Helsinki city leaders envision the day when car ownership will be unnecessary, thanks to convenient "mobility on demand" solutions. But in most of the world, car-free downtowns aren't going to happen any time soon. Which, as Navigant Research points out in a recent report, explains why governments worldwide are eager to see increasing penetrations of electric vehicles (EVs) for the environmental, economic and energy security benefits they provide.
Here's a look at innovative ways cities are encouraging EV adoption and trends in e-mobility.
Pepco launching smart charging pilot
The utility serving 801,000 customers in Maryland and Washington, D.C. will pilot cutting-edge electric vehicle smart charging technology from Council Lead Partner Itron and Clipper Creek. The voluntary program encourages Pepco customers who own electric vehicles to conveniently take advantage of off-peak charging.
This goal is to use the plug-in vehicle charging pilot to validate electric vehicle smart charging stations to support consumer engagement, demand response, time-of-use rates and embedded revenue-grade metering. The technology combines ClipperCreek’s charging station with Itron Embedded Sensing technology.
The solution will allow Pepco customers to "reduce peak usage and save money when charging their electric vehicles, while also decreasing the demand on our electric distribution system while increasing our system reliability,” said Barbara M. Gonzalez of Pepco, who is leading the program.
Indianapolis mayor unveils "Freedom Fleet"
On a quest to have 425 electric vehicles in the city's fleet by 2016 and save city taxpayers thousands in fuel costs each year, Mayor Greg Ballard detailed the creative financing behind his "Freedom Fleet" earlier this week.
According to the Indianapolis Star, the city believes its financing scheme for the fleet – similar to an energy savings performance contract – is the first of its kind in the U.S. The Star says that California-based Vision Fleet Capital will buy the cars and cover all maintenance costs, which includes gas and electricity needed to power the hybrid vehicles. For its part, the city pays Vision Fleet $32 million over the seven-year contract to lease the cars.
And with the $32 million price locked in, by city estimates the deal will save Indianapolis $8.7 million from what it currently spends.
Indianapolis has been a leader in e-mobility efforts; its ambitious car rental program with French conglomerate the Bolloré Group is expected to have a thousand plug-in EV at BlueIndy sites around the city that people can rent. And last year IndyGo won a $10 million grant via the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program for 22 electric buses.
EVs a factor in Vancouver's greenest city plans
Vancouver, British Columbia city has announced its desire to be the greenest city in the worldby 2020 and encouraging EVs is a big piece of the plan.
"By introducing electric vehicles into our fleet, the city is taking proactive steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in our daily operations," says Vancouver Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston. "By using electric vehicles the city lowers its carbon footprint, builds more affordable communities by helping taxpayers save money on fuel and maintenance costs, all while maintaining efficient service delivery across Vancouver."
According to a new report, 42% of Canadians believe EVs are, or will be shortly, a viable and practical alternative to gas-powered cars. WWF-Canada's EV National Status Update 2014 report found a 79% growth in EV sales in Canada over the past year. The number of Canadians who have tried out and driven an EV has doubled since 2012.
It's not all e-cars and e-buses
In parts of the world, though less so in North America, commuters are turning to electric bicycles (e-bicycles). A Navigant report indicates that in many countries in the Asia Pacific and Western Europe e-bicycles have developed into a mature market for everyday transportation.
Along with technology advances in e-bicycles, Navigant says emerging trends in cities worldwide have helped position this market for accelerating growth, with worldwide sales expected to increase from 31.7 million annually in 2014 to 40.3 million in 2023.
Growing urbanization, along with rising fuel costs and roadway congestion, is pushing consumers toward alternative forms of transportation and increasing the use of two-wheeled transport for commuting purposes, according to Navigant. "This is particularly true in the developing countries of Asia Pacific; it is estimated that 170 million consumers in China use an e-bicycle every day," Navigant says, adding that as more people in the developed countries of the West choose to live in urban centers rather than far-flung suburbs, e-bicycles are likely to become an increasingly popular choice for personal transport.