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The future of EV charging and mobility in cities

Our second panel at our North Greenwich forum in September looked at future mobility planning, new applications for data, transport project funding from the EU after Brexit and concerns over EV charging.

Key questions were asked about whether the necessary sharing of information in mobility planning between boroughs was taking place, the danger of relying on data for mobility planning if it becomes 'old', how data captures individual transport behaviours and whether the move to electric vehicles was being over shadowed by concerns about future city congestion.

Kim Smith, Head of Smart Mobility at dg:cities - Greenwich Council's private company that is testing various transport and mobility projects and which was set up in 2015 - has been looking at the future growth of the population in the east of London:

'We were tasked with creating a smart city strategy for the borough, and this included a transport strategy on balancing car use with how people could access mass transport systems more efficiently as well as walking and cycling.

'London wasn't built to have three million vehicles. We are looking at how technology can help the city in future. One of the important questions is why we have a city that only seems to work on a radial basis, with people commuting to the centre when technology now allows alternatives? Our primary concern is how technology helps us play, work and live better but more efficiently. EVs won't solve congestion and simply swapping old vehicles for EVs means urban congestion is not solved. What we are interested in is how we take single vehicle ownership and use off the road via ride share and better access to mass transit.

'We are on a learning curve and dealing with behavioural change for example with young people now showing patterns of not wanting to own cars but pay for them solely on usage. Information sharing is important and while we use Greenwich as a test bed for some of our projects, for example in the autonomous vehicles area, there is vital information sharing with other boroughs and cities in Europe. TfL brings boroughs together for information sharing and learning in London but some boroughs need to want to participate in this. 'Sharing Cities' is a very worthwhile EU project with Gothenburg and Brussels. It will be tragic if we lose connections with Europe post Brexit. Isolating Britain is wrong.'

Jof Ruxton, Head of Infrastructure at Immense Simulations which has been working with dg:cities on autonomous vehicle planning and its project 'Endeavour' said:

'We are making the most of data sets on people, mobility and systems and this allows quick and intuitive planning. It is all about creating the foresight on how growing populations will move about.

'Traditional transport modelling relies on surveys, but now we have telemetry from vehicles and masses of data from mobile phones. Traditional models would often be based on outdated information, but now we can work much closer to real time. Traditionally survey models take an average day in the year but now we can be much more granular than that.

'How can you can plan for idiosyncrasies? We can now build a model which represents people with differences which allows you to predict better. We are also working on a mobility project for Oxfordshire which may also be of interest to developers. It shows how people are moving in, around and through stations and offering this information to people designing those places - this could make a real difference. We are also looking at Tokyo because land values are so high around stations, so data to help planning is also important there.'

The Faraday Institution's Head of Economics and Market Insights, Stephen Gifford, then commented on the challenges of the switch to electric. Stephen previously worked on Crossrail, the 2012 London Olympics, and on planning for Heathrow's new runway but is now working on making sure that the new battery industry is strong and growing for the UK. He was optimistic about the growth in people buying electric vehicles but recognised at the moment that the UK is lagging behind other countries: He also highlighted concerns for a slow growth in 'on-street' charging in cities and the need for significant investment in giga factories for battery production:

'We are still in an early stage of ytransition in the UK but there is strong growth around the world. China is leading the way on EV but the UK and Europe will be catching up soon.

'The main issue for the UK is whether the car industry can be kept in its current shape and capacity, so we are looking at giga factories like Tesla's in the US. Two thirds of households have a drive way in UK, so this will help develop the EV market quickly. It's important to remember that electric vehicles may be expensive to buy, but they are cheaper to run.

'Electric vehicle charging on the motorway network is also growing rapidly, but there may be problems with the growth of charging on streets in cities, because it is expensive to charge electric vehicles this way.

'Rapid charging networks need help from government and it is likely that government will tax through congestion charging rather than via fuel tax. Shared mobility in cities though autonomous vehicles is likely to take off in the 2030s.'

Thank you to all who took part in these important and current mobility discussions and for questions from the audience.

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