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Long range batteries and fast charging are great for the wide open spaces, but space, location, and convenience will drive urban mobility solutions.


Life Beyond Tesla: Metropolitan Solutions Berlin & Urban Mobility

Long range batteries and fast charging are great for the wide open spaces, but space, location, and convenience will drive urban mobility solutions.

I like Tesla as much as the next gal but, I can’t wait until the Matchbox edition comes out so I can get one. In the meantime, we were on our way to the all-electric Formula E race in Berlin and we happened to drop by the Metropolitan Solutions conference, where we got a quick look at some of the non-Tesla urban mobility innovations that you might see cropping up soon in a city near you.

TS2 GreenPack battery EV urban mobility

Urban Mobility & Mass Transit

In cities, the sky-high cost of housing (and everything else) combines with traffic and parking nightmares in a toxic brew that puts a damper on car ownership, Tesla or no Tesla.

Auto companies like Ford have already seen the writing on the wall, and are marketing systems like carsharing that focus on urban mobility. So, before we get to the Metropolitan Solutions conference, let’s take a detour over to Future Station Südkreuz in Berlin, the largest train station in the city, where they are experimenting with a raft of ways to make it easier to ditch your car.

Sudkreuz urban mobility map

As you can see from the map above, Südkreuz is really complicated but luckily we had a group of guides from Deutsche Bahn to show us all the nifty new features, many of which are still in the demo and prototype phase.

The main idea is to make mass transit more seamless and accessible. So, one important element will be new graphic displays that replace text-based timetables, so you can easily track your train in real time and find your place on the platform without that last-minute scramble.

There are also real-time displays that guide you to all of the transit options that connect to the station, including short- and long-distance buses, taxis, carsharing, ridesharing, and bikesharing. Outside, clearly marked lanes and parking areas have been constructed so it’s easy to find your way to each option, which is especially useful for ridesharing.

To make it easy for park-and-riders, parking spots are available that enable you to get directly into the train station.

Another part of the program involves renewable energy, so eventually the parking lots will be covered in solar panels that hook up to a microgrid with EV charging. The aim is to provide for all of the station’s electrical needs with renewables. That’s important because those needs are growing with all the new gadgets. Although the new displays may not suck up all that much more electricity than the old ones, the EV charging will be a killer.

Two micro wind turbines are also included in the microgrid, but compared to the solar panels they don’t produce much electricity. They’re more for show, though as we’ve pointed out recently with our sister site, showy micro wind has been popping up at EV charging stations, sports venues, car dealerships, and even on the Eiffel Tower.

We’re especially excited about one new installation that’s not on the microgrid because it draws too much power. It doesn’t look like much now, but guess what it is:

wireless charging urban mobility

That’s right, this hole in the ground is the beginnings of a wireless, inductive charging system for buses. You simply park on top of it, wait six or seven minutes, and then you’re off.

At the top of the photo you can see a small canopy-style solar array that’s already in operation. The lot to the rear is for EV charging, and just barely visible to the left is a bikesharing rack that will eventually accommodate electric bikes.


On Beyond Tesla For Urban Mobility

No, we didn’t forget about the Metropolitan Solutions conference. Among the electric vehicle solutions featured on the showroom floor, one that caught our eye was the fun-looking stand-up three-wheeled kickTrike scooter at the top of the page. The idea behind that is to have a battery that’s light enough to clip out and carry with you, so you can take it up to your office (or wherever) and charge it off the street — hence the name GreenPack.

The trike itself is collapsible so you can fit it just about anywhere. Along those lines, we were also interested in this super compact three-wheeled car called Innvelo:

three wheel EV urban mobility

The gull-wing door is a space saver and you can plug it into an ordinary household socket, which greatly expands your parking options. It might look a bit unsuitable for rough weather, but two extra motors provide power individually to the rear wheels, greatly improving stability and steerability.

As for EV charging, when you’re talking about urban electromobility, you’re not necessarily talking about long battery range or quick charging. Convenience and location are the main factors, and for that we turn to this clever idea from the folks at ubitricity:

Ubitricity urban mobility

Sweet ride, right? Actually, that could be any off-the-shelf small EV. What’s really sweet is the little green dot on the pole in the background. That could be any old light pole that you already see along your city streets.

Along with several partners, ubitricity has developed a system (check out some of their projects here) that turns existing infrastructure into a charging station. With the light pole project, the trick was to develop a system for enabling a charge when the lights go off.

Super-small EVs can combine with super-convenient charging stations to enable more city dwellers (and visitors) to use a personal mobility option, but mass transit options are also growing in new directions. Check out this concept from the cable car manufacturer Doppelmayr:

cable cars urban mobility

While they’re more familiar in resort and mountain settings, urban cable cars could become a thing. All you need is a series of pylons and Bob’s your uncle. New York City has had one for years, and Doppelmayr built the longest cable car system in the world especially for the 2012 Floriade horticulture show in the Netherlands that is still running because it was so popular.

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Photo Credits (all six): Tina Casey.

*This CleanTechnica technology tour was sponsored by GTAI (Germany Trade and Invest) in partnership with Baden-Württemberg International GmbH in Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart, Karlsruhe), Investitions und Strukturbank Rheinland-Pfalz in Rheinland-Pfalz (Kaiserslautern, Mainz), and Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie GmbH in Berlin.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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