Planning a City’s Transition to the Electric Vehicle Future
Although the COVID-19 situation has significantly slowed down EV sales, city and regional governments need to take the longer view and continue to plan the inevitable transition to electric vehicles. Currently, many local and regional governments are taking a piecemeal approach, such as adding a few electric buses to existing gasoline- or natural gas-powered fleets. However, planning and implementing an effective public EV strategy require a longitudinal view and a more comprehensive approach.
A first critical step is getting stakeholder buy-in. A steering committee should be established, consisting of leaders from key governmental, quasi-public, and private organizations affected by the transition: utility, mobility, and infrastructure representatives; citizen advocates; policy makers; regulators; and urban planners. For more wide-ranging effectiveness, these steering committees should include representatives of regional and state governments to encourage greater adoption.
When executing the transition, high-use vehicles need to come first – buses, taxis, mobility-as-a-service vehicles, city fleets, etc. – for the biggest impact on city budgets and air quality. According to Inside Climate News, the first two electric buses in Chicago’s fleet saved more than $50,000 in fuel and maintenance costs annually. The city’s transit agency also says that the city saved $110,000 in healthcare expenses because of the reduction in air pollution.
Policy is another tool by which governments can accelerate adoption of EVs. They can offer tax incentives to encourage private EV fleet transformation and the addition of charge points to existing construction while passing laws requiring new construction to implement public charge points. If it is a nation, state, or regionwide priority, subsidies can be offered for private purchase of EVs. City-owned parking lots can reduce prices for EVs, and surcharges can be added for using fossil fuel-powered vehicles not meeting emissions standards, such as the law in place in London.
Building a Future-proof Infrastructure
Cities should take the lead in ensuring the charging infrastructure will be available. Coverage and energy management are key when building the electrical vehicle charging infrastructure. Governments need to ensure that charging stations are readily available along major routes – highways, popular destinations, public transport hubs – to reduce “range anxiety” and keep pace with growing demand.
By 2025, most estimates say there will be at least 100 million electric vehicles on the road. City planners need to consider EV ownership and mobility patterns within the city today and tomorrow to determine the most effective, long-term placement for charging points.
As battery technology continues to evolve, it is expected to bring the cost of private EVs in line with gasoline-powered vehicles to parity by 2025, further increasing citizens’ demands for convenient, available charging. The charging infrastructure needs to be in place to support home, workplace, and “on the go” public charging.
Governmental agencies need to collaborate with local utilities to implement smart charging, ensuring the grid can handle the additional electrical demands. Any smart energy management system put in place needs to be future-proof. Decentralized generation, microgrids, and smart buildings will play a major role in the electrical infrastructure to ensure long-term stability.
Digital transformation of city services needs to strengthen, simplify, and enhance the customer experience, as EV charging may end up being the hub on which digital, smart city services will be based.
Autonomous vehicles also need to be considered in long-term planning – whether they will be city-owned, private fleets, or individually owned as they will also face similar charging infrastructure availability challenges.
The Driivz Perspective on Public EV Adoption
With a comprehensive EV transition and implementation plan in place, cities and citizens will be able to reap the benefits for the long term, including cleaner air, lower vehicle operating costs, and lower pollution-related healthcare costs.
When it comes to deploying an EV charging network infrastructure, the back-end system is just as critical as the hardware. Any system selected must be robust and scalable, optimizing operations and delivering an extremely stable network.
Furthermore, to reduce long-term maintenance costs, the charging management system must be able to proactively identify and remotely heal the chargers to reduce the need to send maintenance personnel to individual sites.
To ensure compatibility with the hundreds of charger types on the market, the EV charging management solution needs to be certified by OCA for Open Charge Point Protocols (OCPP 1.5,1.6) and comply with ISO 15118 and OCPP 2.0.1 to enable vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communications.
It must also integrate with established roaming platforms (including Hubject, GIREVE, e-clearing.net) and support OCPI-based roaming capabilities. This will ensure seamless access to charge points where needed – so not only citizens can charge anywhere they travel but also public vehicles can, such as buses on long-distance routes or government cars traveling the length and breadth of the region.
The solution needs to integrate directly into existing city fleet management solutions to optimize charging schedules and track energy consumption.
To better serve citizens, self-service tools should be available to help EV drivers find and navigate to available chargers, manage their accounts and billing, make charge point reservations and provide feedback to their eMobility service providers.
Electric vehicle adoption is no longer a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. With proper planning and execution, the right infrastructure will maximize the benefits to the cities and their citizens.