How standards can promote future sustainable transport

The transport sector is one of the leading carbon emitters, accounting for 25% of global carbon dioxide emissions. It depends primarily upon fossil fuel and, in the past 50 years, has had limited success in reducing its dependency on oil (from 93% in 1971 to 91% in 2018). Because demand for transport is high, global targets that seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will need to focus on this sector.

Image of the new IEC technology report on the future of sustainable transport

To help better understand how transport can become more sustainable, the IEC has recently published a report entitled Future Sustainable Transport. It was developed by the Convenors of IEC SEG 11: Future Sustainable Transport, Feng Ni and Alexander Kupfer, with support from the Convenors of three SEG 11 Working Groups: Lili Li, Takako Aramaki and Dominik Ebling.

The report focuses on the current advances in technology and how standards can help to promote and deploy technology innovations. According to Feng Ni, “We envision a future of sustainable electrified transport and new connections built between transport, smart cities, autonomous driving and the energy sectors.” The report calls for a systems level approach that recognizes transport as a major human activity that must be sustainably developed based on the concept of sustainable electrified transportation (SET).

Defining future sustainable transport

Future sustainable transport is a concept that brings together the social, economic and environmental aspects of transport. It recognizes the need to reduce pollution and carbon emissions as well as the efficient recycling and reuse of material (environment), the need for affordable and competitive transport (economic) and the need to reduce traffic inconvenience and promote social equity (social).

According to the report, sustainable transport is a vital enabler of many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While tackling the issue of CO2 emissions in the transport sector is essential for reaching the SDG targets related to climate change (SDG 13) and health (SDG 3), the SDGs also call for access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all (SDG 11) and reducing the number of deaths due to road traffic accidents (SDG 3).

Understanding user needs

The report collects use cases from different industries and countries to better understand the needs of users and prioritize the urgency for standardization. “We collected a total of 81 use cases from different regions, including 10 business-level use cases and 71 system-level use cases that cover four key technology fields that can help to reach the goal of sustainable transport,” notes Feng Ni.

The following four key technologies that have been identified for enabling sustainable transport:

  • Electrification of transport vehicles (ETV) calls for use of electricity in across all transport sectors, as a replacement for fossil fuels. Doing so will not only reduce the dependency on oil but also help to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Integration of transport and energy (ITE) systems calls for a coordinated approach in which electric vehicles are powered by renewable energy while also enabling energy use on the grid through the provision of flexible load and energy storage resources.
  • Intelligent transport systems (ITS) use integrated communications and data processing technologies with the aim of improving mobility, increasing safety and reducing traffic congestion, and manage public transport priorities.
  • Automated driving vehicles (ADV) enables vehicles to perceive their environment and drive without human intervention. It requires technologies based on environment perception, car navigation, path planning and car control.

According to the report, standardization is underway by a number of standards development organizations, including the IEC, ISO, IEEE and ITU. However, a transport-centred and comprehensive approach to sustainable electrified transport is needed.

To further strengthen the shift towards sustainable transport, the report proposes a systems level approach based on the concept of sustainable electrified transportation (SET). “The concept of SET covers the full landscape of future sustainable transport including road and non-road transportation and with the interconnection not only with smart energy but also with smart cities, intelligent transport systems, communication, automated driving and so on,” remarks Lili Li.

Future standardization needs

The number of electric vehicles sold has accelerated in recent years, tripling their market share between 2019 and 2021. As more countries set electrification targets or ban the use of internal combustion engine cars, the need for SET standards will become more urgent.

While work is currently underway within the IEC to develop SET system level and access level standards, more work is needed. “According to our analysis, there are two major types of gaps in SET standardization to meet the market and society needs. The first type of gap is the lack of charging/discharging standards for electrification of non-road transportations.

The second is the system level standards for the end-to-end and cross-sectors SET solutions which could integrate electrified transportation with other systems, such as energy, telecom, smart cities, etc. Such integration will achieve the best sustainability and user experiences for future transportation,” explains Alexander Kupfer.

The report calls for a market-driven and top-down systems approach to accelerate SET standards development, avoid overlap between IEC technical committees and better identify standardization gaps. According to Alexander Kupfer, “Establishing a market-driven, agile and systematic SET international standard system will help to reduce the barriers for commercial deployment of innovative technologies in the SET field and to lower the barriers for small- and medium-sized enterprises to enter the international market and support various regions and countries to improve supporting regulatory systems.”

Setting up a new systems committee

Based on the recommendations made in the report, the IEC has recently set up a new systems committee to focus on sustainable electrified transport, SyC SET.

SyC SET will provide a holistic view of standardization in the SET field through the development of use cases, system requirements and reference architectures. It will also provide guidance and support to IEC technical committees and cooperate with relevant standardization organizations in areas such as transport, smart cities and information technology. As Feng Ni notes, “The new SyC SET is a very important step for the IEC to promote sustainable transport.”