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Is the immediate farewell to the era of automobility imminent? The times when the car-friendly city was the measure of all things for contemporary mobility are over. In the 21st century, society is shaped by the factors of connectivity, individualisation as well as multi-faceted mobility. The pandemic situation is doing its bit to speed up the answering of questions about contemporary locomotion and the future of mobility beyond the combustion engine.

By Lutz Dietzold.

Das Frikar E-Bike von Podbike
The Frikar E-Bike. © 2021 PODBIKE

Ever since the necessity of sustainable concepts has reached the consciousness of society and penetrated to the behavioural level, new ways to reach the goal have suddenly become possible in our (westernised) living and working world.

And this creates completely new markets and business models. Whether it’s urban (re)construction, the IT/data sector, logistics or vehicle development: there is literally a lot going on – a pioneering atmosphere.

And yet: not only in rural regions, but especially in urban areas, the convenience factor and the sheer desire to use vehicles with combustion engines have a prominent place in the spectrum of private mobility behaviour. In addition to bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, public transport, various car-sharing providers, of course app-controlled, there are a multitude of alternatives to motorised individual transport. What is the hurdle for us mobile people not to use this bouquet of possibilities on a daily basis, so that the private motor vehicle becomes obsolete? After all, the omitted, not at all insignificant cost factor is a highly rational argument for doing without the car. Obviously, the emotional attachment to the familiar and comfortable plays a not insignificant role and: the pure pleasure of driving! Significant in this context is the question of the right to (enclosed) privacy for the use of one’s own mobility.

Air taxis represent one possibility for the future of mobility. Landing station for the Volocopter: Urban Air Mobility. © Graft Brandlab, Skyports, Volocopter, GRAFT

This may also be one of the reasons why the major vehicle manufacturers are almost unanimously developing battery-powered vehicle models that still differ comparatively little in design from vehicles with internal combustion engines. Here, the focus is on an evolutionary design development that creates trust in the new technologies via the brand. And if these vehicles are still dependent on electricity that comes from conventional power plants, the balance in terms of genuine sustainable renewal of our automotive reality is (still) quite sober.

However, it is tremendously exciting to witness the way new business models are being advanced in terms of mobility. Innovative companies like Volocopter are pushing their vision of flying vehicles, the air taxis, to business maturity with great energy. The company’s management expects the first commercial routes to be available in selected cities as early as the next three years. But there is always the question: Will the business model be viable? Last but not least, it is the mobile and affluent customer who decides how attractive the offer is for everyday urban life.

The change process for the use of contemporary mobility with all its possibilities does not start overnight. It is much more likely that the various forms of propulsion will coexist in the future. However, legislation can intervene to accelerate this process if vehicles with combustion engines are simply banned for reasons of CO2 emissions. Such strict regulations already exist outside Germany.

The future of mobility is electric: chargeBIG by MAHLE

However, the better the infrastructures for smart, networked solutions develop, and the more cycle paths and public transport are tailored to the needs of mobile users, the more willing we will be to support a fundamental change, voluntarily and with pleasure, without bans. Megatrends often promise the great upheaval, fast, explosive. However, it is much more likely that the mobile change will take place gradually, accompanied by the uncomplicated accessibility and usability of the means of transport. Thus, the thought of motorway speeds of 250 in one’s own sports car, which is so pleasurable for many, can at some point be lived out separately from everyday mobile life on a racetrack or – even better – in the simulations of increasingly real computer games.

The future of mobility is smart and in full swing. This is taking the form of an evolutionary process. Offers of various kinds are competing with each other for the favour of our use. But it is precisely this founding spirit that benefits everyone: the innovative companies, us, the mobile people, and ultimately also our environment, if sustainable, climate-neutral solutions are incorporated into the visionary business models.

The Author: Lutz Dietzold

CEO German Design Council

Lutz Dietzold, Geschäftsführer Rat für Formgebung © Lutz Sternstein
Lutz Dietzold © Lutz Sternstein

Lutz Dietzold (*1966) has been CEO of the German Design Council since 2002. Prior to that, he worked as a design communication freelancer and was managing director of Designzentrum Hessen (Hesse Design Centre), where he was responsible for the strategic reorientation of design promotion.

Grounded on his studies of art history, classical archaeology and German language and literature in Frankfurt Lutz Dietzold has gathered extensive experience of design, branding and innovation. He also has a special interest in promoting design and up-and-coming designers. In 2011, he became a member of the advisory council of the Mia Seeger Stiftung (Mia Seeger Foundation) and a member of the Stiftung Deutsches Design Museum (German Design Museum Foundation), subsequently taking on the role of chairman in 2020. He was appointed to the Dieselkuratorium’s Board of Trustees in the same year and is dedicated to strengthening the pioneering role of commercially successful innovators.

Lutz Dietzold is also working to increase the international orientation of the German Design Council and its global network of leading companies from industry and the business world. This includes setting up a subsidiary in China.

Lutz Dietzold publishes articles on a regular basis and gives national and international lectures on a variety of topics. He is also a member of numerous committees and juries and sits on the project advisory board of the German Federal Ecodesign Award of the Bundesumweltministerium (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety).

ABC Award 2021 – The world of mobility

The ABC Award is a globally unique design and industry competition that encompasses the entire world of mobility. Independent experts award outstanding products, projects and brands from all mobile sectors: from best practices in communication and advertising to commercial and individual transport to groundbreaking innovation. The deadline for registration is 12 May!

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