Innovative transport solutions are vital to tackling air pollution says Diego Pavia

Electric vehicles, along with the infrastructure to support them, are set to play a major role in reducing premature deaths in Europe over the coming decade; the potential, positive impact is huge. But rather than this being about driverless cars that can reduce accidents, it’s about tackling air pollution, a major societal issue that causes one in ten deaths worldwide, or 400,000 deaths in Europe every year. And that number does not reflect the millions of people that do not die prematurely, but are instead affected by lung disease and heart problems that impact their quality of life.

Air pollution in Europe is primarily caused by transport and heat generation. There are regional differences but broadly there are still many European cities that fall below the World Health Organization’s safe air quality recommendations.

For a region that has some of the most progressive clean transport and climate technologies and policies in the world, the fact that there are still so many premature deaths is shocking. In this day and age smog should not still pose a risk to our health and happiness. We have the ingenuity, and we certainly have the resources; armed with the latest research in our Clean Air Challenge report, industry has the power to make a sizeable change. And if the latest forecasts are to be heeded, we only have 12 years to make a difference. We must act now.

What is clear from the Clean Air Challenge is that innovative transport solutions are critical for combatting air pollution. Of top priority is the continued roll out of electric vehicles, and an interconnected network of fast charging solutions to support them. Smart transport systems such as hybrid fuel trains and artificial intelligence traffic management also have high market and technological attractiveness. Together, with the heat technologies identified in our report, European citizens stand to benefit from a significant reduction in the impact air pollution has on health, which will be particularly beneficial for the elderly and the young, while also saving save €183bn to 2025 under a conservative take up scenario.

But this is not a challenge the market can meet by itself. Supportive policies are required to help overcome some of the barriers that we face in securing investment and stimulating transport technology adoption. There is substantial opportunity for synergy between different sectors including transport, heat, storage and renewable generation, but we must take a more integrated and holistic view and create an overarching policy for sustainable growth. Equally, this is not just a matter for government and the market, there is a need for society to engage with tackling air pollution too: from businesses and the public sector to families, everybody’s choices have an impact.

At InnoEnergy we work across several sectors and actively facilitate opportunities where companies can collaborate to bring innovative solutions to market. We offer support in lots of different ways, whether that is investment, business skills or market access. As the sustainable energy engine for Europe we see it as a vital part of our role to support innovative transport solutions that can tackle air pollution making Europe a healthier, happier place to live.

Diego Pavia is CEO at EIT InnoEnergy, the innovation engine for sustainable energy across Europe. It supports and invests in innovation at every stage of the journey – from classroom to end-customer. With its network of partners, it builds connections across Europe, bringing together inventors and industry, graduates and employers, researchers and entrepreneurs, businesses and markets.