Intern/extern: UT, MNP (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)

Supervisors: Van Maarseveen (UT), Hoen (MNP)

A car in the future

The Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment (SNM) initiated the development of a ‘car of the future’ to be presented at the 2007 AutoRai. In cooperation with the three Dutch Universities of Technology they will develop a sustainable mobility concept for the year 2020. SNM has chosen this year because they feel that significant steps can be made towards sustainable passenger car transport in a relatively short period.

This research presents a follow up on the car of the future project and will review the possibilities for full sustainable passenger car transport in the year 2050. A definition of full sustainable passenger car transport is constructed based on the three pillars of sustainability presented in the Brundlandt report. The following questions are subject of investigation in the final report. What if the car would not pollute at all? What if there were no accidents? Is this is attainable? What will be the impact on overall welfare if the assumption is made that passenger car transport is sustainable in 2050? Which steps are necessary now and up to 2020 in order to ensure success?

Sustainable passenger car transport

The three pillars of sustainability are of economical, social and ecological nature. To be able to determine what actions are required to ensure sustainable passenger car transport in 2050 the pillars need to be measurable and quantifiable. These measurable and quantifiable determinants are described below:


Accessibility will be represented by the number of “lost hours in transport”, less congestion will lead to less ‘lost hours’ and will benefit this sustainability aspect.


For access to mobility to everyone the determinant is the share of the average income of households on expenditures for mobility in combination with the average travel time-budget per household per day.


Concerning safety, traffic casualties will be used as a measure. Fewer casualties will add to more sustainable passenger car transport.


Livability concerns more than one determinant: (1) Nuisance of noise expressed in the level of dB(A), (2) Air pollution impacting public health


The last pillar is nature and environment, which is being measured by emissions of passenger cars (CO2, NOx and PM10).


This research will use a backcasting method to research determinants mentioned above. Backcasting is the construction of prospective scenarios. A prospective scenario’s starting-point is a possible or desirable future situation, usually described by a set of goals or targets established by assumed events between the current and future situations. Instead of starting with the present situation and prevailing trends, the backcasting approach designs images of the future representing desirable solutions to societal problems. Possible paths back to the present are then developed - 'casting back' from the future.