Tunnll’s role in an environmentally sustainable future

Tunnll recently concluded its first Spanish pilot project at La Bisbal del Penedès and demonstrated the startup’s potential for improving public transportation in small cities. However, it also brought up one of the important aspects in its mission that often gets overlooked; the potential for social impact through climate action. 

Transportation, whether we like it or not, sticks out like a sore thumb when tackling climate change and discussing its solutions. The industry’s impact on gas emissions is undeniable with personal vehicles accounting for nearly one-fifth of carbon emissions in the US. In total, the US transportation system accounts for nearly thirty percent of all global warming emissions in the country [1] making it the leading industry in a scoreboard nobody wants to top. In the EU, the situation isn’t much different with transport representing almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse emissions and being the main source of air pollution in cities. Road transport is by far the biggest emitter in the sector, accounting for more than 70% of all GHG transport emissions [2]. To make things worse, with an ever-growing global population come ever-growing transportation demands and approaching the problem with standard solutions is bound to fail. 

Albert Einstein once said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. This still holds true today and gains a whole new importance when any effort to reduce global warming needs to necessarily come through innovation. With transportation being one of the industries at the core of carbon emissions, companies like Tunnll can really make a difference. This last point is precisely where a small but fundamental paragraph in Tunnll’s plan comes into play; to reduce any negative environmental impact through the sustainable use of resources and to allow hundreds of small cities around the world satisfy their transportation needs.  

In fact, when we think of clean transportation solutions we think of clean fuels, fuel-efficient vehicles or electric cars and don’t get us wrong, these solutions do have a lot of potential for positive impact. However, they also depend on existing infrastructures, technology or, in the case of crowdsourced services, large population hubs. Small cities, because of lower populations or because they must wait in line for infrastructural improvements, are often left out of these discussions with no options to reduce their carbon footprint or satisfy passenger demand. But the issues with transportation are not exclusive to climate change. Replacing every car in the world with an electric, autonomous or on-demand personal vehicle won’t solve the problem of space or congestion during peak hours, something public transport is extremely proficient at tackling.   

This means that despite not being the least pollutant or the most fuel-efficient type of transportation, public transport offers the most efficient way of transporting passengers per unit of space. Considering the current occupancy rate, a full bus load of passengers can take up to 40 cars off the road and some reports have stated that a full shift from personal to public transport could reduce carbon emissions up to 65% during peak and 95% during off peak hours [3]. This is exactly where Tunnll, with the help of partners like EIT Climate-KIC Spain, can help. 

With its smart transportation system and its ability to adapt to passenger demand Tunnll is not only able to quickly adjust to the town’s needs but also make sure active buses are never bunched up together, run empty or slow down near empty bus stops. This ultimately leads to an improved public transportation network with a much more efficient uptime and consequently less carbon emissions and better air quality standards. Tunnll also encourages public transportation by tackling public transport’s “last mile problem”. With dynamic bus stops there are no more difficulties getting to and from nodes with your groceries or in bad weather. Less cars on the road means more efficient buses and a smaller carbon footprint for the whole town. 

Tunnll isn’t the one and only way to tackle climate change or the only source of positive climate action. What it does, is make sure that towns that rely heavily on standard public transport have a solution for their transportation demands while being able to reduce their carbon footprint through technology and innovation.  

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Powered by Climated – KIC Spain.

[1] UCUSA https://www.ucsusa.org
[2] European Commission, Energy Climate Change, Environment, EU Climate Action – “A European Strategy for Low
Emission Mobility”  
[3] Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2010, Long Term Projections of Australian Transport Emissions, Report for the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Canberra.

Author: Francisco Sousa