Grand Narratives for sustainable mobility: A conceptual review

July 2020
Energy Research & Social Science


  • Nine narratives are used to describe elements of sustainable mobility.
  • Three Grand Narratives of sustainable mobility are developed.
  • The narratives are low mobility societies, collective transport, and electromobility.
  • They are credible in terms of their feasibility, acceptability, and centrality.
  • Application of all three is needed to achieve the goal of sustainable mobility.

The concept of sustainable mobility has had a relatively short life, first being used about 30 years ago. In that time, some progress has been made, but transport is still not contributing enough to the internationally set reduction targets for carbon emissions. This paper provides a conceptual review that presents nine narratives addressing elements of sustainable mobility, each of which has been derived from a review of the agents and strategies taken over the last 30 years. From these narratives, we develop three Grand Narratives that bring together the key elements identified from the wider set of narratives—low mobility societies, collective transport 2.0, and electromobility. We then assess each of the three Grand Narratives in terms of its feasibility, acceptability, centrality, and compatibility. We conclude that each of the Grand Narratives provides a necessary but insufficient condition for achieving sustainable mobility. Thus, although each one has the potential to make significant contribution to sustainable mobility, it is only through the strong and immediate application of all three that the goal of sustainable mobility can be achieved.