The past week has been a turbulent period for the mobility sector, with the sustainable transport landscape changing dramatically, from political visions to business decisions. Everfuel, a Danish hydrogen supplier, sent shockwaves through the industry by announcing it would close its 'unprofitable' hydrogen filling stations. The company has decided to focus on the production of green hydrogen, as highlighted in their financial report for the second quarter of 2023. The timing is ironic, as next week the Week of Mobility in Flanders takes place, an initiative that aims to promote sustainable transport with special promotions through public transport services such as De Lijn and NMBS.
While Flanders is committed to sustainable mobility through its Mobility Week and the unique Hoppin service, which seamlessly integrates different transport options, exposes the political playing field to other priorities. Forum for Democracy has opted for a striking approach in their extensive election manifesto: facilitation and innovation. The party is committed to road construction and acceleration of bureaucratic processes, but also wants to abolish taxes on air travel and invest in advanced transport technologies such as hyperloops and high-speed trains.
At the same time, the electric car industry suffered a major blow when Volkswagen announced it was hiring almost 300 temporary workers fire at its factory in Zwickau, Germany. Orders for electric Volkswagens plummeted by 70% after the end of government incentives, not only raising questions about the future of this factory but also raising concerns about the job security of nearly 2000 other temporary workers.
In the meantime, Arjen Kers, Managing Director of TUI Netherlands, is calling for one more nuanced debate about aviation. He points out the personal and broad social benefits of travel and aviation, and warns against unilaterally limiting the number of flights from Schiphol. He emphasizes that such measures could affect not only the Netherlands but also the Caribbean islands, and advocates an internationally coordinated approach.
In public transport, there are also concerns about a shortage of professionals, especially bus drivers. Lots of pointing with the accusing finger to the Central Driving License Agency (CBR), where inefficiency and long waiting times would worsen the problem.
Finally, the Christian Union is committed to an integrated vision of the future of mobility, by presenting itself as a 'steward of the earth'. The party strives for one paradigm shift of our economic model, with an emphasis on caring for the planet and investing in sustainable means of transport such as public transport and cycling infrastructure.
The contrasts are clear: while some invest in sustainability and green innovations, others focus on traditional forms of mobility and accelerated infrastructure. This broad spectrum of approaches and the rapid developments of last week indicate a sector in transition, where the definition of sustainable mobility is still anything but fixed.