How can cities answer their need for transport while respecting stringent European and national environmental standards? As part of a balanced response, electric vehicles can be a way for cities to introduce clean, energy-efficient and sustainable mobility. To reduce dependency on oil imports, greenhouse gas emissions and local air and noise pollution, a 2011 White Paper by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport goes as far as encouraging conventionally fuelled cars to be phased out of urban transport. But electromobility does have certain downsides. For example, it brings high initial costs, and risks attracting people away from active or collective transport. Cities need to learn how to exploit the potentials of e-mobility and overcome difficulties. They must also clarify their role in supporting its uptake. These are some of the challenges EVUE’s partnership of European cities tackled over three years to develop sound e-mobility strategies that fit into their wider sustainable mobility policies.
Policy Messages for Cities Using Electric Vehicles
Based on their work in four key areas, EVUE’s partners defined a set of policy messages for cities to ensure the best use of electric vehicle technology, in optimal conditions. The aim is to enhance, rather than skew, transport operations and the use of space in the city. Here are some highlights:1. Procurement of Electric Vehicles
- Facilitate bulk and group procurement of electric vehicles and charging points (in public, private sectors and joint ventures) for market attraction and efficiency. Given the current limited supply of vehicles, group procurement has little impact on price, but that may change;
- Use public procurement of electric vehicles to make municipal fleets cleaner;
- Introduce clauses relating to CO2 emissions to encourage suppliers to use electric vehicles in their own fleets.
Note: When the right policy levers are used, fleet operators can save money by using electric vehicles. This can also significantly improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions in a city. It also enhances visibility of electric vehicles.2. Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
- Develop a vehicle charging infrastructure programme that is appropriate for local conditions in terms of technology use, interoperability, location of charging points, procurement of equipment and energy, parking charging policies;
- Calibrate the installation of charging infrastructure with the market and consumer uptake. This is harder than it sounds! Ensure there are enough charging points so drivers of electric vehicles are confident they will not run out of juice, but make sure this does not lead to too many empty electric vehicle parking places, which can frustrate other drivers and create a backlash;
- Locate charging infrastructure where people park regularly, especially overnight at home, depots and workplaces. Research shows that drivers of private electric vehicles mostly charge overnight, and the fear of not being able to charge the vehicle elsewhere is much greater than reality. Most drivers quickly adapt to the vehicle’s charge levels, and plan journeys accordingly;
- Harness renewable energy and use the electrification of transport to develop renewable energy markets and supply chains. The overall benefits of e-mobility are maximised when vehicles use renewable energy alone. Meanwhile, using existing energy sources for e-mobility significantly improves urban air quality;
- Work with grid operators to manage capacity and develop the smart grids of the future. Grid operators and energy suppliers need to plan for increasing demand on the grid, and smart solutions such as bidirectional grid-to-vehicle solutions. It is worthwhile for cities to be partners in these initiatives as they can help achieve climate targets;
- Facilitate private-public-partnerships in charging infrastructure. Private sector investment and expertise are needed, and new business models are making this possible.
- Lead by example. Get the Mayor driving an electric vehicle;
- Enhance the visibility of electric vehicles, for instance, by locating charging points in central places with lots of pedestrians. Organise media events around the inauguration of charging points or new fleets of electric vehicles;
- Use branding, celebrity endorsement and lighthouse projects, such as electric vehicle taxis or shuttle services;
- Get people to touch, try-out, feel, drive, and ride in electric vehicles to experience how great they are. Evidence shows that drivers really like electric vehicles and will champion the technology.
- Various business models, partnerships and investment strategies are needed to kick-start the electric vehicle market. Be open to new business models and ways of working;
- Be a reliable partner for the private sector by creating stable regulation in the medium and long-term, and be willing to enter into a dialogue to establish common interests, cooperation frameworks and good working relationships, for example, in car sharing, smart grids and charging point schemes.
- Include electric vehicles in moves towards mobility services, car and bike sharing schemes, and integration with public transport systems.
City Measures to Encourage Take-Up of Electric Vehicles
EVUE’s suggestions for low or no-cost policy measures include: zero emission zones; electric vehicle use of bus lanes; incentive packages at national and city levels; free parking and charging for electric vehicles; procurement; promotional activities such as test drive sessions, promotions in the media; building regulation that includes requirements for charging points and electric vehicle parking in new developments or redevelopments. They must be carefully targeted, monitored and communicated. Part of a transition phase to encourage uptake of electric vehicles, they may not be sustainable in the longer term.
Urban policymakers should take a long-term view, and create a stable framework that generates the confidence that electric vehicles are here to stay, and gives private sector partners reassurance that their long-term investments will reap rewards.
Electric vehicles can be a part of innovative approaches to mobility, such as encouraging shared rather than owned transport. It requires fresh thinking, integration between city departments, and multi-stakeholder cooperation with grid operators, energy companies, public transport authorities and the media.
Cities should encourage a switch from combustion engine vehicles to cleaner models, but not draw people away from public transport, walking or cycling. The aim is to reduce cars in cities. Land-use planning in city centres must consider the location and space given to electric charging points and parking places. Road-use hierarchies should favour active modes (such as walking and cycling), then public transport, before personal motorised transport. One new electric vehicle should replace many combustion engine vehicles. Electric mobility alone will not solve urban mobility problems, but it can help reduce environmental impact, especially on trips necessary for the city to function, such as freight operations or municipal service fleets.
Larger cities in more developed parts of Europe are more likely to invest in electric mobility, for now. Among the wide variety of cities – and e-mobility experiences – in EVUE’s partnership, smaller cities learnt from others through observation and exchange, so now they too will be ready to develop sound e-mobility strategies, and avoid mistakes.
ProspectsBuilding on experiences with EVUE, a new project has been born… FREVUE, which looks at electric freight vehicles and how they can be optimised in the urban environment. Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Milan will participate together with most EVUE partners and several new partners from the private sector and research organisations. Funded through FP7, the new EUR 14.2 million project lasts four and a half years. Each city will have its local support group, along the lines of the URBACT model used in EVUE.
As for EVUE’s legacy in each partner city, here are a few examples:
- Frankfurt’s 'Allianz Elektromobilität' was announced in February 2013 with EUR 469 000 from the Ministry of Transport for infrastructure. It includes an intelligent reservation and sharing system for an electric vehicle fleet with 30 pedelecs, 18 cars and 4 transport-vehicles;
- The Madrid Electric Mobility Forum will become the institutional framework and key tool to encourage innovation and competitiveness of e-mobility services and technologies;
- Lisbon City Council has signed an agreement that at least 20 % of all new vehicles bought should be electric. The municipality fleet already included 36 electric vehicles in 2011;
- Oslo City Council announced that its municipal fleet would be totally electric by 2020;
- Finally, both Katowice and Suceava expect to submit funding applications to Structural Funds in the next programme period based on their Local Action Plans.