E-MAGINE A JOURNEY THROUGH EUROPE – ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY

Tim van den Maagdenberg Head of department decentralised power engineering

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, with more people looking for alternatives to petrol and diesel cars. However, fuel range anxiety and fear of congested charger points when travelling has had a dampening effect on growth. Is it possible to take a road trip across Europe in an electric car today? We put this to the test!

Reducing emissions associated with mobility is one of the core challenges that needs to be addressed on the road to achieving a sustainable society. Countries across Europe are exploring different alternatives to fossil fuels. In light of this development, electro-mobility has risen high on the agenda of politicians and city planners. In the report “E-magine a Journey through Europe – Energy Infrastructure for Sustainable Mobility” the author sets out on an imagined journey across Europe in an electric car to provide insight into the state of existing sustainable mobility infrastructure for electric vehicles.

A FAMILY ROAD TRIP – POWERED BY ELECTRICITY

The fictional family trip went from London to Warsaw, through Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The family runs into a number of obstacles, but also discovers that some cities have implemented smart solutions to make life easier for electric vehicle drivers. For example, it turns out to be much easier in Sweden than in Germany to find charging stations with the right plugs. The quality and design of plugs and charging stations also varies across the continent, causing some problems on the way.

Another lesson was that traveling with an electric car through Europe requires an inordinate amount of research and planning – for example, different mobile phone applications to locate charging stations and membership cards for payment are needed for different countries.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

It is clear that alternative fuels will become further integrated into society in coming years. Currently, it appears that electric vehicles will dominate passenger transport, although hydrogen vehicles are also developing quickly and may become a significant market player. The report identifies a number of challenges and recommendations to facilitate the development of sustainable European mobility.

Promoting electric vehicles to the public
Making electric vehicles and infrastructure more visible to the public through marketing could increase the usage. For example, easy-to-use electric car rental services and electric public transport could contribute to and enhance user experience.

Political initiatives
More political initiatives are needed to promote the development of electric transport. For example, the Scandinavian method of offering electric vehicles free access to bus and taxi lanes could be implemented in other parts of Europe.

Higher availability of charging points
The recharging of vehicles powered by alternative fuels is one of the main bottlenecks slowing down the expansion and distribution of these technologies. We need to find ways to minimise fuel range anxiety and concerns about congested charging points for people travelling on specific pre-planned routes. For example, a priority charging system and improved infrastructure in urban areas could contribute to higher availability.

Quality of charging points
The focus is often on quantity when talking about charger availability, probably because it is easy to monitor and communicate. But this issue should not be solely about numbers or power loads – focus should rather be on balancing the right amount of chargers with the appropriate power requirements. A country’s various regions have different requirements, and the type of charging infrastructure available need to be matched to these requirements.

Careful utilisation of existing networks
Even the most sensational electric vehicle is not a desirable option if it regularly blows a house fuse or causes a substation power failure when charging at the same time as the neighbour’s electric vehicle. Our existing infrastructure is a result of years of investment, improvement and redevelopment. Careful utilisation of our existing networks is of paramount importance while adapting to new sustainable technologies. Load management will be critical in managing peaks in power demand.

Harmonisation of plugs and chargers
A vast array of plugs and chargers are currently available in the market. Combined with major differences in charging station quality, it is essential to ensure that responsibility is assigned in terms of driving change in this area. It could be argued that European countries need to come together and specify a mandatory, integrated approach to e-mobility, enabling the electric vehicle industry to work to specific standards and bring all infrastructure in line with a common standard. This uniformity would also reduce costs and promote a common market for alternative fuels. Payment systems, equipment and mobile applications might also need to be harmonised in order to simplify charging as much as possible.

“E-magine a Journey through Europe – Energy Infrastructure for Sustainable Mobility” showcases the fast-paced development of sustainability in the European transport sector. However, it also points to some important challenges that need to be addressed to enhance this development and create a more sustainable society. We can be certain that energy infrastructure will remain an important issue for urban planners and decision makers for years to come.