Chat 2: Mobility: What will transport of the future look like?

Schools from all over Europe connected online to join a live online chat with experts from the chemical industry, who answered many questions concerning sustainable mobility on “What will transport of the future look like?”

The second Xperimania chat in collaboration with inGenious–” took place on Monday 28 January 2013 from 14:00 till 15:30 o’clock (CET).


Cécile Favre, Technology and Communications Officer. AECC (Association for Emissions Control by Catalyst)

Graeme Wallace, Director General Fuel Oxygenates, Cefic Petrochemistry Industry Sector

The third expert, Loredana Ghinea, Cefic Manager Research & Innovation, could unfortunately not attend, but offered to answer any unanswered question after the chat. These questions and answers will be posted on the Xperimania facebook page in the course of the weeks after the chat.

24 schools participated in the second Xperimania-inGenious chat: Croatia (1), Czech Republic (3), Estonia (4), Finland (4), France (2), Italy (1), Lithuania (1), Malta (1), Portugal (3), Romania (1), Slovakia (1), Spain (1), and Turkey (1).

The students showed their concern for the environment by asking:,b>”Is it possible to have non-polluting transport?”

Ms Favre answered: “Most of the member states in Europe face air quality issues and one of the causes for this problem is related to transport. The European Commission has declared 2013 the year of air. There will be a lot of consideration taken in this regard to make sure that the vehicles’ emissions will be controlled. We are definitely moving towards cleaner and cleaner transportation. When they operate in city centres the most recent vehicles can even have positive effects as they emit less pollutant than the average that is encountered in this environment”.

Students also asked a number of questions concerning cars of the future, such as “Why are electric cars so expensive?" Ms. Favre replied to this question “the cost is mainly related to the batteries which use expensive materials and where recycling is also an issue”. Furthermore, students seemed worried that they will not be able to “afford either an electric car or a normal car as the fuel is getting so expensive”.

Mr. Wallace reassured them by saying “I think this is a very important question because what will drive the innovation and the change is if people in general are not able to afford the cost of transport. People value their ability to travel and if they can’t go on holidays they won’t be happy. I think it will be a big driver for change. But as you see more electric cars come in, it will of course also affect the price of fuel because if there is no demand for fuel then the fuel price will go down. The discovery in America of the so-called ‘shale gas’ is changing people’s understanding of how much fossil fuel is actually out there. And clearly there is a lot more than people thought. So again, this may change the view of the future and the pricing.”

The participating students proved to be very creative and showed a big interest for innovation in the future. They asked: ”How will the roads in the future be? Will it be possible to have intelligent roads that drive the cars and prevent traffic jams?” Ms. Favre found this a very interesting question and replied: “there is already the so called “intelligent transport system” in Europe which is addressing this kind of idea of communication between the infrastructure and the vehicle, between the vehicles themselves and with all the technologies that are going into the vehicles. I think that is part of the future and there is a big problem of congestion that needs to be tackled and this is part of the answer.

Students were further wondering whether there are any “innovative ideas in the area of trains or planes”. “There are indeed”, answered Mr. Wallace. “ Namely can high speed trains replace planes as the preferred way to travel across Europe? We see more and more people liking the fact that they can get on a plane without much notice and travel very quickly to and from places. I think if this technology spreads, then this could be very positive. In the case of planes we’ve seen Solvay here in Belgium who has pioneered “solar flight” which is a solar cell powered glider which uses its own power of the sun to go to high altitude and then glide along distances. In fact it could circle the world by doing this. If this technology starts to develop this could be a real model going forward”.

The experts also talked about their typical day at work and shared some of the satisfactions which they draw from working in a scientific field. Mr. Wallace told the students as final remark and encouragement to study sciences: “whatever question you have thought about, the answer ultimately is: some scientist somewhere has got to come up with the answer. Be it the new material, a new fuel, a new form of transport, it is going to be someone to discover that and I am looking forward to hearing that it was one of you.”

The whole chat can be re-heard here. Please join the Xperimania Facebook page and continue discussing the topic “Mobility – What transport of the future will look like”. The answers of the third expert will be displayed there as well.

Please don’t forget that this chat is also linked to a MINI-COMPETITION in which every student is encouraged to participate. The winning students can win Amazon vouchers for them and their teachers. Don’t miss the chance!