Monday, 1 June 2009

Greener commuting with CO2 'pedometer' from Volvo

Here's a novel idea. Volvo and the City of Göteborg have got together to try out a project aimed at measuring the time, efficiency and environmental impact associated with commuting.

Participants use their mobile phones to contact a website, which calculates the environmental impact based on the distance and means of transport. Tickets for public transport could also be purchased via the mobile phones and eco cars could be booked and unlocked in the same way.

It was tested out on a group of employees from the Volvo Group. The 'pedometer' kept a check on what their commuting to work cost in the form of carbon emissions. With their normal travelling pattern as the starting point, the participants set a target for reducing their environmental impact by using other means of travel, such as bus or bicycle instead of by car. People who left their cars at home were able to make business trips during working hours using eco cars from a car pool. By changing their behaviour, the group succeeded in reducing their carbon footprint by more than 30%.

This sounds like a very effective way of helping people reduce their personal carbon emissions. It's the two-pronged approach that makes it attractive:

- It provides instant information on CO2 used and also on the gains by using alternative modes of transport (in the same way that smart grids do)

- But, importantly, it also helps the users to take those alternative actions, e.g. by enabling the purchase of train tickets and booking cars when required.

Anything that gives fast information on CO2 emissions and also helps avoid them must be a winner. It's going to need a lot of cooperation between public transport companies and other agencies to make it work, though. (And an efficient, integrated public transport system, which rather rules out the UK).

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