Midweek reading: EVs, the urban environment and car-sharing

July 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

drivenow_berlin_smallAnother pic from my Berlin trip: a DriveNow BMW ActiveE on-street in Kreuzberg. Appropriate, because today’s thoughts centre on electric vehicles, the urban environment and on car-sharing… Reading/viewing matter this mid-week:

  • Bill Ford is addressing the prospects for his family’s firm; in a WSJ piece titled “Bill Ford on the Future of Transportation: We can’t simply sell more cars” he claims that the current model of transportation is unsustainable, and that car companies need to redefine themselves as ‘personal mobility companies’ (we’ve heard that before…). He also talks about the need for cars to interact with each other and the wider infrastructure, including other modes of (public or private) transport, and the role of car-sharing and ride-sharing.
  • And a interesting long-format read: cars are “racing toward disruption“, argues Harvard Business School’s Steven Sinofsky. He points to five key factors: the increasing acceptability of public transport and re-urbanisation; the ‘unbundling’ of in-car features (software, electronics and associated services, including vehicle personalisation); energy sources and impending oil shortages; the move towards shared cars and ride-sharing (again!); and the move towards driverless cars.
  • Some useful snippets in this Fortune piece: it highlights the move of the car-makers to Silicon Valley as they seek to make their products appeal to a tech-hungry younger generation, and has some stats from LA, one of the most car-centric cities in the world:  a 67% increase in walking and cycling in Santa Monica; a doubling since 2001 of people walking, cycling or taking public transport to work (now 22%) in the wider LA region; driving down 12%. More on the Google/GM EV-share (50 Chevrolet Sparks at Mountain View), too.
  • And also near Paris, the Rungis International Market – a 1,200-company food wholesalers – is to get a shared fleet of seven Renault Zoes to run around the site, for use by retailers and their customers (mainly restauranteurs). Renault Kangoo ZEs with cooler units running off auxilliary batteries are also on offer. More here.

And a research round-up – today, recent papers of interest in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

  • An Australian paper assessing the suitability of EVs in meeting drivers needs reports (no surprises here) that vehicles with a range of as little as 60km could meet 90% of day-to-day driving needs; owners of longer-range vehicles (up to 170km) were more likely to need to charge away from home on longer trips; recharging time isn’t really an issue ‘cos the cars spend most of their time parked anyway; the way a car is driven and its auxilliary systems used affects its range; EVs are particularly well-suited to low-speed urban driving. Well, we knew all this, but it’s good to have some more data: the sample drivers in Sydney were tracked by GPS for five weeks, generating a lot of useful information. (Vol. 66).
  • Something else from Sydney: choosing to drive when one could make the same journey by other means isn’t just about saving time, but autonomy, freedom, flexibility and “the interminable pull of the sensory experience provided by the cocoon of the car”, says Jennifer L Kent after in-depth qualitative interviewing of commuters. She refers to “the enduring appeal of the private car”. Are Australians less ready to embrace car-sharing, perhaps? (Vol. 65).
  • US drivers are much more likely to consider buying a PHEV if they are concerned about energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions – but they’re not willing to pay more than a few thousand dollars extra for plug-in capability. This is a different outcome to some surveys on hybrid buyers/potential consumers which have shown primary motivations to be cost-related. (Vol 64).
  • Quantifying the trade-off between the cost of installing EV-only parking spaces and charging bays in cities vs. the environmental benefits they bring: success is down to the price of parking, which determines how much the bays are used, as well as the cost of the equipment installed. Charge too much, and the EV drivers won’t use the spaces… (Vol 64).




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