Smart, Green and Intelligent Transport in Horizon 2020

Europe faces many challenges in modernising its transport networks and modes for the 21st century, tackling climate change and air pollution, as well as demographic changes such as urbanisation and aging populations.

As well as policy initiatives such as the Urban Mobility Package and Clean Vehicles Directive, the European Union has dedicated €6.4 billion to research in smart, green and integrated transport under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme to bring cleaner, safer and more efficient transport options to the market.

The 2016 Energy Union strategy set out a plan for an integrated strategy for research, innovation and competitiveness, including a the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA), which sets out seven key research areas for meeting the EU’s goals in transportation: Co-operative, connected and automated transport; Transport electrification; Vehicle design and manufacturing; Low-emission alternative energy for transport; Network and traffic management systems; Smart mobility and services; Infrastructure.

Since Horizon 2020 launched in 2014, the programme has already funded many projects related to clean, safe and intelligent transport. Here are just a handful of projects which will contribute to overcoming regional challenges. 

Providing cross-border smart mobility services

ICT offers many opportunities for making transport more efficient and integrated. The BONVOYAGE project has developed and tested a platform for multimodal door-to-door transport for both goods and passengers, spanning a network from Bilbao, to Rome and Oslo, linking many small scale local public transport providers. The system can advise users on the best way to make their journey, taking account of real-time conditions, such as weather and traffic, and user preferences. The technology behind this could be adapted to different scales to provide local mobility-as-a-service options, which so far have only been used at city scale.

Making cycling safer

Many cities and regions aim to increase the number of journeys made by bike, and whilst many cities are developing dedicated cycle infrastructure, casualties and injuries amongst cyclists remain high. The XCYCLE project has developed sensor technologies for improving detection of cyclists, with systems that can inform drivers and cyclists of potential hazards, for example, at junctions. XCYCLE demonstrates the role that ICT can play not only in transport planning and information provision, but also that its reactivity can help it to play a role in safety and traffic management.

New electrified vehicles for individual mobility

Tackling road congestion is a major challenge for public authorities. One solution is to encourage uptake of compact electric vehicles, which are not as carbon intensive or as large as traditional motor vehicles. However, at present, such vehicles remain expensive and can have low battery capacity. The EU-LIVE project has developed new electrified, cost- and energy-efficient light vehicles for use in cities. Two new prototype light vehicles were developed; a three-wheel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and a battery powered electric scooter. Both were demonstrated in real conditions, and showed reduced noise, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. 

Fast electric charging for public transport

Many regions are looking to increases use of public transport over private cars, and are also investing in new biofuel and electricity-powered vehicles. Electric buses are growing increasingly popular, but they often require overnight charging to function, and can only run for a few hours. The CONCEPT project, run by the Dutch company Heliox, used Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument to develop a conductive fast charge system which can power an electric bus in just two to five minutes. This will enable 24/7 e-bus capacity, meaning cities will need to own fewer vehicles, and the improved performance will also be a boost for the image of electric vehicles.

Overcoming the challenges to alternative transport fuels

Whilst many transport modes may be able to switch to electricity, some will remain largely reliant on liquid fuels. For these modes, the challenge is to develop new renewable transport fuels from sustainable biomass feedstocks, with conversion routes powered by renewable energy. The ADVANCEFUEL project is generating new tools, standards and recommendations for overcoming the challenges to commercialising second generation biofuels, developed from non-edible, woody biomass. These new fuels will help to bring down carbon emissions in regions and create new jobs through the emergence of new value chains and infrastructure development.