Expanding the Use of Electric Mobility: Options for sustainable urban transport

Presented by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

Ralph Wahnschafft, DESA, chaired the event, which presented an overview of an initiative by the Global Forum for Human Settlements (GFHS) and the Renault-Nissan Alliance to provide zero-emission transport for Rio+20.

Lu Haifeng, Secretary-General, GFHS, noted that the demonstration vehicle project is comprised of two parts: providing Rio+20 Secretariat transport; and allowing delegates, public and viewers to experience the electric vehicles. He noted that a pure electric vehicle is the best embodiment of sustainability in the transport sector, including through improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Noting that the technology is now maturing, he stated some governments have provided incentives to encourage the adoption of this technology.

Murilo Moreno, Renault-Nissan Alliance, stated that unprecedented growth in the global population has led to an expanding middle class, which is demanding increased mobility. Due to this increasing demand, he cautioned that the status quo cannot remain, and urged for progress to be made to reduce GHG emissions. He highlighted that the alliance is the leader in electric vehicles, saying there are four models commercially available and more are to be released in the future. He lauded the success of partnerships to drive and promote the use of electric vehicles, citing partnerships with Mexico City and São Paulo.

Kathleen Abdalla, DESA, lauded the general support for electric mobility. She noted that the sustainability community has been addressing transportation impacts since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 20 years ago, as it affects all three pillars of sustainable development. Noting mobility is essential for economic growth, she highlighted that development has historically been spurred by improvements in mobility. She cautioned that this has led to a number of sustainability concerns, warning that electric mobility is one part of a menu of options for sustainable transport.

David Redfern, Renault-Nissan Alliance, noted that many people question whether electric vehicles are a true sustainability solution. He contested this idea, citing numerous improvements in the technology that has led to vehicles having zero emissions, being a “no-compromise real car,” that allows a sophisticated drive with lower fuel and maintenance costs. He said that the demonstration vehicles are being used to provide a shuttle service for participants during the duration of Rio+20, noting that test drives of these vehicles may also be arranged.