Smart transportation update: Car use declining, high demand for smarter vehicles, ITS growth in Europe and what EV drivers want

Several new reports have implications for cities plotting their smart transportation future. Scroll down for brief summaries and links to additional information.

Decoupling city economic growth from car use: There was a time when the increasing use of cars was linked to increasing wealth creation. But a Curtin University professor of sustainable cities says that's no longer the case.  In an article for The Fifth Estate, Dr. Jeff Kenworthy discusses his two-year analysis of car use per capita and GDP per capita in 42 cities in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia. The main aim, he explains was to compare how much the amount of driving per unit of GDP changed over a 10-year period (1995-2005) in each city. In a nutshell, he found the vast majority of cities were able to grow their economies "while experiencing major reductions in the relative amount of car driving associated with this wealth creation." So as cities "recognize the greater value in public transport investment as well as the need for congestion control," Kenworthy adds, it "enables us to see a major policy direction that could be the driving mechanism to enable cities of all kinds to continue their growth in wealth whilst decoupling from car use growth." Read more >>

High demand for increased connectivity among vehicles and roadway infrastructure: That's the word from a new Frost & Sullivan mega-trends report on the auto sector in the U.S. The report suggests factors driving the connectivity trend in vehicular technology include the escalating demand for seamless navigation, telematics and entertainment. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology is poised to take off in a big way in the U.S. between 2015 and 2020, F&S says, and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology is expected to follow suit between 2020 and 2025. What does that mean for cities? The researchers believe cities can potentially contribute approximately $1.1 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product by catering to the demand for intelligent and smart city technologies, such as integrated door-to-door solutions, interoperable technology networks and intelligent transport city solutions. Read more >>

Public investment spurs intelligent transport systems in Europe: The market value for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) deployed in public transport operations in Europe was € 0.94 billion in 2012 and, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent, the number is expected to reach € 1.44 billion by 2017, according to new research from analyst firm Berg Insight. “The global trend of smart city initiatives is," said senior analyst Rickard Andersson, "a major driver as intelligent transport systems in general and public transport ITS in particular are key elements to enable sustainable smart mobility.”  Read more >>

Ask EV drivers what they want, and they'll tell you: That's the conclusion of a survey of 3,700 plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) drivers in the U.S. from EV software and information services company Recargo and research firm PlugInsights. And what they want, among other things, is expansion of public Level 3 "fast charging" stations. “Until fast charging becomes broadly available, mid-range battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Nissan LEAF are trapped on a leash, close to home,” said PlugInsights’ Managing Director Norman Hajjar. “Our data shows the average longest trip mid-range BEV drivers have ever taken is only 93 miles.  They never stray too far from home because it’s just not practical to stop at a slow Level 2 charging station and plug in for 4+ hours, mid journey. Until fast chargers can bridge the gap between distant points, the appeal of these vehicles to a broader audience will be limited.” Read more >>

On a related topic, a post on the site of the Environmental Defense Fund, a Council Advisor, highlights findings from the Pecan Street Research Institute in Austin, Texas that showed EVs are having less of an impact on the electric grid than anticipated.  Here's an excerpt from the post by Marita Mirzatuny:

Based on the data collected from 31 Austin electric vehicle owners, researchers found that drivers don’t all plug in their vehicles simultaneously at 6 p.m., despite what many expected.  Instead, electric vehicle charging is more spread out, peaking around 9 or 10 p.m. — after the 3–7 p.m. ‘rush-hour’ peak.

It is important to note that Pecan Street’s report reflects behavior from a neighborhood with the highest concentration of electric vehicles in the U.S.  Whereas, most U.S. electric utilities serve neighborhoods with far fewer electric vehicle owners, supporting the view that EVs won’t overwhelm the electric system.  Read more >>

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