Corona is making its presence felt: people’s mobility behaviour has markedly changed during the past 12 months or so. What is apparent here: people are not only less often on the roads. They also prefer more individual means of locomotion and the car is being used more again.

Pushing and shoving on public transport, hours spent on the train? In view of the infection figures and the general obligation to wear mouth and nose protection, fewer and fewer people are finding it worth the trouble.

The results of a survey by the German Energy Agency (Dena) for example showed that almost one in three individuals had changed their mobility behaviour during the Corona pandemic – especially those who had previously used local public transport or rail. A total of 66 per cent of those travelling regularly on local public transport said they made less often use of public transport facilities during the Corona crisis. According to Dena, the most popular alternatives include cycling (43 per cent), walking (40 per cent), car sharing (34 per cent) and the private car (29 per cent).

In a study, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) also detected a dramatic decline in the use of public transport. An interesting finding of the DLR study is also that mobility behaviour is characterised by routines that display a high degree of stability even in times of crisis However, new routines are also becoming established – such as more frequent use of the private car. For the future, this means that 18 per cent of those surveyed want to walk more often and 6 per cent want to cycle more. 9 per cent expect to use the car more in future and 19 per cent want to use public transport less often.

The Continental Mobility Study 2020 even finds that around half of Germans want to make use of public transport less frequently.

Car use – what kind?
Car use however may adopt many different forms. The Continental study therefore investigated which mobility concepts and drive forms could take the lead.

While sharing concepts are highly utilised in some countries, people in Germany tend to prefer conventional mobility concepts. “Individual transport based on the car is firmly entrenched in most people’s daily lives and will indeed remain so for a long time, particularly in rural areas. For it is currently more likely that households there will have their own cars. New mobility concepts dominate the discussion about the future of mobility – but not the reality of life for most people. Well over 80 per cent of those surveyed own the car that they regularly drive”, the authors of the study say.

And what is the situation with electric cars? According to the Continental study, around a third of those surveyed in Germany say they could imagine buying an electric car. Only 17 per cent said so in 2013.

This also means however: two thirds could not. The main arguments mentioned are well-known classics: lack of charging stations and limited range, in addition to the need for advance planning and longer breaks during longer journeys. In fourth place in Germany, by some distance, is the excessively high price.

Moreover, according to the Continental study, one third of Germans doubt that an electric car is actually environmentally friendly. Furthermore, the survey data show that the reservations are rather more of a structural nature and will hardly be lifted in the long term by the high buyer’s premium that particularly applies in Germany.

Summary: owing to corona, use of cars is on the increase again and they will also continue to be powered predominantly by combustion engines in the near future. This is also reflected by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority’s January assessment. According to the latter, more than 90 per cent of the vehicles newly registered at the beginning of 2021 (including hybrid cars) are equipped with an internal combustion engine.

As the average age of the vehicle fleet is currently around ten years, solutions must therefore be found to reduce their CO2 emissions. Battery-powered cars are of no help here. A much-discussed alternative at present involves CO2-neutral fuels such as e-fuels produced from hydrogen and CO2 using renewable electricity.

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