Today, transport accounts for 24% of worldwide CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Road vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, and two-wheelers – are responsible for nearly three-quarters of these. For the world to stay within a 2°C increase in average temperature the sector needs to be decarbonized. With its Green Deal, the European Commission has announced to reduce transport emissions by 90 % by 2050. A key objective is to boost considerably the uptake of clean vehicles and alternative fuels. To achieve this, especially in cities, electric vehicles (EVs) will play a decisive role.
When it comes to e-mobility, the first thing that comes to mind is electric cars. Their sales topped 2.1 million globally in 2019 pushing the stock of EVs worldwide to 7.2 million cars.
Some governments support the purchase of electric cars with subsidies. Germany, for instance, has announced plans to double existing subsidies to 6,000 euros per EV, while electric cars will enjoy a reduced sales tax.
However, the transition from fossil fuels can be slow.
“I’m pretty sure that EVs will be established more quickly in the public and commercial sector, than in the private sector,” says Dr. ir. Gonçalo Correia, a transport and mobility researcher at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and leader of the hEAT lab of the Department of Transport and Planning that studies electric and automated mobility.
“Private owners currently still have to invest more money in an e-car compared to a conventional car. They are then facing ‘range anxiety’ and risk that they cannot use it for all purposes and trip distances, says Correia.
On the other hand, he continues, “operators of shared services buy a fleet of EVs and therefore have economies of scale. And those fleets can be managed more efficiently in terms of charging, for example.”
Electric buses to combat pollution
In cities, where large numbers of people and vehicles move within a dense geographical space, the effects of air pollution are especially high. To decarbonize public transport is a logical step.
Many cities worldwide have already started to replace diesel buses with electric transportation fleets. China is guiding the way here. In the metropolis of Shenzhen, for example, all buses have been running electrically since the end of 2017.
The change is also already taking place among private mobility-on-demand providers. The rideshare company Lyft recently committed to having 100 percent electric vehicles on its platform by 2030.
Dr. Correia is convinced that city authorities must take the lead here: “Cities can help make the difference by stick and carrot measures. These measures can be for example imposing vehicle electrification in return for a license of operation; or subsidizing parking for companies that act in a more environmentally-friendly way.”
Solving e-mobility challenges
Public transport companies and private mobility providers face similar challenges concerning electric transportation: Which vehicles fit best in terms of range, capacity, and charging time? How many EVs are needed to provide a reliable service? How does an efficient charging infrastructure look like?
The shift towards electric vehicles is a major investment and needs to be well-planned. Software solutions can help to analyze, model, and test these issues.
“Models are paramount to plan and operate electric systems successfully”, explains Dr. Correia, “For example, when determining the fleet size needed to provide a certain level of service in a city. Or when building up charging strategies of where and for how long to charge the vehicles. By modeling the power consumption in a city, it is even possible to analyze how to smart-charge the vehicles, so that they contribute to shave off the peaks of demand.”