iSEE Research Initiative on Sustainable Transportation 2023

This Research Initiative aims to combine research on next-generation solutions for sustainable, low carbon transportation modes with considerations of their potential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, decrease greenhouse gas and other emissions from transportation; needs for infrastructure, incentives, and barriers for large-scale deployment; and implications for social inequities. As demands for personal mobility grow and the spatial distribution of population across the rural-urban landscape evolves, there is a pressing need to ensure the efficiency, sustainability, and resilience of transportation systems to meet the needs of vastly different urban and rural communities. Transporting people and goods “individually” via privately owned fossil-fuel vehicles has long been recognized as unsustainable. Their negative societal impacts, such as congestion, energy consumption, and emissions, have not only degraded public health but also spurred global climate change. Dependence on private vehicles has also exacerbated inequities within and across rural communities, where alternative travel options are often limited.

Recent developments in transformative technologies (such as those related to electrified, connected, and autonomous vehicles), and emerging mobility service modes and concepts (such as ride sharing, vehicle sharing, crowdsourcing, and UAV-based deliveries, electrified or hydrogen-based mass transit), hold the promise to revolutionize transportation systems as well as their complex interactions with other infrastructures and the human communities. While these technologies and service concepts evolve towards full-scale applications, there exist a range of open questions such as those on infrastructure design and planning, energy sources, multi-modal service integration, their effectiveness in reducing emissions and other environmental impacts, the economic and behavioral incentives to adopt alternative modes of transportation, and the design of cost-effective policies and regulations needed to accelerate this transformation. We seek to catalyze interdisciplinary research that aims at advancing knowledge that can provide a holistic approach to develop next-generation transportation systems that sustainably serve the mobility needs of both urban and rural communities. Below are some research areas of interest for this Initiative:

Area 1 (Energy Sources and Vehicle Choices): Efforts that focus on developing a systematic, scalable approach to guide adoption of new engine technologies (e.g., electricity, hydrogen) as well as deployment and renewal of supporting infrastructures that serve urban and rural mobility needs. We look for novel solutions to energy production, storage, and delivery strategies to support operations of interdependent transportation and energy systems that are scalable, economically viable, equitable and environmentally sustainable and their implications for local and regional planning efforts and policies to support them.

Area 2 (Mobility Systems): Efforts that enable holistically designing and operating technology-enabled multimodal mobility service systems (conventional transit and emerging on-demand services), so as to transform accessibility across population segments, decreasing inequalities in transportation, and providing sustainable transportation options for urban and rural communities.

Area 3 (Communities): Efforts that address sustainability and equity challenges associated with coupled evolutions of livable human communities and energy-mobility infrastructures under normal and disruption scenarios. Investigation of community behavior towards new types of vehicles (e.g., adoption of electrical or autonomous vehicles) and mobility service modes and ways to couple urbanization, infrastructure development and sustainability concerns are of interest.

Application Procedure

Concept Note: The first step of the application process is to submit a Concept Note as an individual investigator. The concept note should describe your research interests, expertise, and goals for research relevant to this call. Please include the following:

  • A cover page with project title, name, affiliation, and email address and a 150-word abstract.
  • A narrative of the research agenda that could be developed/integrated into a team project suitable for large-scale external funding. It should include a description of the real-world sustainability related research problem and its significance, the research approach and its scientific contribution and potential impact, additional expertise needed for an interdisciplinary approach to the problem.
  • The narrative should be limited to two single-spaced pages (minimum 11 pt. font) not including references, figures, and tables.
  • A two-page NSF-style bio, including five most relevant recent publications and five other publications.
  • All current and pending research funding from internal and external sources.
  • List of potential sources for seeking external funding, including names of agencies and relevant programs likely to issue calls for proposals.
  • Names of any UIUC faculty you are currently collaborating with on relevant research.
  • Concept notes will be reviewed by the iSEE Director and an internal review team and selected based on their innovativeness, suitability for interdisciplinary research, and potential for attracting external funding.

    For additional details on the entire funding program process please refer to the Program Overview.


    Applicant must be a full-time UIUC faculty member.

    PI Requirements

    Selected applicants will be invited to participate in a day-long workshop, organized by iSEE, to engage in collaborative efforts and team science approaches to form a cohesive Research Initiative team with 3-5 faculty members.