A few days ago, I was thinking about Urban Mobility as this topic affects the life of many of us. We read a lot about different business models to attract more passengers using public transport by making it free (like in Luxembourg) or very cheap (some attempts were made for trains in Germany and Spain). We also read about the “miracles” that electric vehicles are supposed to make thanks to their zero-emission feature in city centres. This sounded a bit strange when I compared it with a recent article on the very bad quality of air in the London Underground due to the poisonous particles generated by trains brakes and friction between trains wheels and rails. Being the ventilation in Tube stations not fully performant, it seems we risk breathing a worse quality of air right when we are happy to give our contribution to save the environment and use public transport instead of personal cars.
All this opened up a myriad of themes to learn. For instance, if EVs are so good, we would need to buy one (despite their high price…), then we’d need to charge them during our trips to drive longer distances. Therefore, I looked up into the latest statistics available (2021) of the density of charging points in the EU. Well, the results are not encouraging; half of all chargers in the EU are concentrated in just two countries: Netherlands (29.4%) and Germany (19.4%), then we find France, Sweden and Italy. The worst numbers are found in Cyprus, Malta, and Lithuania.
This means that having a full electric vehicle (e.g. Tesla-like), it may be hard to travel across the EU, in particular from West to East and from North to South. On top of these numbers, we should also assess the kind of charging points installed. There are still many (the cheapest ones) that require some hours to fully charge a vehicle, which would make the journey unsustainably long.
Then, I was thinking of the other three common issues:
1) if one day, magically, all endothermic vehicles became electric, we wouldn’t appreciate any change in road congestion (one traditional car occupies the same space as one EV)
2) charging a larger number of EVs would require much more energy produced and/or an intelligent (i.e. smart) energy distribution grid in place to avoid unbalanced demand/offer ratios
3) EVs may be clean in the location they are – thanks to their zero polluting emissions – but they would continue generating other kind of emissions (such as the London Tube) from brakes and tyre friction with the road tarmac. Besides, an additional problem that will become hot in a few years: battery recycling. Currently, 8 years after the EV date of sale batteries should be replaced and the older ones being properly recycled to avoid new source of pollution.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind the definition of Euro7 standard for vehicles, submitted by the European Commission in November 2022 where as of 2035 the new cars and vans produced – compared with Euro6 ones – should reduce at least:
– 35% of NOx emissions
– 15% of particles from the tailpipe
– 27% of particles from the brakes
This relieved my worries a bit as finally there is mind a new standard that takes into account different kinds of pollutions and not only those generated by engines.
EPN Consulting Ltd. (London) Founder & CEO
EPN Consulting Research and Innovation Ltd. (Dublin) Founder & CEO
To know more on these topics, please read the following sources of info:
Electric cars: Half of all chargers in EU concentrated in just two countries
European Green Deal: Commission proposes rules for cleaner air and water
Commission proposes new Euro 7 standards to reduce pollutant emissions from vehicles and improve air quality