Seven steps to electrify the future of urban mobility

10 September 2020

Explore the key focus areas that can assist with the uptake of electrified mobility systems and environments. The authors, Vikas Suhag and Thalia Skoufa, are electric mobility and transit experts with ICF Consulting and Energy Systems Catapult respectively.

Mitigating climate change by reducing carbon emissions is one of the biggest and most complex issues the world is facing at present. Given the urgent need to decarbonize the world economy, alternative technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) are now gaining a competitive advantage.

EVs are attracting considerable investment, as are electric-mobility concepts and services at the interface of transport and the energy sector. The last few years have seen a sharp decline in EV costs, and many Asian countries have taken prudent actions by setting up ambitious targets for EV deployment – and adopted roadmaps to achieve it.

With the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, UK PACT and its partners are helping to fuel the future of EV implementation in Asia. To coincide with this, here are our seven steps for imagining a leaner, cleaner and greener future filled with electric vehicles and how you can help us realise it.

1. Focus on urban areas

This will reduce the need for dispersed charging infrastructure in areas with low population density and low transport use, while also reducing the need for costly charging infrastructure – and facilitate a bigger impact on air quality, noise pollution and GHG emissions in urban areas.

2. Public and shared mobility

High-usage vehicles such as buses, taxis, and rickshaws account for the main share of passenger-per-kilometre in cities. With the ability to lower GHG emissions and improve air quality in cities, their electrification has the highest potential to significantly reduce impacts on the environment. The financial viability of these are better than combustion-based vehicles, as the high capex is compensated earlier with lower operational costs. This means targeting these vehicle segments would yield best returns for investment – with the desired environmental benefits.

3. Ensure collaborative planning

The EV ecosystem needs several stakeholders to work together (electric utilities, urban local bodies, EV charging infrastructure developers, regulators, etc.) to create a singular goal with an achievable outcome. Traditionally, these stakeholders have worked independently, but a collaborative and cross-vector planning process to drive growth of EVs is desperately needed. Planning tools that facilitate a more optimal use of assets and informed investments should be implemented.

4. Deploy public charging infrastructure

Discussion about EVs commonly revolves around charging time and charger availability. But there is a solution in creating a robust public charging infrastructure with dedicated policies and regulations. Anticipating future demand, especially in rapidly growing cities, is another challenge. Public infrastructure would need to grow as the EV population grows and, in some markets, demand needs to be anticipated to support vehicle uptake. Expanding and providing the optimal mix between battery pack and charging types (slow, fast and ultra-fast) at the right locations around cities is key to meeting this challenge head-on.

5. Provide appropriate incentives

High up-front cost is often cited as one of the biggest roadblocks to the large-scale adoption of EVs. Financial incentives and principles like ‘polluter pays’ are critical to the financial competitiveness of EVs. Reducing fossil fuel subsidies and levying environmental taxes on fossil fuels will help drive a faster uptake – and incentives like preferential lanes and parking access for EVs could make electric fleet business models more profitable.

6. Adopt sustainable and scalable business models

New mobility concepts and business models are required to transform the technological advantages of EVs into value addition for users. The business models should be sustainable and scalable and could potentially ensure economic viability, increasing public acceptance, or integration of a green charging infrastructure.

7. Skill development, research, and innovation

The production and maintenance of EVs and charging infrastructure requires changes in the value chain, production methods and processes. This would require new skills, knowledge and competences related to new materials, batteries, electronics, IT, management of production process, and best practices on repair and maintenance. With batteries, vehicles and charging infrastructure already being manufactured, skills are also needed for research and development to improve quality, performance and lifespan.

The challenge

A comprehensive plan to develop a robust infrastructure for now and the future is the ideal scenario – but one with many blockers to success. From interoperability and visibility of public infrastructure, to poor financial health of transport authorities, power quality and network capacity, each country and its regions present their own unique challenges to be overcome.

Where domestic mass manufacturing is not feasible, or regions are struggling to meet the growing demand, is there another way? Is there some new and innovative solution that will create new avenues to success? Your ideas are what the Green Recovery Challenge Fund are looking for.

If you have an idea for a project that supports electric vehicle expansion in Asia or any of the more specific topics mentioned above, UK PACT would like to hear from you. Click here for more information about the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and how to submit project ideas.