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European Commission


Brussels, 11 April 2014

Transport Research Arena conference 2014

The Transport Research Arena (TRA) 2014 conference, Europe's largest event dedicated to surface transport research, is co-organised by the European Commission, the European Conference of Roads Directors, and by the three European Technology Platforms for research in the road, rail and waterborne sectors. The host this year is France's Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Energy (MEDDE). As well as showcasing the best in past EU-funded transport research, the conference programme looks forward to transport research opportunities under Horizon 2020, the EU's new, seven year research and innovation programme. TRA 2014 is being held at La Défense in Paris and runs from 14 to 17 April.

How much does the EU invest in transport research? What kinds of challenges have been addressed?

Between 2007 and 2013, the EU invested some €4.2 billion in 620 transport-related research projects, with more than 8,300 participants from 69 countries. Small and medium-sized enterprises took part in nearly one fifth of projects.
In the field of surface transport, these projects contributed to designing and developing 'low carbon' technologies and clean vehicles, smart mobility systems and integrated services for passengers and freight.

What will be the focus of transport research in Horizon2020?

"Smart, Green and Integrated Transport" is one of the seven societal challenges that research and innovation actions under Horizon 2020 will address. The goal is to develop a European transport system that is resource–efficient, environmentally-friendly, safe and seamless for the benefit of its citizens, economy and society. In total, some €6.3 billion is expected to be invested towards this aim. Targets include achieving better mobility, less congestion, more safety and security, with a substantial reduction of traffic congestion, improvements in the mobility of people and freight, developing and applying new concepts of freight transport and logistics and reducing accident rates and fatal casualties and improving security.

Role of the European Commission's in-house science service on transport research

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) carries out transport research to provide scientific support to EU policy-making. One key area of expertise is related to the conception, development and implementation of European emission (Euro) standards for cars and heavy duty vehicles. The JRC not only performs emissions tests in its own laboratories, but it has also led the working group that developed a test procedure using the portable emissions measurement system (PEMS – present in the exhibition area of the TRA event). This system allows for real driving tests, as laboratory tests do not accurately capture the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted by diesel cars on the road, which can be substantially higher. This new test should become fully effective from 2017 onwards and will help tackle air quality problems, by assuring compliance with emissions standards. 

Electric vehicles are another field of expertise. The JRC is developing an interoperability centre for this type of vehicle in collaboration with the US Department of Energy, because technology harmonisation is a precondition to enable interoperability, reduce costs and guarantee safe and secure operation.

The JRC is also involved in projects related to transport safety, such as the smart tachograph or the eCall system, for which the JRC is performing tests to assess the compatibility and readiness of eCall modules to support the reception and processing of signals from Europe's Galileo navigation satellites.

JRC expertise also covers the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and industrial costs of all automotive fuels and power-train options.

Some EU projects that will exhibit at TRA:

MARATHON - developing longer freight trains - EU budget contribution €2.7 million

Marathon explores the potential to revolutionise rail freight transport in Europe by coupling trains together to increase capacity, cut costs and save energy. Tests have already demonstrated the ability to run such trains at 100km/h safely, opening the scope for efficient traffic bundling and network services. Project coordinator: Newopera Aisbl, Brussels, Belgium.

CITYMOBIL2 - driverless public transport - EU budget contribution €9.5 million

CityMobil2's main goal is to pave the way to driverless public transport in Europe. The project will procure and test two sets of automated vehicles and deliver them to seven selected cities for a six to eight months demonstration (e.g. Milan, Italy, during the World Expo 2015; in La Rochelle, France; and on the EPFL Campus in Lausanne, Switzerland). CityMobil2 will also make a proposal for a common European legal framework to certify and deploy automated road transport systems. An accompanying study will assess the potential socio-economic impact of automated systems and any eventual negative effects. Project coordinator: Centre for Transport and Logistics, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.

EURAXLES - minimising the risk of axle failure on trains - EU budget contribution €2.9 million

EURAXLES aims to reduce the risk of failure of railway axles so that this is no longer a significant threat to the safe operation of trains in Europe. A common R&D approach to axle design, protection, inspection and maintenance will have an impact on standards, regulations and on the market. EURAXLES aims to develop innovative, safer solutions for railway wheelsets with improved reliability in a cost effective way. Project coordinator: UNIFE, the European rail industry association, Brussels, Belgium.

ULYSSES - ultra-slow ships to reduce emissions - EU budget contribution €2.3 million

The objective of ULYSSES is to demonstrate, through a combination of ultra-slow speeds and complementary technologies, that the efficiency of the world shipping fleet can be increased to a point where the following CO2 targets are met:
before 2020, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared to 1990 levels;
after 2050, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels. The
technologies investigated cover engine optimisation, large propeller development, wind power assistance and smart integration of energy supply and use on board. Project coordinator: Bureau Veritas, Paris, France.

BIKE INTERMODALnew bikes for commuters - EU budget contribution €1.6 million

Bike Intermodal assumes that technologic advancements - providing newer, better, higher performing products - can do as much and sometimes more than persuasion, obligation or deterrence to promote bicycle use. The main objective is to develop a foldable, super-lightweight electrical power-assisted bicycle for use in combination with other public and private forms of transport. It should be able to fold in a flat package and have half the weight of current non-power-assisted bicycles. Project coordinator: Tecnologie Urbane, Florence, Italy.

WIDEMOB – light electrical vehicle for urban use - EU budget contribution €2.6 million

The project has developed an innovative, three-seat, light urban vehicle that can run in an urban environment for up to 20km using only solar energy collected by itself. It is therefore completely free and does not require any infrastructure other than sunshine. Project coordinator: CRF, Fiat research center, Turin, Italy.

Other examples of EU-funded transport research projects:

The European Research Council is also funding research projects in the area of transport. Examples include:

OFAV - driverless car to improve road safety - ERC Advanced Grant 2008, €1.7 million for five years

With his OFAV project, Prof. Alberto Broggi aims to both improve road safety and to better manage heavy traffic. He has designed a fully autonomous driverless car, equipped with low cost sensors integrated in the vehicle chassis that can perceive the surrounding environment, with no human intervention. The vehicle prototype, named “BRAiVE” was successfully tested in real traffic conditions in Parma (Italy) last July and was able for instance to drive in a motorway setting, pull out onto roundabouts, reduce speed at pedestrian crossings and stop at traffic lights. The research team has since designed a new vehicle prototype and shown that the technology can also be successfully applied to normal cars, without changing their external look or aesthetics.

FASTER - studying atmospheric nanoparticles emitted by road vehicles, ERC Advanced Grant 2012, €2.4 million for five years

Until now, there has been little knowledge about the impact of diesel emissions from road vehicles on public health. The FASTER project, led by Prof. Roy Harrison, aims to close this gap by quantifying the volatility, dilution and evaporation processes of these particles through laboratory studies and field measurements. With his team, he will develop numerical models and apply them on both a street and neighbourhood (5x5 km) scale. He expects to be able to analyse the sources, properties and environmental behaviour of these nanoparticles, compare them with other independent measurements and illuminate some of the uncertainties surrounding urban pollution.

Clean-ICE - designing a cleaner combustion engine, ERC Advanced Grant 2008, €1.9 million for five years

The Clean-ICE project was driven by the fact that not enough is known about the risks associated with natural gas and petroleum-based combustion, or about possible alternatives. Prof. Frédérique Battin-Leclerc led a team working on the chemical models that could underpin cleaner and leaner combustion technologies.The project tracked the combustion process of a wide range of fuels, including innovative bio-fuels, and increased understanding of how hazardous minor pollutants are formed.

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