goods are transported. With increasing risks from carbon taxes and legislation, this approach mixes old methods with new technologies to offer a low carbon and commercially competitive transport option.

Benefits: carbon reduction, energy efficiency
Innovators: B9 Shipping, Fairtransport shipbrokers; Planet Solar; Fraunhofer Centre for Manufacturing Innovation; Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Ferguson shipbuilders (hybrid ferries).

Providing infrastructure and support services for electric vehicles


Electric vehicles (EVs) present a major opportunity for low carbon transportation to be adopted by the mass market. A current barrier to greater use of EVs is the lack of infrastructure and support services. EV infrastructure providers, such as Better Place, provide a network of places where drivers can charge or switch their batteries. They also offer systems such as GPS journey planners that show drivers can reach their destination with ease. These services can aid the adoption of EVs and Better Place already has projects planned in Israel, Australia, Denmark and North America.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: Better Place

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Car sharing


Think about how often you use your car everyday? Despite from taking you to work, to the shops or to see your friends - in most cases they are left unused 90% of the time.

When you think of the materials and energy needed to produce a car, that’s a huge waste. With schemes like ZipCar, you can rent your car to other people when you’re not using it. Or you can choose not to own a car, but to rent one only when you need it.

Services like this have the potential to dematerialise the automotive sector, and encourage people to use cars more efficiently. To encourage take-up of these schemes, California passed a law that assures car owners that their insurer can’t drop them or hike their rates simply because they participate in a personal car-sharing programme.

Other examples include Car Share that connects people with similar journeys to take on passengers.

Benefits: carbon reduction; reduce, reuse, recycle
Innovators: Zip Car, Whip Car, Relay Rides, Car Share

The data hub aims to influence businesses to choose vessels that have the highest efficiency ratings.


With 90% of world trade being transported by sea, efficient shipping can make a big difference to global energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Richard Branson's non-profit Carbon War Room has created, a site that ranks approximately 60,000 container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, cargo ships, cruise ships and ferries with greenhouse gas efficiency ratings.

The site helps shippers, operators, ports, insurance companies and charterers to factor vessel efficiency into their decision-making. If shipping companies see that they can gain extra business by improving their efficiency ratings, it will influence the industry to start getting cleaner.

Benefits: carbon reduction
Innovators: Carbon War Rooms


‘Benefit corporation’ laws enacted by US states such as Maryland create a new legal status for organisations that wish to pursue environmental or social goals in tandem with shareholder returns. Organisations incorporating as a benefit corporation must report to shareholders on progress towards their environmental or social goals with the same standards and rigour used in their financial reporting. This legal status also provides assurance to investors that an organisation with an environmental mission will continue to pursue its goals regardless of changes to ownership or management.

Benefits: All
Innovators: B Labs


In Munich, more than 80% of citizens own a bicycle, yet they use it for basic transportation only 10% of the time; cars still account for more than half of all daily travel. Aiming to increase the use of sustainable transportation and minimize the number of cars on the road, Mo is a new mobility system that offers car-sharing and e-bike rental, with rewards each time consumers travel by bicycle.

A joint project by design firm LUNAR Europe, environmental organization Green City e.V. and the University of Wuppertal, they created a flexible system that encourages consumers to make sustainable transportation choices. Participants begin by registering with the service, which gives them a membership card that doubles as both a ticket for public transport and an access card for renting Mo vehicles. Credit is awarded to his or her Mo account for each mile ridden; the more they accumulate, the lower the rate Mo charges for renting Mo vehicles such as cargo bikes, e-bikes or cars. A dedicated mobile app is available for checking account balances, finding and booking vehicles through Mo, or checking schedules and maps for public transport. When companies sign up with Mo, vehicles and charging stations can be placed on the company campus to make employee participation easier.

Watch a video

Innovator: Mo-bility; Case study shared from Springwise


Nissan is set to develop a centre of excellence for electric vehicles in the North-East to link up with the company's Sunderland plant, where all-electric LEAF models will start to roll off the production line next year.  The company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gateshead College to establish the Zero Emission Centre of Excellence (ZECE), which it hopes will act as a "business incubator for the electric vehicle industry".
Benefits: carbon reduction

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