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Mobility in cities of the future: an interview with Gernot Lobenberg

As director of the Berlin Agency for Electromobility eMO, Gernot Lobenberg has unique insight into how mobility – especially eMobility – will develop and change in urban centres. The agency’s target is to transform Germany’s capitol and surrounding region into an internationally recognised model for all matters of electromobility.

Gernot Lobenberg, director eMO, © Berlin Partner
Gernot Lobenberg, director eMO, © Berlin Partner

Alphabet: What are the biggest mobility challenges cities will face in the future?
Gernot Lobenberg: Definitely the networking of all existing and future mobility systems. Currently each provider has their own website and apps – public transport, carsharing, bicycles, etc. – but it’s a hassle for people to refer to different sources of information. In the future, multiple mobility providers will be aggregated, making it much easier for users to book a service. The recommended mobility form will also change, for example, based on real-time traffic information. Also, invoicing will be networked, meaning that consumers will receive just one invoice for all mobility services they’ve used.

AlphabetNetworking is clearly a hot topic. Are there any other ways in which it could influence mobility?
Gernot Lobenberg: One area that’s showing great potential is the networking of mobility and the energy infrastructure. Doing so would allow us to tap into alternative energy sources. In the future, electric vehicles, for instance, could store excess energy during downtime.

AlphabetTell us what’s meant by Berlin’s designation as “International Showcase for Electromobility Berlin-Brandenburg”?
Gernot Lobenberg: On a whole, Berlin is like a big laboratory. Its residents are curious, open and like to try out new things. As the nation’s capitol, the city garners international attention and attracts a host of people with international backgrounds. Tourism is also a booming industry in Berlin and actually it’s the third most visited city in all of Europe. Finally, over the past 10 years Berlin has evolved to become the hotspot for advances in eMobility. We’re proud of this fact and look forward to pursuing new options in the future.

AlphabetWhat international cities would you compare Berlin to? 
Gernot Lobenberg: You could certainly draw many parallels between Berlin and many global hotspots, but each city really has its own strengths and focus. Naturally we look to London and Paris along with smaller cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, two leaders in CO2 reduction. However, no other city can compete with the infrastructure and breadth of mobility topics and projects that Berlin offers. We’re currently pursuing around 80 projects in the field of eMobility alone!

AlphabetWhat is eMO’s role in all this?
Gernot Lobenberg: First and foremost we view ourselves as midwives who care for new projects and ideas during their inception and development, and help bring them to the world when they’re ready. The scope of our work ranges from bundling electromobility offers and conducting R & D to marketing and attracting new investors to the region. We manage a budget of €90 million for our current projects and have a unique co-financing structure with funds coming from federal and local governments as well as over 30 private investors.

AlphabetWhat’s the status quo of eMobility in Berlin?
Gernot Lobenberg: I’m proud to say that we successfully completed the pre-market phase in 2014. Charging stations and infrastructure are being incorporated at strategic points throughout the city. We now have our sights on the next step: ramp-up and launch!

Now the focus is on creating a buzz about electric vehicles so that people want to buy them. There are currently 25-30 electric vehicle models on the market but we need ways to expose people to them and make them part of our everyday. Carsharing offers, such as Alphabet´s Corporate CarSharing Solution AlphaCity, are great for this.

Government policy such as tax credits for eMobility would certainly be a huge incentive. More than ever, we need the state to help eMobility go mainstream. Our goal is to have 1 million electric vehicles on the roads in Germany by 2020, but we can only achieve this with the federal government’s support.

2 Experience eMobility © Berlin Partner
2 Experience eMobility © Berlin Partner

AlphabetThe shareconomy is booming. Is the future of mobility void of cars?
Gernot Lobenberg: I don’t think so. Cars will always be part of the mobility offer, especially in rural areas but how we use them will change. Mixed-mode transport, where people rely on multiple transportation forms, such as public transport, carsharing and bicycles to reach their destination, will increasingly play a central role. On a whole, mobility will rely more on public transport, especially in large cities, but at the same time it will become more individual, flexible and dynamic.

AlphabetWhat’s the outlook for Germany? How does it compare to other countries?
Gernot Lobenberg: Recent studies from McKinsey show that Germany is currently ahead of the game and Europe overall has a firm grasp on climate change and CO2 emissions. But if we look to China and other part of Asia, there are big challenges to overcome. Cities already have huge smog problems and these countries must turn to public transport and eMobility solutions as their transportation systems develop and grow. The transport revolution is closely linked to the energy revolution, which means it doesn’t do any good if coal is used to produce energy for eMobility. Germany, and most notably Berlin, is especially strong in the area of networking these infrastructures and using alternative, renewable energy sources, as seen in our project Micro Smart Grid EUREF.

AlphabetThanks for your time! We look forward to hearing more about eMO in the future.

Learn more about eMO here.