Mobility of the future – green, smart and personal

Better living conditions, more freedom and independence: mobility represents much more than just the ability to move from point A to point B. Mobility is a personal topic and a basic need that has existed since the dawn of humanity. Find out about the different forms of mobility, how they have evolved over thousands of years, and how Infineon is actively driving the future of spatial mobility.

Definition: What is mobility?

Mobility describes the practical and theoretical possibility of being physically and mentally mobile. From a practical point of view, mobility can mean deciding to travel a distance by car to reach a destination. On a theoretical level, mobility describes the physical and mental ability to cover this distance successfully by car.

In general, mobility and transport are often equated. However, there is a crucial difference: transport is one of many prerequisites to enable mobility. The prerequisites include means of transport such as automobiles and infrastructures such as roads. Mobility is what results, when these prerequisites are fulfilled.

What forms of mobility exist?

The division into physical and mental abilities result in diverse forms of mobility, such as workplace mobility, residential mobility or transport mobility. They are often interdependent. In the following, we present three superordinate forms – with a focus on spatial mobility:

1. Social mobility

An example of social mobility is the change of job or partnership. Through this, social mobility can improve, worsen, or remain unchanged.

2. Mental mobility

Finding a creative solution to a problem or being able to quickly get the upper hand 0in different situations: Mental mobility takes place in the head. Thus, thoughts about the next vacation or self-determined planning of leisure activities are also part of mental mobility.

3. Spatial mobility

Spatial mobility, also called geographic mobility, is one of our basic needs: We all want to get from one place to another every day – be it just from bed to bathroom. Spatial mobility encompasses all possibilities for moving or a change of location from A to B as well as the willingness to move.

An example of spatial mobility is the change between two locations, such as from home to work. Depending on personal factors like the place of residence and work, the infrastructure or even the financial scope, the possibilities of spatial mobility differ for each person. However, they have one thing in common: they all serve one purpose, which must be achieved efficiently. Probably very few people wish for more traffic in their own environment.

Why is mobility important?

As already mentioned, mobility is one of the basic needs of humanity. Every person has daily goals that they would like to achieve. To achieve these goals, individual possibilities are used to enable abilities for mobility. From individual physical strength to electric cars, these are as diverse as human beings themselves. If possibilities and abilities are limited or not given, a person may not be able to realize their goals and experiences disadvantages in everyday life. This in turn leads to dissatisfaction, dependence and reduced social participation. A high degree of mobility offers advantages and is a prerequisite for most activities in our society. Every life decision is also a question of mobility, which can release a lot of potential.

Spatial mobility over the course of time

The source of spatial mobility is individual physical strength, which has been supplemented over millennia by pack animals and riding animals such as horses, aids like transport carts or simple boats in the 6th millennium BC. Technical progress continuously expanded upon these possibilities:

Carriages pulled by the physical strength of horses represented a new type of spatial mobility in the 4th millennium BC. Over time, carts evolved into carriages and other popular means of transportation for travel.

Crosscultural trade routes developed over time as well: The Silk Road was established in the 5th century BC between Central and East Asia and connected many cultures through the possibility of mobility. Likewise, road networks and modern transportation systems developed in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century, spanning several countries.

An important milestone followed in the 15th century: Ocean shipping with compass navigation (discovery of America), which improved in the 16th century with the help of steam propulsion.

In the 19th century, steam-powered railroads revolutionized rural transportation, and inventions such as bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles launched individual transportation. In addition, the world's first electric locomotive was introduced in Berlin in 1879 – around 100 years later, steam locomotives were replaced as everyday rail transportation by electrically powered locomotives.

In the 20th century, spatial mobility became increasingly important in everyday life. Thanks to the further development of mass transportation means, such as cars and passenger planes, as well as the expansion of the transport infrastructure, numerous new possibilities for mobility emerged – which were now used not only for commercial purposes or out of necessity, but also for personal pleasure and travel.

What does the future of spatial mobility look like?

The first quarter of the 21st century is characterized by demographic and social change, urbanization, digitization, new technologies and the challenges of global climate change. Topics that will also continue to shape the second quarter. Today, the term mobility generally has a positive connotation: better mobility means more opportunities for individuals and society. But in the future, reconciling personal and societal desires will be increasingly important, especially for spatial mobility. After all, more traffic also leads to higher noise levels, increased emissions, and resource consumption. To achieve a high quality of life while remaining sustainable, smart, environmentally friendly and future-forward, mobility concepts are needed. The redesign and transformation of mobility in urban and rural spaces are important future topics for every country in this world.

One thing is certain: The future of mobility will require compromises and a change in habits and thought patterns that must be shared by politics and society. Factors such as comfort, time, costs, and personal willingness will play a significant role – they will determine the choice of means of transport. At the same time, technologies and digital services geared toward smart mobility will become increasingly important components for better concepts. Digitization has been one of the megatrends for years and is continuously changing the private and professional world – naturally also spatial mobility. The open handling of data and the intelligent sharing of information in real time ensure better route planning and an efficient choice of means of transport. This development will give connected and autonomous vehicles an edge in the turnaround in mobility.

The future of mobility will be "green": A successful energy transition and the associated expansion of renewable energy sources for the emission-free production of green electricity will play a central role. With power semiconductors to generate efficient and climate-friendly electricity, Infineon has been playing a leading role in the construction of components for wind power and photovoltaic systems for decades. We have also established ourselves as a thought leader in the automotive industry with efficient solutions: For electric mobility, Infineon is already successfully supporting the path to a climate-friendly and carbon-free future with automotive semiconductors and system solutions. Low-emission and zero-emission transportation in combination with digital capabilities are a sustainable solution. These include electric cars, hybrid cars and the use of hydrogen in mobility. You can find out more about hydrogen, its potential in mobility and how Infineon is driving development in this area in our article: "Hydrogen ­– the drive of energy transition?"

Sustainable mobility concepts benefit both the private and economic sectors of society. However, individual acceptance and experience will be decisive for the individual: What is the most comfortable way for me to get to my destination, how much time does it take, how sustainable is it, what is the price for my mobility – and is it really worth it?

Mobility and the electric car

One of the major trends for more environmentally friendly mobility is electric mobility: Quiet and efficient, battery-powered electric cars have already changed the way we get around. Particularly in private transport, they represent an alternative to combustion engines – supported by the continuous expansion of public charging stations. Independently of this, an electric car can be charged at home. Some models also serve as energy storage units and can feed electricity back into the grid as needed. Depending on the model, purely electric ranges (WLTP) of over 700 km are already possible with one charge, and the trend is on the rise. In the field of micromobility, e-scooters and e-bikes have established themselves, as have electric buses, trucks and delivery vans in the commercial vehicle sector.

Technologies and semiconductor solutions from Infineon are essential components for all types of private, public, and commercial mobility: For example, they ensure that the electricity of a battery is efficiently converted into motion and that the range is increased through efficient conversion. In addition, Infineon's solutions support the infrastructure of charging systems for batteries and increase the speed of the charging process.

On the road to CO2-neutral transportation, electric mobility is an important bridge on the way into future. We answer the most important questions about electromobility in the article: “What you need to know about electromobility”. Hybrid cars are another alternative on the road to electromobility: They combine the advantages of an electric drive with those of a conventional combustion engine: On short journeys, a hybrid car benefits from the electric drive, on longer journeys from the range of a combustion engine. You can find out more about how hybrid cars work in the article: “All you need to know about hybrid vehicles”.

Mobility in commercial vehicles and logistics

In its “Overall concept for climate-friendly commercial vehicles,” the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is actively driving the path to climate-neutral logistics forward. By 2030, the target is to convert one third of the mileage in heavy road freight transport to electric or with electricity-based fuels such as hydrogen, also known as e-fuels. An example of Infineon’s expertise in the shape of power semiconductors is the support of electricity-based, climate-neutral production of hydrogen by increasing energy efficiency in the provision of electricity. For the period up to 2030, forms of electric mobility in commercial vehicles and logistics also play a key role in the targets set by European climate and transport policy.

Connected mobility, or the networking of smart devices via the Internet, supports these goals and enables digital, data-driven mobility solutions – such as real-time navigation, over-the-air updates (OTA) for software updates and functional improvements, the use of streaming services, or predictive maintenance for smarter servicing and thus less downtime. Connected, electrically powered vehicles develop their great potential in one public sector: municipal transport. For service and transport trips, public transport, waste collection or load transport, the future is electric. In logistics, advances in transportation will make mobility faster and easier to plan, which in turn will benefit supply chains and industrial production processes. Learn more about electric commercial vehicles and how Infineon is contributing to this in our article: "Opportunities of electrified commercial vehicles".

Two further areas in which Infineon is networking worldwide and driving technological development relate to water and air: electric ships and aircraft. With efficient power semiconductors, components for the lightest possible batteries or even energy-saving technologies, Infineon enables future-proof solutions for the transport of people and goods. Get an exciting outlook and interesting information in the articles "Why ships of the future will run on electricity" and "E-planes and Drones: Flying with Electricity".

A comprehensive transformation of mobility in commercial vehicles and logistics will be one of the central components for achieving the climate targets of the Paris Agreement by 2050. You can find out more about Infineon's responsibility in terms of sustainability and how we as a company are committed to a better environment on the page "Sustainability at Infineon".

Mobility in the city

Socially responsible, environmentally friendly, affordable, and attractive for young and old – urban mobility is a complex issue that is already characterized by multimodality. In this context, there is a frequent talk of a smart city: With the help of modern communication and information technologies as well as innovative and sustainable concepts, the quality of life for residents is to be improved. At the same time, a smart city subsequently results in smart mobility: By utilizing intelligent networking in transportation systems, the use of transportation more time- and energy-efficient. Even today, people no longer need their own means of transportation, but benefit from smart and local mobility options in public transportation – for example, e-scooters, e-citybikes, or ride-sharing or car-sharing services. The chosen options for mobility are as personal as the people making the choice. The personal life situation but also the subjective perception play a role for each individual in the choice of means of transport.

In rural areas, with their fundamentally different needs than urban regions, mobility must be devised in an equally smart manner as in the city. The distances are often longer: whether to work, to school or to do the daily shopping. Despite increasing urbanization worldwide, the high demand for mobility in rural regions will remain high and therefore needs to be rethought. One of the major challenges here is to create attractive and inexpensive alternatives to the private car. Autonomous cars and buses with flexible reservations can be an important component in this context as "mobility on demand" to reduce dependence on one's own car. On the Chinese market, a practical test is already underway on the streets of Beijing with robot cabs that drive autonomously to the desired destination. Autonomous shuttle buses are also particularly interesting for rural areas, as they can cover lightly used areas of local public transport on demand via smartphone app – i.e. without a fixed timetable. In 2020, Antora Mohsena Haque and Candace Brakewood at the University of Tennessee compiled 19 pilot studies on the use and current state of practice of autonomous shuttle buses in the United States.

The future of rail transport also offers an exciting development that is more environmentally friendly, more efficient, and faster than an airplane and at the same time cheaper than a modern train: the hyper-loop. First presented as an idea by Elon Musk in 2013, test tracks are now under construction around the world. Research is underway into market-ready solutions for the high-speed electric transport system that can travel at speeds of up to 1,000 kilometers per hour. The future of air travel also looks exciting: in 2020, the first electric aircraft received type certification, while prototypes for electric-powered as well as hydrogen-powered passenger aircrafts are already in development. A trend that is also reflected in maritime transport with the development of alternative ship propulsion systems.

Further technological advances and research are needed to provide a comprehensive, traffic-safe autonomous service. Infineon is driving developments worldwide with leading-edge technologies and efficient power semiconductors as well as system solutions. We are convinced that the mobility of the future will require holistic concepts that are innovative, digital, electric, and green.

Learn more about how Infineon is shaping the transformation of mobility on our page: "The future of mobility".