Sustainable mobility, a present-day challenge that will change the future

24 February, 2020

Did you know that transport is one of the sectors most likely to affect climate change? In Europe, 20% of CO2 emissions come from transport, and the volume of freight transport, in particular, is expected to increase by 30% between now and 2030.

In view of this reality, the European Commission has set a target of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and of achieving a 32% minimum share of renewable energies in final energy consumption.

It is evident that we live in a society that is increasingly aware of and sensitive to the need to care for the environment. This also applies to the field of mobility, which is in ever greater need of sustainable transport systems to make it possible to improve air quality – by reducing atmospheric emissions – and to reduce excessive energy consumption.

The only way forward is to aim for a decarbonised future in which mobility will play a major role. In order for the results to meet expectations, efficiency must be applied to all types of mobility: from private road transport to heavy freight transport by sea and rail.

What is a sustainable transport system?

The Council of Transport Ministers of the European Union defines it as a transport system that:

  • Enables the basic needs for access and development of individuals, businesses and society to be met in a safe and coherent manner.
  • Is affordable, operates fairly and efficiently, offers an alternative mode of transport and is compatible with a competitive economy.
  • Restricts atmospheric emissions, using renewable resources and complementing them with a rational use of non-renewable resources.

How is it measured?

Sustainability in transport is measured by effectiveness and efficiency, as well as by impact on the environment and climate.

A sustainable transport model is one that uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions. In the long term, it will become more sustainable as renewable energies are gradually introduced.

What role does gas play in the new models of sustainable mobility?

Natural gas is an alternative for efficient mobility as we progress towards a decarbonised future, primarily in heavy transport. This high-performance energy source reduces 80–90% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 20–30% of CO2, emissions, and 100% of sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions, allowing air quality to be improved. It is also an option that is compatible with mobility by road, sea and rail, and also brings economic benefits.

In Spain alone, maritime transport emits an average of 1,541 tonnes of particles each year, which would be reduced by 95% through the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG). It is therefore the only sustainable option that is feasible today for this type of traffic, helping to optimise air quality in port environments and contributing to compliance with the environmental regulations that will apply to maritime transport as of 2020.

Marie Curie, fourth “smart ship” of Baleària prepared to operate with liquefied natural gas (LNG)


In rail transport, one of the most difficult to electrify, natural gas also represents a sustainable alternative since it is a mature and tested technology. A clear example of this is the success achieved in the first rail traction test in Europe, which was conducted in Asturias in 2018.

Road transport can also benefit from the advantages of natural gas. Gas-powered vehicles offer a range of up to 500 km and are cleaner, more economical to run and quieter than those powered by traditional fuels. Refuelling, as with petrol and diesel vehicles, is very simple. For example, there are already 85 available natural gas refuelling stations available in Spain, and 50 more are in the pipeline.

Moreover, the use of natural gas as a vehicular fuel offers an additional economic advantage since the cost per kilometre is 30% lower than that of diesel and 50% lower than that of petrol.

Given the carbon-neutral horizon of 2050, renewable gases such as biomethane and hydrogen will be an essential energy vector for achieving sustainable mobility objectives. In particular, green hydrogen will be the answer for sectors where solutions for decarbonisation are not so clear, such as heavy transport, and those where electrification is not possible.