A growing number of future-minded cities are working in partnership with electric utilities to actively promote electric vehicles (EVs) among private companies and individual vehicle owners. Together, they are encouraging key local change agents to replace their diesel and/or gasoline vehicles with electric ones.
In one important EU city, Barcelona, the key to the success was adopting a holistic strategy. The city’s priority in the first stage was informing both the public and the business owners while promoting EVs. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, with more than 1.8 million inhabitants and is a top city for international visitors.
The solution consisted of two main elements: Firstly, creating an organizational and administrative framework for developing and implementing an e-mobility strategy. Dedicated working groups and roundtables helped municipal departments work together with e-mobility stakeholders (such as electricity suppliers, car-park operators and car manufacturers). City wide e-mobility strategies, and the action plans flowing from those, enabled coherent promotional activities.
Secondly, Barcelona’s city government went a step further and implemented specific measures. Barcelona’s leaders looked around the world at cities that had tested different policies and measures to entice the public into embracing EVs. What they found, and brought home to Barcelona, included the following:
• introducing reduced or free parking for EVs, as in Oslo (Norway).
• exempting EVs from congestion charges or city tolls, as in London (UK).
• giving EVs access to lanes reserved for cars with a driver and one or more passengers, as in various California cities (US).
• providing subsidies or low-cost loans for EVs, as in Hangzhou (China).
• organizing test rides and promotional events, as in Hannover (Germany).
• offering electric vehicles in carsharing schemes, as in Barcelona (Spain).
In addition, cities must address the need for charging infrastructure. Even though private stakeholders usually install and operate charging infrastructure, municipalities can accelerate the process by organizing working groups that bring together relevant stake-holders. The city can provide parking lots for public charging facilities and recommend that developers consider charging infrastructure for new buildings.
The city of Barcelona, together with the utility, made it clear through their outreach and promotional activities that EVs offer several advantages compared to gasoline or diesel vehicles:
• Zero exhaust emissions – EVs do not produce any exhaust emissions during operation
• Reduced noise pollution – As EVs generate no pro- pulsion noise, these vehicles are very silent at low speeds (usually below 30 km/h).
• Increased independence from fossil fuels – A variety of resources can produce electricity, including renew- able sources (solar, wind, geothermal heat, water).
• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – EVs can help mitigate the effects of climate change. This potential is highest if the electricity comes from renewable sources.
The campaigns made it clear that gasoline-powered vehicles and/or diesel-powered vehicles are already causing severe problems in Barcelona. They pollute the air, emit greenhouse gases, produce noise and consume increasingly expensive fossil fuels. EVs are a promising alternative that can address these problems and contribute to a sustainable transport system.
However, simply replacing a conventional vehicle with an electric one does not address wider transport problems such as congestion, traffic safety and the extensive use of land for parking and roads. Therefore, cities should integrate an e-mobility strategy into a wider system of sustainable mobility.
Advanced battery EVs are relatively new and the technology is still developing. Due to the limited distances EVs can travel, charging requirements and the limited number of available models, EVs might not fulfil the needs of all vehicle owners. However, EVs are suitable, for instance, as delivery vehicles or service vehicles especially in urban areas.
Today, an EV usually costs more than a conventional vehicle. However, EVs cost less to operate and to maintain. The cost-efficiency of an EV also depends on the local framework conditions – such as fuel/energy prices, taxes, subsidies – and how much the vehicle travels a year. Company cars usually travel a lot, so EVs offer organizations a lower “total cost of ownership” than conventional vehicles.
A city should carefully assess the potential negative side effects of promoting EVs. For instance, opening bus lanes to EVs can affect bus services, and free parking for EVs can encourage people to stop using public transport (and from walking and cycling) to drive personal cars. Therefore, cities should align promoting EVs with wider urban mobility objectives. For example, replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric two-wheelers provides even stronger benefits than a one-to-one substitution.
The best local activities link to national or regional schemes for promoting EVs. In some cases, a national legislative framework is required to implement policies for promoting EVs locally. To grant privileges to EVs they also have to be easily recognized; in Germany, the 2015 Electromobility Act introduced a registration sticker for EVs. The Act also sets the legislative framework for cities to offer privileges such as lower parking fees, the use of bus lanes or allowing them into areas where regular traffic is restricted. However, cities are responsible for implementing the privileges.
Tax incentives (such annual vehicle and fuel taxes) or subsidies for clean vehicles provided by the national government also influence the success of local EV promotional measures. In addition, a strong national framework on norms and standards for EVs and related technologies is required for large-scale roll out. This links to vehicle and charging technology, and to the data and accounting interoperability of charging providers.
Barcelona leaders came to recognize that this solution is replicable in other cities. Cities should carefully select individual measures for promoting EVs based on their local circumstances and national framework conditions. The amount of greenhouse gases that cities can cut also depends on how much carbon local electricity providers emit.
One additional message was made clear regarding the benefits to Barcelona: reducing local air pollutants from vehicle tailpipe emissions is transferable across cities and countries. Replicating specific measures which provide privileges for EVs might not be possible in some cities, due to the lack of a national legislative framework. Socio-economic and cultural factors - such as people’s purchasing power and their environmental awareness - can also influence the success of the measure.
In Barcelona, public transport has a modal share of 40%, private transport accounts for 27% and non-motorized modes for 33%. Barcelona decided to promote EVs to reduce emissions and noise, to lower the dependency on oil and to improve living conditions and public health.
About 30% of Spain’s automotive industry is located in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The city sees e-mobility as an option to provide opportunities for technical and economic development and to ensure the global competitiveness of the car industry. The officially adopted “Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona” includes, as one of the main strategies, the promotion of e-mobility. Spain’s national government supports EVs with direct purchase subsidies and tax deductions.
Barcelona implemented several forward-looking measures (some legislative and some administrative) which promoted EV adoption by the private sector. The city government created the LIVE platform -- a public-private partnership to coordinate, monitor and communicate e-mobility activities in Barcelona and the surrounding area. The platform is led by three important entities: the Barcelona City Council: the AMB (which is the public administration of the metropolitan area of Barcelona); and the regional Government of Catalonia. It is open to all private entities with an interest in e-mobility.
The LIVE platform coordinates the e-mobility plans of various levels of government, spreads information and raises awareness among companies. Five working groups within LIVE have worked together to holistically address the e-mobility challenges:
1. Knowledge and Communication
2. Legal Framework
3. Fleets and Test Beds
4.Infrastructure and Energy
5. Industrial Transformation and Innovation
LIVE actively supports policies and projects to pro- mote e-mobility and supports new start-ups offering EV products and services. The city also provides subsidies for charging infrastructure – which cost approx. €2,000 per plug for on-street stations, and €1,000 for off-street stations. The city works with private stakeholders to install infrastructure in hotels or shopping centers. Furthermore, the city provides tax deductions and free parking for all-electric vehicles. In new public car parks, 2% of the spaces are reserved for EVs.
The platform also developed a guide for current and potential EV users, and it operates an EV helpdesk. With LIVE’s support, Barcelona introduced a flexible electric motorbike sharing system, which residents and visitors can use. An additional scheme allows visitors to rent electric motorbikes at their hotels. It also developed specific charging stations for electric two-wheelers.
Due to its e-mobility activities, many around the world recognize Barcelona as a city that has embraced EVs. The city has about 350 charging points, of which about 230 are for electric motorbikes. Catalonia has more than 1,000 charging stations and the region is seeing increasing registrations of EVs. More than 25 start-ups were formed by private citizens or newly formed companies, each one offering some variety of e-mobility product and/or service. The LIVE platform provided itself to be an effective system of governance for Barcelona, one which can successfully promote e-mobility in this one high-profile city.