Electric mobility: driving smarter, cleaner, more liveable cities

Cities are shaped by their transport systems. With the revolution in electric mobility well underway, green public transportation, and the growth of charging infrastructure will transform more than just the way people get around.  Densely populated urban areas stand to gain the most from the transition to zero-emissions vehicles. Noise reduction, cleaner air, and smart, digitized city centers are just a few of the positive impacts of mass green transport.  

Here’s how cities driven by EVs will be more sustainable, smarter and more liveable.

Cut air pollution with green transport for cities

Air pollution is a persistent problem for cities. More than 80% of the global urban population is exposed to higher levels of air pollution than those recommended by the World Health Organization. Not only is smog unsightly, and difficult to breathe, but data suggests that globally, around 4.2 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution. One of the leading causes of air pollution in cities is carbon emissions from cars and congested roads. Some of the most polluted streets in the world, such as Oxford Street in London, have unhealthy levels of air quality, due to exhaust emissions from internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, trucks and buses. These vehicles are simultaneously the lifeblood of city transport, whilst also choking cities with traffic and pollution.

More EVs on the road will deliver an immediate reduction in tailpipe emissions. These emissions will decrease progressively, as the share of miles driven by EVs increases. A recent World Economic Forum report showed that more miles powered by electricity, combined with smart charging in a clean energy system based on renewable sources would bring emissions down to 24 CO2 grams per mile, and marginal emissions close to zero.  

Electrification of city transport, powered by a clean energy mix and optimized charging patterns will cut emissions even further, improving air quality and benefiting human health, and reducing overall transport emissions.

Zero emissions, zero noise pollution

As bustling centers of urban life, cities can be noisy places. The constant sound of engines rumbling is a staple part of life for most people who life in cities. But it can be harmful. Sounds louder than 85 decibels can post a risk of permanent hearing loss depending on how often people are exposed to these noise levels. Studies have also shown that any sound at or above 65 dB can trigger an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones in the blood. Whilst traffic usually emits a sound of 80 decibels, buses, trucks and motorcycles can emit noise in the damaging range of 90–96 dB. This is similar to the level of sound a subway train makes from 200 feet away.  

EVs offer a cleaner, healthier and much quieter solution for city transport systems. As EVs don’t have a loud combustion engine they are often virtually silent. In fact, it is only above speeds of 18.6mph that they generate some noise from wind resistance the rotation of their tires.

According to Clean Charge Network, EVs are so quiet, new regulations require them to make an artificial sound when they are stationary or driving at low speeds, to warn pedestrians of their approach. This however will be a non-intrusive healthy level of souls at around 40 decibels, roughly the volume of a refrigerator humming.

Green transport integration with smart buildings  

One of the exciting potential ways in which EVs can create more liveable cities is with smart integration with buildings. This can unlock a new era of connectivity and automation, making city life more modern, convenient and automated.  

EVs are a vital step towards building smart cities, in which real-time automated communication and operation of systems and networks are connected through the Internet of Things (IoT). Integrating smart charging infrastructure into buildings is a key way in which cities and transport can be modernized and can also contribute to net zero goals.  

Cities with smart buildings, that have a built in digital microgrid can facilitate smart charging for EV fleets. With smart charging, controlling the power of the charge to match the network capacity to avoid peak demand, can maximize the use of renewable energy, as well as save time and money for EV owners and operators. A smart building could also combine charge stations with their own renewable energy sources - like rooftop solar panels, to improve the building’s energy efficiency.  

For example, a supermarket with rooftop solar panels could use the energy they generate to power their store, and any surplus power could be directed to charge customers’ EVs onsite. Through the use of a digital smart energy management system, the supermarket could optimize their energy use, based on real-time grid and energy price data.  

In addition to cleaner are and quieter streets, increased EV uptake can be the foundation for smart charging integrations like the above example. This ultimately saves time and money for EV drivers in the city, as well as optimizing energy consumption to increase the  proportion clean energy being used.

E-mobility driving sustainable cities  

Creating a world where environmental pollution is minimized, intrusive noise is reduced and smart technology integrates seamlessly into buildings and charging hubs is all possible as part of the green mobility scale-up.  

There are already bold examples of how electric transport can create more liveable cities, predominantly in North America and Europe. In the United States, California has used attractive economic policies and mass roll-out of charging infrastructure and ambitious net zero goals to promote both greening their public transportation and green passenger vehicles. Los Angeles, like the Netherlands in Europe, has outlined an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral, and for 100% of vehicle sales to be zero-emission, by 2030.  

New York has shown support for private EVs by committing to install 50,000 chargers by 2030, making the state an emerging leader in green transport in the States. Another densely populated state, Massachusetts, has also made strides in popularizing electric transport with the second-highest EV charging density in the country. This is combined with generous EV incentives in the form of funding for the purchase of both EVs and EV charging infrastructure.  

In Europe, the Netherlands leads the transition to EVs and electrified public transport. Like Los Angeles in California, the country has outlined an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral, and achieve 100% zero-emission vehicle by 2030.  

The municipality of Oslo (Norway) owns and operates a charging infrastructure on public land and also supports publicly accessible, privately owned and operated infrastructures in partnership with private real-estate entities. The city rents out the parking slots at night and offers free charging to EV owners.  

As countries invest in being more sustainable and preserving the environment, the future of green transport presents many options to reduce our carbon footprint without requiring substantial changes to our lifestyles. world where it will soon be possible for everyone to commute without harming the planet or human health.

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