Helping cities plug in to electric mobility

Dr. Alicia Martínez de Yuso, Research Office Technician and Dr. Milos Milenkovic, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at ZLC.

A team from ZLC has been appointed to help lead the new SOLUTIONSplus programme on urban electric mobility.

Supported from the EU’s Horizons 2020 budget, SOLUTIONSplus is a Euro 20 million, 46 partner, exploration and demonstration of sustainable, electricity-based, mobility and transport solutions for large urban areas, especially in developing and emerging economies. It will also co-ordinate with the Global Environmental Facility’s $33 million Global E-mobility Program which was launched at the COP25 climate summit last December and is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Energy Agency. SOLUTIONSplus is focussed mainly on moving people, but urban freight and logistics solutions are also important factors and it is here that ZLC will be making our particular contribution.

In developing and demonstrating sustainable electric mobility, SOLUTIONSplus will be looking at the vehicles themselves – 2 and 3 wheelers, buses, mini-buses, taxis and combined freight/passenger models, both new build and retrofitted. Operational considerations include the development of existing and innovative systems and grids for vehicle charging, ‘seamless charging’ and smart charging services. The programme also looks at integration of e-mobility into the wider urban picture through, for example, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions, eco-routing and network planning and management, fleet bundling and inner city/last mile shared e-delivery services.

SOLUTIONSplus will approach this in several ways. We will be developing a toolbox of methods, practices and policies that have been shown to work. Visits and exchanges of information and experience will be promoted between city officials, transport operators and entrepreneurs, across the programme’s ten ‘living lab’ cities and other urban areas (such as those in the GEF programme) with relevant experience. Partnerships will be promoted between local and European companies to facilitate the development of technical solutions and business models. Cities will be supported in their implementation of innovative sustainable solutions, not just technically but in developing business cases and cost-benefit assessments, developing finance options, engaging stakeholders, capacity building and training provision, and revising regulations and governance. Finally, the programme will look to integrate successful innovations into local, national and global policy, finance and business decision-making processes so that cities can identify and implement the most appropriate solutions.

Success will mean working very closely with the municipalities to understand their needs and gain local support. Involving and incubating local start-ups and helping them to create partnerships and develop business models that fit the needs of their cities will also be crucial, as each city is completely different.

The ten ‘living lab’ cities include Kathmandu (Nepal), Pasig (Philippines), Hanoi (Vietnam), Montevideo (Uruguay), Quito (Ecuador), Kigali (Rwanda) and Dar es Salam (Tanzania) as well as Hamburg, Madrid and, on a self-funding basis, Nanjing (China). Of particular interest for the ZLC team are Pasig and Quito.

Pasig is a very congested city in mobility terms and there are particular challenges for last-mile delivery. ZLC will be helping the local postal service introduce a fleet of two or three wheel e-cargo bikes. These will need a supporting charging point infrastructure and we will be helping to plan this network optimised to take into account of the delivery routes and the location of distribution centres. But there are of course also many private distribution companies and we will be looking to integrate these, for example through giving them access to the charging network, and creating distribution hubs. This could provide the basis for developing smart services such as MaaS, use of GPS systems, and control centres.

The challenges in Quito are rather different. The city is currently opening a subway line, and is also pedestrianizing much of the Old City to create a low/zero emission zone.  E-vehicles will help integrate different urban transport modes and promote intermobility. For example, passengers moving between the bus station and the new subway could take an e-bike from a bike-sharing scheme. However, at peak hours this traffic flow is very unbalanced, so there is also a logistics requirement to efficiently return e-bikes to their starting point. Quito is also proposing e-cargo bikes for last mile delivery but Quito, being high in the Andes, is very hilly. Battery life is therefore short, with implications for the logistics and infrastructure of battery charging or changing.

In both cities there are a lot of initiatives underway and the municipal authorities and their governments are really involved. The cities have some money to invest and SOLUTIONSplus will be helping them to make the case for raising more local funding, as well as finding international partners who can help support vehicle and infrastructure development.

To follow the progress of SOLUTIONSplus, visit