Maximizing each kWh used

By Fernando Minaya

We have to admit that the way we move through our cities has clearly changed. Looking back some years ago, we just had two transport options: public or private transport.

Mobility is innate to human beings. We need to move for different reasons: work, leisure, etc. Solutions to the different mobility needs of the citizens must be provided. In fact, they need different options to comply with their demands for effectiveness and efficiency.

Citizens need an effective means of transport for all their journeys. This way, they can access all the destinations in a city using that transport. However, they also demand efficiency, punctuality, low cost and certain safety levels.

If we analyse what citizens are currently demanding, we can reach to the following conclusions:

  • We urgently need to know how, when, why and what for citizens move. Studies at a macro and micro level are necessary to optimize the efficiency of the different types of mobility. So, Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans must be prepared by analysing the Origin-Destination movements of the citizens, transversely including the movements from smaller cities on the periphery to larger cities. Also, social surveys must be carried out to know the true needs of the citizens.
  • It is important to pay attention to the demands from the Administration to restrict the access to the city centre of large cities. It seems the future urban mobility plans will forbid the use of private vehicles in city centres, so a lot of private vehicles with just one occupant will be removed from them, turning to a shared and sustainable mobility, an electromobility, to be precise.
  • The present efficient and effective public transport we use now is sometimes paralyzed due to the lack of infrastructures, obsolete infrastructures or lack of mobile units, among other reasons. This situation causes frustration to citizens as they realize that their other option —private transport— does not either fulfil their needs.
  • Mobility must not be considered a private-public transport duality, as that system has proven to be unsustainable. Also, a lot of times, Mobility Plans do not take into account other variables such as the use of electric scooters, car-sharing or car-pooling. That is the reason why we should consider mobility as a system. Citizens need to move from point A to point B in an easy way, using all the mobility options necessary to make an efficient and effective journey.
  • These mobility units will provide a solution for citizens, but they will demand new sources of energy. Fossil fuels have no place in this new society, so electric energy will become more and more prominent.

With these premises we can state the following:

The outlook is not promising as now 55% of the global population live in large cities and, according to a UN report, it is estimated that in 2050 the figure will increase up to 13%. So, sustainable development will depend more and more on the control and management of urban mobility, especially in less developed countries. It will require new means of mobility for those smaller cities that bring vehicles to larger cities and that are usually forgotten by mobility plans, as they do not have problems right now.

In a near future, autonomous vehicles will show up. There is an opportunity to use them taking into account the premises stated in this article:

First, vehicle ownership is disappearing in favour of shared vehicles, as citizens consider the future mobility as a system.

Second, we have to consider that the maintenance costs of these new vehicles will increase as they will be moving practically 24-hours a day, different to the present private vehicles that are usually parked 80% of their lifespan.

Third, in relation to electromobility, as stated in the round table about batteries and electromobility Move to the Future – M2F, the research on new materials and storage system must increase to improve the energy storage systems.

Shared and electrical mobility will reduce the number of vehicles that access large cities, so greenhouse gases emissions will decrease, according to a study published by the European Environmental Agency (EEA). The study comes to the conclusion that the implementation and research on alternative technologies is a key element to achieve it.

Lastly, according to a research by Deloitte, if next year the Spanish fleet of vehicles had 300,000 electrical vehicles, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease 80% in 2050. It is obvious that, in the near future, electrical energy will play a key role, helping to meet the sustainable objectives. But, although electrical vehicles do not pollute, their manufacture does, however its environmental impact is less. According to the European legislation, in 2020, 40% of the electricity must be generated by renewable energy sources, so, the average emissions of a vehicle for each 100km would be around 3kg, a fifth of the emissions of a petrol vehicle nowadays.

Original text in Spanish

Fernando Minaya

fminayaFernando is a Civil Engineer. Master in road safety and mobility. He is an expert in work-related road safety, mobility plans, sustainable urban road safety and new mobility. He is an advisor to Fesvial and CNAE Foundation and coordinates de autonomous vehicle project to Fesvial.