Powering mobility for smarter cities

A new approach to electrification of transport is required, says Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and chief executive officer, Schneider Electric

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and chief executive officer, Schneider Electric
Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and chief executive officer, Schneider Electric

Electric mobility is widely seen today as a way to improve air quality and meet climate goals, but rarely is it integrated in a comprehensive vision for smarter cities. EVs continue to be associated to traditional ownership and use models, and still considered as just cars: the innovative uses and services associated to batteries or to the integration with smart buildings are ignored or at least not enough explored.

Charging stations are still developed with limited or no consideration of the energy issues, or not exploiting enough digital technologies, over-complicating the customer experience. Their location will also inevitably change with the transition to shared and autonomous mobility.

“Electric Vehicles for Smarter Cities: The Future of Energy and Mobility”, a report from The World Economic Forum, suggests following three general principles:

Any roadmap to electric mobility should be adapted to three main characteristics of the specific market: local infrastructure and design; energy system; and mobility culture and patterns.  All relevant stakeholders should be engaged to collectively define a new paradigm for cities that go beyond the today’s industry divisions, in search for complementary municipal, regional, and national policies.

Electric taxis and public transportation will have a great impact in reducing carbon emissions. These types of vehicles are driven far more than personal-use vehicles, so commercial and public EV fleet development should be encouraged.

For example, Schneider Electric and BMW are part of a consortium of companies in Bangkok that is partnering with King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi to spur the use of electric vehicles across Thailand, initially through car sharing and a campus-based electric bus.

EV charging infrastructure should be developed along highways, at destination points, and close to public transportation nodes. This is critical for three reasons: first, to keep pace with current demand. Second, to address range anxiety issues by making charging stations accessible, convenient, and easy to locate. And, lastly, to promote the adoption of EVs in commercial and private markets.

In Hong Kong, the local government incentivises EV infrastructure developers by allowing them to integrate Octopus, a popular smart payment system also used to access public transportation. This gives EV drivers a convenient and familiar way to purchase energy, and aims to encourage more people to drive EVs by ensuring the availability of a network of public charging stations.

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The infrastructure should be deployed in combination with grid edge technologies — such as decentralized generation, storage, and smart buildings — and integrated in smart grids, while at the same time offering a digital end-to-end customer experience.

This will magnify the benefits of grid edge technologies: increasing reliability, resilience, efficiency, and asset utilization of the overall system; reducing CO2 emissions; creating new services for customers; and creating new jobs.

EVs can be used as a decentralised energy resource and provide new, controllable storage capacity and electricity supply that is useful for the stability of the energy system. In markets where regulation allows EVs to be used as a source of flexibility, energy players start betting on this vision, with cars working as “batteries on wheels.”

For example, in a pilot project in Denmark, Enel and Nissan set up the first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial hub: by selling frequency regulation services for system balancing purposes to the Danish transmission system operator (TSO), a car can generate around €1,500 in annual revenue.

New business models are possible, where the drivers and fleet operators of EVs could play as producer-consumers of energy services, such as vehicle-to-everything (V2x) and smart charging.


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