As a proud citizen of Amsterdam, I am sometimes astounded by the following paradox: driving towards a meeting in the city center by car is almost twice as fast than by bike, yet I always arrive twice as late. The cause? No, not traffic jams, the car actually does get me to my destination quicker. Alas, subsequently parking the car usually involves driving in bigger and bigger circles from the destination, some frustration, and when finally parked, a ten minute walk to get back to the destination.
As you can imagine, countless drivers searching for parking space within an already dense city causes a lot of extra congestion. This brings us to the second issue: Air quality. Due to concerns over concentrations of fine particles in the air, of which the majority is produced by cars, several cities in Holland have had to stop building activities for several years.
While cities are becoming larger, so are some of the challenges faced by both citizens and policy makers. Of course, in the eyes of innovators and entrepreneurs, great challenges equal great opportunities. What if we could find a solution that would not only solve the issues mentioned above, but also create new markets, bring people together and save us all money?
Sharing electrical vehicles (EV’s) might prove to be exactly that, because of several foreseeable advantages:
The first one is an easy one; changing to zero emission vehicles alleviates the impact of countless sources of fine particles and NOx within the city. Of course, the energy consumed by these cars could be produced by nearby coal power plants, negating the positive effects. In contrast to fossil fueled cars however, the electric power used can come from any power source; wind, solar, water and others. Furthermore, fuel efficiency is almost incomparable: 25-30 percent for a conventional engine, 90 percent for an electric one. Those factors all contribute to the fact that costs per mile are one fifth of that of an combustion engine.
Key to renewables
An additional benefit of shifting to electric vehicles is grid stabilization. Peaks in electricity production from intermittent resources such as wind and solar can be absorbed by the batteries in the vehicles. Also, having all these batteries available allows for an entirely different take on the energy market: Consumers could shift buying and selling of energy to a moment when prices are favorable, using the batteries as an asset pool. However, charging many electrical cars requires adequate infrastructure, something the city of Amsterdam (700+ charge points) is proactively pursuing. However, the business case for these charge points depends on the amount of loading sessions.
That’s exactly where efficient parking comes in: As evidenced by the success of several (electric) car sharing programs in the city, people are quite willing to share cars. The result is that those cars don’t take up idle parking space like most privately owned cars do. Think about it, how long is your car standing still every day? The average is 22 hours per day. Sharing electric cars means a huge increase in charge and discharge frequency. This means more charge sessions, more revenue per charge point and, the more people share, the less parking space is needed.
The road ahead
Thanks to several developments, we are right on track to make smart transportation happening. Within a smart city, I envision people checking their smart phone for options of reaching their destination. Presented with an overview of options for shared, public and private transportation based on open data, they can easily decide what’s most convenient.
To speed things up a little, I believe we should focus on the generation that is just about to consider buying a car. Changing mobility begins with changing our mindset, which begins with a new generation. All the key ingredients are there: Affinity with technology, an open mind towards sharing instead of owning and a passion for a more sustainable future. Let’s build the infrastructure to put our smart citizens in the driving seat and realize smarter, cleaner and more efficient cities.
SAMEEN (Allard Haarman)
Allard is chair at SAMEEN Amsterdam. This cooperative platform is initiated and run by students with a passion for energy and forms the linking pin between technology and people.