Cutting emissions from road transport and improving air quality is increasingly central to the local political agenda across Europe.
Although the path towards electrification is anything but obstacle-free, cities have an excellent opportunity to take the lead, inspire and facilitate this transition. Under the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project, the cities of Madrid, Munich, Stockholm and Turku have been testing electric vehicles (EVs), emerging infrastructure, new processes and business models since 2016.
DEPLOYING CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE
Whilst there is agreement that charging infrastructure is crucial for electrification, there is no one answer as to where chargers should be placed in a city in order to accommodate users' various needs. The ratio of home-public charging is widely discussed. In Stockholm, where home charging is the primary focus, the city has conducted an information campaign for single and multifamily houses. Access to public charging infrastructure, both on- and off-street, is a political target which should also increase visibility and the daily range of the vehicle. Stockholm's business model for on-street charging is based on access rights agreements, where utility companies set up and operate charging on public land. In contrast to Stockholm, Madrid does not actively promote on-street charging in the inner city in order to avoid lock-in effects through reserving public space for parking. Existing on-street charging spots run by private operators are currently being upgraded from normal to fast. Madrid invests primarily in off-street charging in municipal car parks and petrol stations.
TEST FLEETS CAN ENABLE THE TRANSITION
To facilitate the transition to EVs, future EV drivers need to experience driving and charging themselves. Test users can also give valuable feedback to the car industry on vehicle and charging functionality and to policymakers on local and national policies and instruments for e-mobility. Municipal employees in Madrid and Turku now have access to EVs and light EVs procured in the municipal fleet; tradesmen and delivery companies are testing electric vans in Stockholm; and efforts are being made to reduce charging times in Munich by testing a light EV with a battery swapping system. As micro-mobility services appear in most European cities, Munich is also carrying out a study with users of free-floating scooters.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Testing new technology and processes has not come without obstacles. Existing legal frameworks do not foresee EVs, and the role of city administrations are often not clearly described. Moreover, counteracting strategies and incentives for EV deployment are not a rare case across Europe. However, users demonstrate strong interest and curiosity to test EVs and private companies are technologically ready. Cities have in this context a prime opportunity to lead the way by interpreting local legislation, identifying suitable business models, acting as impartial sources of information, and by boosting the EV market through procurement. Cities can use those grey zones in a way that enables them to realise their environmental vision and creates precedents for others to follow.
CIVITAS ECCENTRIC, alongside the other CIVITAS Living Lab projects DESTINATIONS and PORTIS, is organising a session during the EUSEW Policy Conference in Brussels on 18 June. This will demonstrate how they and their 180 sustainable mobility measures are helping to shape Europe's sustainable energy future. All projects fall under the CIVITAS Initiative, one of the European Commission's main vehicles for promoting sustainable urban mobility.