Smart cities and e-mobility on the rise in Europe

smart cities and e-mobility
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Government Europa explores the link between smart cities and e-mobility, explaining how the European Commission and European cities are encouraging greater uptake of electric vehicles.

A look at Europe’s advancements in smart cities and e-mobility

Electric vehicles are proliferating globally at a rapid pace due to decarbonisation policies and the push in improving electric vehicle costs for customers. The European Commission is driving incentives and policies around smart cities and e-mobility, as usage of renewable and carbon-free energy sources in the transport sector could help the EU achieve their targets of CO2 emissions reduction.

There are many benefits of implementing e-mobility schemes in the EU, however there are also a number of factors to be overcome. Government Europa looks at smart cities and e-mobility, focusing on the use of electric vehicles in Europe.

The positive externalities of e-mobility

Adopting and implementing more smart cities and e-mobility solutions throughout Europe in the long-term has benefits to a number of third parties: motorists, authorities, manufacturers and most importantly, the environment itself.

The key attraction of moving from transport vehicles fuelled by diesel and petrol to electric vehicles is the “no fuel, no emissions” ideology. Using electricity to power vehicles does not release CO2 into the atmosphere. The number of cars and vehicles on Europe’s roads is increasing – according to the 2017 edition of ACEA’s ‘vehicles in use’ report, the EU passenger car fleet grew by 4.5% over the last five years, with the number of vehicles on the roads jumping from 241-252 million. If all of these cars are using fossil fuels to run, that is a lot of CO2 being produced and released into the atmosphere. Phasing out diesel and petrol cars and promoting smart cities and e-mobility as environmental solutions will benefit the environment positively, as currently a fifth of Europe’s CO2 emissions are from the transport sector.

Electric vehicles are also cheaper to run than the conventional fossil fuel vehicles; electric vehicles will lead to lower maintenance costs as the engines are a lot simpler and they wear down the brake pads less than a conventional car; their engines are designed to aid in stopping and braking the car. This information is relevant only to purely electric cars as most hybrid cars are usually more expensive, due to having to pay for both diesel or petrol and electricity.

The factors driving customers away from e-mobility options

Despite being cheaper and better for the environment than diesel or petrol cars, electric vehicles are not taking off as quickly as the European Commission would like. Until recently, there have been infrastructural issues with smart cities and e-mobility preventing the implementation of electric vehicles onto Europe’s roads; and many of these issues come from a lack of electric vehicle charging points.

The lack of charging points for electric vehicles has been a major infrastructural issue as most electric vehicles have a range of around 100-150 miles, with the exception of new developments claiming to run over 200 miles on a full charge. Without the infrastructure to charge the vehicles on the roads and highways, it has meant that electric vehicles were only feasible for short commutes. With this in mind, the Commission has worked with a lot of businesses and invested a lot money in urban and inter-urban infrastructure to enable the implementation of smart cities and e-mobility schemes throughout the whole of Europe.

In a speech at the e-mobility summer day of the Polish Electricity Association in Brussels in June, Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice President for the Energy Union, said: “I am very glad that since we presented the Clean Energy package, more and more European car manufacturers have made not just statements but have taken concrete steps about transitioning their business models to electric cars. More and more European governments have set themselves ambitious targets on the share of clean cars on their roads or cities announcing a future restriction on combustion engines altogether.”

Šefčovič went on to say: “The Commission has played an important role. For example, by facilitating investment; by investing ourselves in research of new technologies, infrastructure – we now have around 130,000 public charging stations in EU – and by setting CO2 standards.”

Incentivising electric vehicles

There are a range of incentives that are being rolled out by local authorities across Europe, designed to encourage more people to invest in electric cars. These incentives are often developed in conjunction with national authorities, ensuring they meet legal requirements and national standards. According to the European Environment Agency’s recent report on smart cities and e-mobility in Europe, some of the incentives include:

Public procurement of electric vehicles

Public transport is growing in scope across Europe; more people are using public transport as a means of mobility. Municipal authorities are using vehicles for many other purposes and therefore the local authorities are ensuring they are using electric vehicles rather than ‘dirty’ diesel cars and vans. The importance of public procurement and electric vehicles increases public awareness of smart cities and e-mobility as a potential option in urban areas, whilst also reducing the amount of CO2 emissions being released by the authorities.

Provision of free parking places for electric vehicles

Bulgaria encourages the uptake of electric vehicles by offering free parking spaces in all of its cities to electric vehicle drivers. This comes as part of its National Action Plan for the promotion of smart cities and e-mobility. Similar programmes now also happening throughout Europe and many other countries have followed suit, including Germany, Latvia, Cyprus, and the Netherlands.

Free charging at public stations

Throughout Europe, more and more countries are rolling out free charging of electric vehicles. With the cost of diesel on the rise, free charging is a huge benefit to consumers and is very attractive to anybody who wishes to buy an electric vehicle.

Road toll exemptions

In Norway, owners of electric vehicles powered by batteries and electric fuel cells do not need to pay any road tolls. A similar scheme is also being implemented in Catalonia in Spain, as the local government developed car labelling and exemptions for electric vehicles in order to promote smart cities and e-mobility.

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