When the Global EVRT (Electric Vehicle Road Trip) 2018 participants visited Oman, they toured the round Eco Haus on the campus of the Germany University of Technology. In the previous article of this 2 part series, Professor Nikolaus Knebel of GUtech talked to the group about the history, architectural contexts, and environmental design of the Eco Haus. In this second part, Global EVRT 2018 members held a lively discussion with Professor Knebel about the potential of urban mobility solutions around the world.
Urban Mobility Starts with Powering Your EV from Home
The Global EVRT participants immediately expressed to the staff at the Eco Haus how important it is for environmentally efficient buildings to be able to take the solar electricity they produce to charge EVs. Between 2006 and 2012, global solar PV’s annual capacity grew 190%, as reported by the International Renewable Energy Agency. When we fast forward to 2017 (the last full year of data), the amount of solar power added worldwide soared by some 50%.
Regular wall chargers convert AC to DC, takes around 8 hours for a charge, and yet while EV fast charging generally occurs at a high-voltage DC charger at public charging stations, residential fast charging can happen with adequate home battery storage in eco houses. (Note: Due to fiscal constraints, the Eco Haus does not collect and store solar energy from its panels. Their funding did not include battery storage.)
Carsharing & Robotaxis as Urban Mobility Solution
Elon Musk suggested in Master Plan Deux that “you will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation.”
The Global EVRT group, which had both Model S and Model X vehicles on the EV excursion in the UAE and Oman, discussed the practicality of having Teslas pay for themselves.
The group knew that the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, for Musk’s perspective came to life during the Global EVRT Middle East 2018. Local residents leased their Teslas for the drive across the UAE and Oman.
Global EVRT Managing Director Ben Pullen acknowledged the substantial contribution that these UAE individuals who leased out their Teslas had made. They contributed to the Global EVRT mission to accelerate electric vehicle adoption. These UAE Tesla owners saw a way to do their part to help create smart and sustainable societies in their region.
Access to Pools of EVs to Borrow When Needed
Of course, it won’t only be Teslas that will need to become part of the EV shared economy. The Global EVRT group debated the speed with which EV sharing will become commonplace with the staff of the Eco Haus. Yes, a form of app-based ride-hailing is already well underway around the world, with Uber and Lyft, among other companies, connecting people and cars on an as-needed basis. But how will the shift from giving others rides convert to leasing pools of EVs to drivers or passengers occur?
Major international areas such as Dubai’s Sustainable City, which doesn’t allow cars within its core living borders, have begun to make the move to ride-sharing. The Sustainable City provides different sustainable transportation options that include access to public transportation, communal electric buggies, a concierge service, EV charging stations, and a soon-to-be opened EV sharing program. Several members of the Global EVRT who live in The Sustainable City offered testimonials to the ease and efficiency of shared vehicles for individual driving purposes.
So, how far will other major metropolitan areas go to duplicate the progress toward EV sharing that The Sustainable City models? When will existing car rental companies begin the evolution toward this new reality of immediate demand for EV rentals?
Increasing the Numbers of EV Chargers: Urban Mobility Regulations
Urban centers currently present barriers to individual EV ownership. Without access to reliable, on-demand charging, apartment and condo dwellers can’t as conveniently own an EV. (Editor’s note: However, we are 2 years into a long-term review of the Nissan LEAF in such a scenario and the LEAF driver is very happy with the car and charging opportunities.) Most HOAs just won’t allow long extension cords to hang down the facades of multi-storied buildings so that EVs can plug in. An infrastructure with enough garage parking spaces equipped with chargers? It seems as if it could exist as a norm only in a distant future.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Chris Ramsey, who joined in the Middle East Global EVRT 2018 from Plug in Adventures, described how new UK building complexes are testing induction chargers built into parking spaces. “Whether you have an EV or not,” Ramsey says, people who live in these buildings will be assigned a parking space with charging capacity. That will allow car owners to have charging already in place when their vehicle trade-in time comes.
“In the UK, we’re looking at planning laws, and certain authorities are making these kinds of chargers a requirement for new buildings.” He allowed that this is a “grassroots effort” borne out of education like the Global EVRT, which lets people “know what it’s really like to live with an EV, to be more fully informed what it’s like.”
Contractors in the UK, Ramsey added, are now building homes with solar panels as other “environmentally viable solutions.”
How to Solve Commute Peak Periods for EVs
While flexible work hours and work-from-home options are becoming more prevalent, the majority of cities do still experience tremendous surges of traffic during traditional morning and late afternoon rush hours. This constant congestion presents a significant urban mobility obstacle, several Global EVRT members noted.
How will this commuter rush hour scenario translate into an EV shared economy? What will the fiscal picture need to look like for enough EV ride-sharing fleets to be viable? Will enough fleets of EVs be available to meet the EV ride-sharing demand from consumers in a shared economy? Showcasing EVs in new cities, delivering insightful EV industry events, and building charging station infrastructure helps to create the impact that can prompt quicker acceleration and adoption of EVs, as the Global EVRT participants had elected to do.
Perhaps it’s understanding the potential out there that can make the difference in EV fleets. Fully autonomous EVs, for example, could lower the cost of personal mobility by 30 to 60% relative to private auto ownership. By reducing the human factor behind the wheel, autonomous vehicles could cut accidents by as much as 90%, according to preliminary estimates, saving thousands of lives and up to $190 billion a year in the United States alone by 2050.
Thinking It All Through: Urban Mobility Needs
The EVRT is a “road trip with a difference,” providing people and regions who haven’t had much if any 1-to-1 experience with EVs to gain the exposure and information they crave. The advocacy takes place on the road and at conferences, empowering people to make new, sustainable choices about energy and sustainability. It’s a way for curious people to get up-close-and-personal to EVs in a fun and engaging way.
Seeing the excited expressions on the faces of people who saw the EV queue assures Global EVRT participants that their long hours on the road are worth it.
By offering a showcase of new technology, engaging communities through excitement, and supporting new infrastructures in the move to a cleaner future, this Middle East 2018 Global EVRT team listened, posed questions, and offered insights about clean, renewable energy and urban mobility solutions that begin with EVs.
Yes, it will take serious efforts to bring more EV charging stations to major urban centers, highways, popular recreation centers, and suburban areas. In a time when fossil fuel-rich countries are experiencing internal battles to reconcile emerging renewable technology demands with existing business stability, efforts like the Global EVRT can offer guidance to help governments expand resource for EV charging infrastructures. Such education like this, which as Chris Ramsey says “removes jargon,” can help policymakers respond to the rapid rise of new private mobility services such as ride-hailing, dockless shared bicycles, and microtransit.
So, too, can hard data, such as the 2000+ km in 9 days that the Middle East 2018 Global EVRT accumulated. And with more Global EVRTs scheduled for the next few years, aggregated data that is rich enough to allow for deep analysis is sure to follow.
Two CleanTechnica writers, Carolyn Fortuna and Steve Hanley, joined the Middle East Global EVRT 2018. CleanTechnica director Zach Shahan was also part of the launch event and joined the initial leg of the road trip briefly. This is one in a series of articles that resulted from the excursion.