How Can Electric City Vehicles Impact the Future of Urban Transportation?

As transportation plays a crucial role in urban development, for many countries achieving sustainable transportation has become an important mission – aiming to not only improve economic growth, but also the accessibility. In our interview with Dr. Rainer Scholz and Ursula Schneider from the Mobility Innovation Group of a Global Management Consulting firm explain how electric vehicles could help cities to improve urban transportation with environmental benefits.

What kind of vehicles do you subsume under the term “electric city vehicles”?

When talking about electric mobility it is important to understand the context in which the electric car is going to be used. Electric mobility has different possible use cases and therefore different requirements in terms of how the vehicle needs to be designed.

Take a look at taxis: most of the time they drive within the city or in metropolitan areas. Consequently they will not need to be powered by strong engines since most of the time they would not go faster than 80 km/h.

Electric mobility is an impulse that drives the development of “single purpose vehicles”. Such a single purpose vehicle is created solely to serve a particular function, such as the facilitation of city logistics or city transport – for example, electric city vehicles.

An example could be light weight eTaxis that are constructed in a cost saving way, reducing cost and space through reductions in motorization and vehicle setup. Similar is the idea of electric minibuses that serve as feeder lines to and from other transportation hubs.

While regular vehicles are often following design trends to be quite mainstream, with single-purpose vehicles there is an opportunity to design them in a very functional manner always keeping the user in mind.

Looking at the example of eTaxis again, this means that the driver’s and the passengers’ seats have to be very comfortable, it must be easy to enter and exit, and there should be enough space for luggage. Many other gadgets regular vehicles have are less useful for taxis and often just take up space and add to the overall weight.

How can electric city vehicles support the development of cities?

Besides their functional description as single purpose vehicles there is also a qualitative aspect of electric city vehicles: Being equipped with sensors and telematics units, electric city vehicles are contributors to an incremental development of cities towards a smart metropolitan data-network. Within this network, electric city vehicles will be one link in an intermodal chain of mobility solutions. Based on this network, future cities will aim to manage the environmental impacts of traffic effectively.

Why do we need electric city vehicles?

Today’s developments in urban mobility are just the beginning of technological and social innovations and they change the way how people move in cities – smart electric mobility will become a part of that: With traffic being a major reason for air pollution in cities, the usage of alternative powertrains such as in electric city vehicles as well as effective data-driven traffic management is of growing importance. Also, the availability of space will be limited which promotes the trend towards smaller city cars.

Another important driver for electric city vehicles is the increasing demand of cities for this type of car. Cities need to commit to strict emission goals and reduction of noise. They therefore request OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and mobility services providers to increase the electric share in their fleets (i.e. car sharing fleets).

However, since production and market upswing of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is still slow, cities now even start to promote the implementation of fuel-cell vehicles. This is the case even though today’s fuel-cell vehicles are not yet designed for cities, but focus more on the luxury customer and intercity and long-distance travelling in maximum comfort.

For example London, Copenhagen and Hamburg just agreed with a manufacturer of fuel-cell vehicles to pilot the European implementation of a new luxury fuel-cell vehicle exclusively to their citizens in 2015.

In an effort to make transportation green, would you switch from traditional internal combustion engine cars to electric or fuel-cell cars? If yes or no, tell us your reasons in our comment section

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.