In this interview by the European project ELVITEN, ERTICO Manager and clean mobility expert Andrew Winder explains ERTICO’s role and contribution to the project’s implementation, as well as ERTICO’s view on Light Electric Vehicles and urban mobility.

What was your interest in joining the ELVITEN project?

As a partnership organisation, our criteria for instigating, joining or leading a project or other activity is that it advances knowledge and deployment in the ITS sector, it contributes to one of our priority focus areas, it has the potential to bring real benefits (for example in relation to decarbonisation, air quality, seamless multimodality, safety or efficiency), and that it provides value and synergy for ERTICO Partners across different sectors.

The four priority focus areas of ERTICO, each of which has a roadmap to 2030 and contributing projects and other activities, are Clean Mobility, Urban Mobility, Transport and Logistics, and Connected and Automated Driving. As ELVITEN contributes strongly to the first two of these focus areas (Clean and Urban Mobility), ERTICO joined forces with ELVITEN Coordinator ICCS (a long-standing and very active ERTICO Partner) at the proposal preparation stage of this project.

Electro-mobility is a key part of our Clean Mobility strategy, as ITS is key to removing many of the barriers holding back the electrification of road transport, such as different standards for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging systems. On the Urban Mobility side, recent years have seen a plethora of “disruptive” mobility modes and the emergence of integrated solutions such as information, payment or wider “all-in” Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) models. This is another key area of our work, with ERTICO hosting the MaaS Alliance which is working to facilitate a single open market for MaaS services and their full deployment. At ERTICO we strongly believe that Light EVs (or EL-Vs), whether for personal or business use, have a key part to play in MaaS offerings.

ELVITEN demonstrations on EL-Vs have also contributed to the ERTICO work on the Transport and Logistics focus area, providing urban and last-mile zero-emission delivery solutions for light goods.

What is ERTICO’s role in ELVITEN?

Our principal role in this important project was to coordinate the first work-package of the project, “Mobility demand and usage schemes” which ran from the project inception in November 2017 to mid-2018. Notably, ERTICO devised and coordinated a large-scale public perception survey in the six ELVITEN demonstration cities, to collect and analyse the opinions and attitudes of citizens towards different aspects of EL-V use for different trip purposes in their city. This survey was made available online in five languages (English, plus the languages of the demonstration cities: German, Greek, Italian and Spanish) and was widely publicised in all of the six demonstration cities, with over 7000 responses being received.

A telephone survey addressed to a selected number of fleet operators and fleet drivers was also conducted in order to assess the behaviour of managers and drivers at delivery companies (post, parcels, take-away food, etc.) towards switching some or all of their operations to EL-Vs, also analysing what in their opinions were the benefits and barriers. The responses to both surveys was very positive and they contributed to the other task, led by ERTICO, of defining different usage schemes for passenger use (ownership, short- and long-term rental) and for business use. The results of this work are available in the Library section of the ELVITEN website (select “Deliverable”, then see D1.1 and D1.2). By defining these, ERTCO has contributed to the better understanding of uses and schemes in the area of EL-Vs in Europe.

Within ELVITEN, ERTICO is also leading a post-demonstration survey of users and citizens (currently under analysis) as well as contributing to the project guidelines and to dissemination actions. We envisage capitalising on the work of ELVITEN as a basis for developing further projects involving innovative solutions in transport.

What is your opinion on Light EVs?

While EVs (mainly electric cars) receive a lot of publicity and are the focus of many research and industrial developments, light EVs, meaning L-category vehicles that are covered by ELVITEN, have not received as much attention until very recently. In historic cities where road space is narrow, light powered two-wheelers (Internal Combustion Engine motorcycles, mopeds, scooters) are commonplace and it is no accident that five of the six ELVITEN demonstration sites are in southern Europe. There is a clear potential in countries like Italy, Spain and Greece for EL-Vs to replace many of the ICE L-Vs, as they have the clear potential to reduce noise and air pollution. This should be done in cooperation with other modes, notably walking, cycling and public transport. In some cities, such as Genoa, the very hilly terrain limits the potential modal shift to cycling so EL-Vs, including electric-assistance bicycles, seem to be a great alternative. Elsewhere, EL-Vs can fill a gap for those journeys which are too long to cycle and where direct and convenient public transport is lacking, including for shift workers who need to travel at night when other services may not be widely available.

Most light vehicle use is short-distance so “range anxiety”, which acts as a barrier to electric car ownership, should not be a serious barrier to EL-V use in cities: indeed the main barriers perceived by respondents in the initial survey of 7000 citizens were comfort, safety and the ability to transport luggage, especially for 2-wheeled EL-Vs.

Lastly, although ELVITEN focuses on urban areas, EL-Vs equally have a potential to serve less densely populated areas where public transport availability is lower, including for business, logistics and tourist use.

Could you explain the impact of EL-Vs on urban mobility?

The impact is likely to vary considerably by city and country, due to climate and cultural factors, the availability and quality of other modes (e.g. public transport), the local topography, as well as economic factors (affordability of ownership or business case for a rental/sharing scheme). In some cities cycling will be dominant, in others, cheap and efficient mass transit may be the main mode. But EL-Vs surely have their role and probably the main opportunity is in replacing ICE L-V use as well as single-occupancy car use for shorter journeys.

The initial public perception survey in the ELVITEN cities indicated a high level of interest in using EL-Vs as part of a multimodal journey with public transport, with between 60% and 85% of respondents stating that they would consider this. For this to become a successful reality, appropriate sharing business models are needed, for example a combined rail season ticket and EL-V sharing scheme subscription, together with sufficient reliability so that the user knows there will always be an EL-V when they need one. If a free-floating sharing mode is sometimes not available when people need it, then people will not use it as their main mode of transport.

Another key opportunity is in the fleet sector. Business and public authorities which need vehicles for their everyday duties could be the main catalyst to expanding EL-V use. When citizens become used to seeing these types of vehicles being operated by their city council, the postal service, pizza deliveries and so on, they will become a normal and accepted part of the urban transport mix.

Finally, while the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 emergency remain to be seen, EL-Vs do appear to provide new short-distance travel opportunities which can relieve the pressure on public transport as well as provide social distancing, while contributing to reducing noise and air pollution and a healthier environment. Preliminary results from ERTICO’s City Moonshot interviews with 300 cities globally indicate that COVID-19 has been a strong catalyst for promotion of cycling (including e-bikes) and active modes of transport. Therefore, we are at an historic moment where overall cycling and light electric vehicle use is rapidly expanding and ELVITEN is ready to provide further guidance in adoption of clean, efficient and healthy transport modes for short urban trips.

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