Mobility is going to change rapidly in the coming years as electric vehicles (EV) proliferate, ride sharing continues to grow, and eventually autonomous vehicles (AV) enter urban fleets.
This is especially true in cities where new forms of mobility are concentrated and where investment in supporting infrastructure is needed to accommodate this growth. These changes coincide with the evolution towards cleaner, more decentralized and digitalized energy systems and services, and increasing electrification.
Today, public- and private-sector stakeholders deploy policy, infrastructure and business models based largely on current patterns of mobility and vehicle ownership. The uptake of privately owned EVs is encouraged, while business models for charging stations vary, as they are deployed or operated by a range of players – public agencies, car manufacturers, energy companies and pure players. Limited interoperability and digitalization of infrastructure can make broad customer engagement challenging. Outside the energy sector, awareness of energy-related issues is low. Mobility integration with electricity system and grid edge technologies is emerging. As a consequence, EV charging could create local constraints and stability problems on power networks and reduce the environmental benefits of electrification.
There is an opportunity to design a different future, and reap both environmental and economic benefits with a call to action around the following three principles to be acted upon.
1. Take a multistakeholder and market-specific approach:
First and foremost, a market-specific approach that considers all relevant stakeholders should be applied to new mobility patterns with smarter and cleaner energy systems (see Figure 1). Energy, mobility and infrastructure enterprises, along with policy-makers, regulators and urban planners, can collectively define a new paradigm for cities. The paradigm would go beyond today’s industry divisions in search of complementary municipal, regional and national policies.
The investment and infrastructure to support electric mobility will vary significantly from one place to another, thus any approach needs to be market specific. Local stakeholders should plan for electrification while taking into account local characteristics, especially: urban infrastructure and design, the energy system and the culture and patterns of mobility.
2. Prioritize high-use vehicles.
The focus should be on electrifying fleets, taxis, mobility-as-a-service vehicles and public transport, which will have a greater impact as these represent a higher volume of miles travelled. Although personal-use vehicles will likely remain a significant portion of the vehicle stock for many years, they are on the road less than 5% of the time, representing a low volume of overall miles driven.
3. Deploy critical charging infrastructure today while anticipating the transformation of mobility.
To keep pace with growing demand and to address range-anxiety issues, charging infrastructure is needed, especially along highways, at destination points, and close to public transport hubs. To minimize the risk of stranded investments, future mobility and vehicle ownership patterns should be considered, as some current charging locations (i.e. in apartment buildings, at parking meters along city streets) may not be needed in the future. The infrastructure should be deployed in combination with grid edge technologies – such as decentralized generation, storage, microgrids and smart buildings – and integrated into smart grids, to fully exploit the flexibility of EVs while enabling the stability of the energy system. Digitalization would help simplify and enhance the customer experience, support efficient infrastructure deployment and management as well as enable new services associated with electric, shared and autonomous mobility. Charging stations can become hubs for smart-city services.