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European cities towards electric mobility

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par Sally Kneeshaw | 04.01.11

Cities are responsible for nearly 80% of carbon dioxide emissions, and in the EU transport accounts for around 25% of those emissions. So it follows that de-carbonising urban mobility is a critical challenge to ensure sustainable cities. Many believe that electro mobility can play an important part in multi-modal strategies to green transport. This is a new area of fast moving technology and policy, and the opportunity for city planners and policymakers to share successes and failures with peers across Europe can help to avoid costly errors and to get electric vehicle strategies right.

The EVUE (Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe) project within the URBACT Programme provides a platform for cities to learn together how best to increase the use of electric vehicles.
EVUE is led by Westminster City Council in London, and involves 10 European cities: Beja, Lisbon, Katowice, Madrid, Frankfurt, Oslo, Stockholm, Suceava, Zografou and London. The article « Plugging in to go green » published in the 2010 URBACT Tribune presents the starting point of the three year EVUE knowledge transfer programme.


Sally Kneeshaw

So why should cities be considering electro mobility strategies to ensure sustainability and what can they do now?
There is no doubt that electric cars can help to make our city streets cleaner, quieter and more attractive. The obvious advantages are that they are well suited to urban mobility patterns, decrease CO2 emissions and can harness renewable energy. They can also play a part in reducing noise and improving air quality.

All electric powered vehicles are zero emission at point of use, so there are no harmful gases or pollutants when they are driven. Around 50% of car trips in cities are less than 6 km in length. Electric vehicles’ current limited battery range of anywhere between 40 and 160 km, depending on the model, does not represent a problem for the short distances involved and will only continue to improve.

Although these improvements are clear they require a change of mindset amongst drivers. There are still real and perceived barriers of cost, performance and range, and a lack of charging infrastructure. Public information and financial incentives - such as tax breaks, subsidies, free parking and charging- are thus key tools to encourage citizens and businesses to swap their gas guzzlers for more sustainable options.

The political agenda in Europe is favourable with the EU Climate and Energy Package 20:20:20 targets and the emphasis on clean technologies for economic growth.
So cities can lead in setting ambitious targets to introduce vehicles and establish charging infrastructure. This sends a strong signal to the market and to citizens and encourages confidence. Incorporating electric vehicles into municipal fleets is a logical step. And ‘lighthouse projects’, like clean taxi services and car sharing schemes provide visibility and get the public more accustomed to the concept of electric vehicles.

Of course electro mobility does not represent the total solution to greening transport.  Multi- modal strategies are needed that encourage all forms of cleaner mobility and that reduce congestion and the need to travel. But electric cars have the potential to form a vital component. They can help cities hit clean air and CO2 reduction targets and ultimately become more attractive places to live.

The EVUE project will contribute to understanding how electrification of mobility could be a tool for low carbon city strategies By creating effective new partnerships through URBACT Local Support Groups, cities participating in EVUE, together with carmakers, car lease and hire companies, energy suppliers, infrastructure companies, businesses and civil society can develop a better understanding of the practical challenges. With a joined up approach it should be possible to catalyse the move towards electrification of mobility and capture regional benefit in the de-carbonisation of transport and sustainable economic growth.

URBACT is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. It enables cities to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, such as sustainable mobility. Today URBACT is 300 cities, 29 countries, and 5,000 active participants.

Sally Kneeshaw is Lead Expert of the URBACT EVUE Network. She is Director of an award winning London based European Consultancy, and has many  years’ project management experience in European contexts, in fields such as innovation, sustainability, social cohesion and inclusion, the knowledge economy, and diversity. Sally previously worked as European Campaigns Manager for an EU NGO, and policy consultant to the European Disability Forum.

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