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green@work : Magazine : Special Section : Nov/Dec 2001 : Special Section

Special Section
Future Mobility

Envisioning future systems of mobility while making changes today.


Congestion, air pollution, safety hazards and urban sprawl are all signs that current transportation systems are overloaded and inefficient. Today’s systems are badly strained, and all indications suggest that there will only be increased demand for mobility in the future. Automobile manufacturers are being challenged to meet increased transportation demands while still addressing environmental concerns. Manufacturers know that today’s consumers often take into consideration the environmental performance record of vehicles and their producers when making automobile purchase decisions. After all, catering to consumers’ environmental concerns makes good business sense.

Under the sponsorship of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), General Motors (GM) and 10 other global companies have undertaken a three-year, $11 million effort to envision future systems of mobility. The project looks forward over the next 30 years.

As part of this ambitious project, a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Charles River Associates, Boston, MA, released “Mobility 2001”—a comprehensive assessment of the sustained ability of the world’s current modes of transportation at the end of the 20th century. The report reflects nine months of stakeholder dialogues in which 40 to 50 private and public representatives, all experts on mobility or transportation issues, met to discuss global approaches to mobility. The sustainable mobility project members include GM, Shell, Toyota, BP Amoco, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Honda, Michelin, Norsk Hydro, Renault and Volkswagen.

The concept of sustainable development, of which the WBCSD is one of the world’s chief business advocates, offers a useful framework for working on worldwide transportation issues. Its concept is three-part, simultaneously emphasizing economic growth, environmental improvement and social equality.

Sustainable mobility is the ability to meet the needs of society to move freely, gain access, communicate, trade and establish relationships without sacrificing other essential human or ecological values today or in the future.

The WBCSD addresses questions such as these:

• Can the number of automobiles and commercial vehicles keep increasing?

• Can roads accommodate both the increased volume of passenger vehicles and the increased number of trucks that seem to be required to transport ever-growing volumes of freight?

• Will enough fuel be available for the increasing number of vehicles?

• How will urban areas cope with growing congestion and emissions?

• Has the increased use of private motor vehicles, which offers greater individual mobility to those who can afford and operate them, deprived the poor, the elderly and others of access to jobs, friends, purchasing the goods they need at competitive prices and needed medical attention?

• How will the world bear the economic and environmental costs of locating, extracting, transporting and processing the petroleum required by a growing number of vehicles?

• Can the planet’s oceans and atmosphere continue to absorb the increased pollution generated as a by-product of the transportation of vastly larger number of people and volume of goods?

While vehicle-related emissions that contribute to adverse impacts on public health have stabilized and even declined in many developed countries; emissions that adversely impact global climate change are increasing in virtually all developed countries, and the ambient levels of harmful emissions in developing countries often exceed by several times their levels in developed world cities. One of the paradoxes of urban development is that the wealthier that people become, the further and faster they travel. The development characteristics of mobility are bad news for efforts to combat climate change by stemming carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. As people travel further, but spend no more time doing so; they must use faster means of transport, which leads to more and more motorized vehicles.


Toyota, already an environmental bellwether in the automobile industry, plans to use its participation in the Sustainable Mobility Project to further investigate power sources for vehicles, fuel selection and other issues regarding mobility in the 21st century. Toyota has also joined the Policy Study Group for Fuel Cell Commercialization, organized by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s Agency of Natural Resources and Energy. Toyota seeks to encourage cooperation and synergy among these national and global initiatives. By doing so, Toyota hopes to promote greener cars and a greener 21st century.

“It has become very important to promote global and open discussion not only among automobile manufacturers under the spirit of ‘competition and cooperation,’ but also among industries and administrative organs,” says Toyota managing director Hiroyuki Watanabe.

As part of its environmental commitment, Toyota is challenging its North American-based suppliers to adopt strict environmental standards. These green supplier guidelines extend Toyota’s commitment beyond its own industrial processes to the business relationships and partnerships that it has with its North American suppliers.

“Toyota has a unique relationship with its suppliers,” says Teruyuki Minoura, Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc., (TMMNA), president and CEO. “We are known for expecting them to share our high quality standards. Now we are asking them to join us in becoming environmental leaders.”

As part of the Toyota Supplier Environmental Program, approximately 500 suppliers that provide parts, materials and components directly or indirectly to Toyota are required to complete one or more of the following initiatives:

• Obtain ISO 14001 certification—Toyota is requiring suppliers to develop and implement an environmental management system that conforms to the ISO 14001 standard by December 31, 2001. A third-party auditor will determine certification.

• Comply with chemical ban list—Based on worldwide evaluation of toxic chemicals, Toyota has compiled a list of approximately 450 chemicals and substances that suppliers of raw materials must phase out from new and/or reformulated materials, beginning in August 2000. This list is regularly updated.

• Hazardous materials transportation management system—Toyota is committed to safe transportation of hazardous materials. Therefore, it is requiring all of its suppliers in North America to develop the appropriate policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all applicable state, federal and international hazardous materials transportation requirements.

While the green supplier guidelines outline specific requirements that suppliers must meet as part of the Toyota Supplier Environmental Program, a supplier’s eligibility for compliance is based on criteria established by Toyota’s environmental and purchasing groups and individual Toyota plants.

“For our own North American plants, we have defined tough standards for being environmentally responsible,” says Kevin Butt, TMMNA assistant general manger for environmental affairs. “We are now working with our business partners to join Toyota to continually improve environmental performance.”

Four of Toyota’s 2002 car models: Prius, ECHO, Corolla and Celica; are already ranked in the top 12 for gas mileage. At the recent International Frankfurt Motor Show, Toyota unveiled its newest environmentally advanced vehicle, the four-seat ES3 concept car. ES3 is designed to achieve an estimated 87.1 miles-per-gallon (mpg). The ES3 also features Toyota’s Diesel Particulate-NOx Reduction system catalytic converter technology that significantly reduces particulate matter and NOx emissions.

Toyota was recently honored with the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2001 Green Power Leadership Award in recognition of its efforts to protect the environment through the purchase of green electric power. Toyota was one of the first large companies in the U.S. to purchase renewable electricity for its Southern California facilities from 100-percent renewable sources.


For the third straight year, Honda’s Insight boasts of being the most fuel-efficient car in America, according the EPA’s annual report on automotive fuel economy. The Insight was the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle sold in the U.S., appearing in late 1999.

The Insight model that is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission earned EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 61 city mpg and 68 highway mpg. The Insight model equipped with an advanced, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) was second with a 57 city mpg- and 56 highway mpg-rating.

Two other Honda models also finished in the top 10. The Honda Civic HX Coupe with a five-speed transmission earned a 36/44 city/highway mpg-rating, and the HX equipped with the CVT was rated at 35/40 city/highway mpg. Another model, which is powered by natural gas, is the Civic GX. It has the cleanest internal-combustion engine ever tested by CARB. Civic GX hydrocarbon emissions tested at one-tenth the ultra-low-emission vehicle (ULEV) standard. The 2002 Civic GX will be CARB-certified as a super-ultra-low-emission vehicle (SULEV). In highly polluted areas, the air coming out of the GX’s exhaust pipe can actually be cleaner than the air you are breathing. If driven from California to Washington, DC, the Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle would emit fewer reactive hydrocarbons than that released by spilling a single teaspoon of gasoline.

All 2002 Honda and Acura models sold in the U.S. will meet or exceed low-emission vehicle (LEV) levels. Honda was the first automaker to meet California’s LEV standard in 1995; the first to meet the ULEV standard in 1997; and the first to sell a car meeting the SULEV standard in 2000; all with the production of gasoline engines.


General Motors (GM) addresses environmental impact on two fronts: decreasing the emissions from the vehicles themselves and improving the manufacturing process. Overall, GM has reduced its emissions by nearly 60 percent in the 1990s, according to a report it recently filed with the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Whether emissions from human activity will cause climate change, and what the impact will be, is still uncertain. There is enough cause for concern to take moderate cost action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and the risk from potential change,” warns Dennis Minano, former GM vice president of environment and energy and chief environmental officer.

Reductions in emissions from manufacturing sites were the result of improvements in energy efficiency and conversion to fuels that emit fewer greenhouse gases—such as using natural gas instead of coal.

In August, GM introduced the world’s first gasoline-powered fuel cell vehicle at the automotive industry’s annual Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan. Visteon Corp. worked with the automaker to develop the car’s innovative concept interior, which leverages the electric power available from the fuel cell by illustrating consumer-focused features. The GM fuel cell vehicle features standard 110V household plug-ins, heated and cooled cup holders and battery-charging connectors.


Ford recently issued a Supplier Environmental Requirements guide requesting suppliers to certify and maintain an ISO 14001 environmental management system. Additionally, suppliers would meet the requirements stated in Ford’s Restricted Substance Management Standard and provide environmental data on processes used and products or materials supplied. The guidelines also suggest the use of recycled materials and the implementation of effective packaging to minimize waste associated with products and services delivered at Ford facilities. These guidelines applied to all suppliers and vendors to Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo automotive divisions.

Ford recently announced project funding for a novel carbon dioxide management research project at Princeton University in conjunction with BP Amoco. As well as being a member of the WBCSD, BP Amoco is a member of the high profiled California Fuel Cell Partnership. This project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing and operating efficient, clean fuel cell vehicles and fuel distribution systems under realistic operation conditions. BP Amoco has also entered into separate partnerships with GM and DaimlerChrysler with the goal of improved environmental performance in vehicles, especially in the area of fuel cell innovations.


With 7.9 million daily customers, the United Parcel Service (UPS) has begun exploring the use of alternative fuels in making UPS fleets more environmentally safe. As one of the most prominent package delivery companies today, UPS maintains the largest private fleet of compressed natural gas vehicles in the U.S.; the fleet is comprised of 967 package delivery cars. UPS also employs 13 electric vans and the only liquefied natural gas tractor in the nation (nine more have been ordered). Soon, the company plans to launch a hybrid electric vehicle for package transport.

These projects also focus on increasing community awareness of environmental concerns and solutions involved in the transportation arena. The WBCSD project contends that while freight mobility is necessary for cities to exist, freight transportation uses about 43 percent of all transportation energy. For worldwide environmental health to improve, freight transportation must evolve along with personal vehicles.

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