An Electric Vehicle (EV) is an alternative to traditional gasoline-based vehicles that can be powered through a collector system by electricity from off-vehicle sources (such as overhead power lines), or self-contained via a battery, solar panel, or electric generator. EVs can be applicable to a variety of road and rail vehicles (cars, buses, shuttles, trains etc.). Popularity of EVs is growing, with the worldwide number of electric vehicles sold annually growing at a rate of 40% in recent years (2011 – 2017). To transition to EV fleets, transport providers and operators will need to ensure multiple changes in the existing infrastructure (maintenance facility upgrades, more power supply sources and stations).
EVs were first used in the mid-19th century as the preferred energy source for motor vehicles. With the invention of modern internal combustion engines, electricity became less widely used, although remained commonplace for trains and some small vehicles. As governments, industry, and populations have become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of petroleum-based transportation, together with technological advances, support for widespread adoption of EVs has grown.
With climate change becoming a widely discussed social and environmental issue, it is important that governments take measures to lessen their global carbon footprint. Past improvements in vehicle efficiency have been offset by the greater overall volume of travel taking place. The transport sector (road, rail, air and marine) contributed 24% of total global carbon emissions in 2016 and their emissions are projected to grow at a faster rate than any other sector. 72% of those transport emissions come from road vehicles in upper middle- and high-income countries, where private motor vehicle use is widespread. A shift to EVs could have a significant impact on global carbon emissions, particularly if charged from renewable energy sources. By shifting to EV transport fleets with a sustainable and planned approach, governments will build strong momentum to eliminate exhaust emissions.
EVs can also improve the quality of urban and suburban spaces, with their zero exhaust emissions reducing air and noise pollution, generating a healthier environment for people to live and work in. This is especially significant for individuals with chronic illnesses or newborn babies, as the health implications associated with air pollution can be greatly reduced.
The use of EVs is still in the early stages of maturity, and one main area for development is the battery capacity. The capacity restricts the length of service (e.g. bus) routes due to the frequency of charging. As demand for electric energy sources grows and they become more widely used, additional technological advances are expected to occur (for example in the past 15 years there has been about a 70% improvement in battery life capacity).
Improving efficiency and reducing costs:
- Reduced operations and maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts and potentially cheaper fuel source, with potential to reduce fares or government subsidies due to the lower operating costs
- EVs are quieter and provide a smoother journey, which can improve the customer and driver experience and can increase patronage
Enhancing economic, social and environmental value:
- Governments can meet societal environmental expectations and improve public opinion of services utilising EVs
- Improve air quality and people’s health through the reduction of exhaust air pollutants (nitrogen oxides) and particulate matter
- Reduce carbon emissions by replacing internal combustion engines, particularly where coupled with a transition to renewal energy sources to produce electricity to power the EVs
- Improve the quality of the transport service offering through less vibrations, less noise and zero exhaust emissions
- Improve quality of life through reduced air and noise pollution in urban spaces
POLICY TOOLS AND LEVERS
Legislation and regulation: Governments must develop requirements for issues such as occupant safety, avoidance; management of electric shock; and exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Additional requirements should be developed relating to public safety including the risk with vehicle recharging (electrocution) and road safety risk related to vehicle operation. Application of concessions and incentives (tax breaks, subsidisation etc.) on EVs or taxes on non-EVs can be used to increase EV uptake.
Transition of workforce capabilities: Operations specialists of electric services and power systems specialists should be involved in the process of defining electricity-based services. They can ensure the availability or adequate provision of power supply in the electric transport plan that is to be implemented. Understanding and assessing the existing city / country electric resources (internal or imported) is central to understanding the sustainable impacts of implementing electric technologies.
RISKS AND MITIGATIONS
Risk: Any high uptake of EVs will result in the need for considerable additional electricity to be generated. Without coordinated investment, this may put significant stress on the electricity infrastructure. Strategies to manage this will vary by country depending on the types of renewable energy and conventional power generation and networks available.
Mitigation: Management strategies should be tailored to the energy sources available and additional grid reinforcement or the implementation of “smart charging” approaches may be required to ensure efficient and flexible electricity generation and distribution infrastructure.
Risk: User acceptance may be affected by the perception that the lithium mining required for EV batteries is unsustainable and invasive on the environment (due to its substantial water use and potential chemical leak) and local communities. Furthermore, questions over battery recycling may lessen user acceptance of the technology.
Mitigation: Technological advancements will continue to improve battery technology (e.g. alternate materials and new ways to recycle lithium-ion). Until such developments can be made, users must be educated to understand that EVs are significantly more environmentally friendly than existing petrol-based vehicles.
Safety and (Cyber)security risk
Risk: Safety risks such as potentially dangerous voltages; exposure to conductive parts of the system; hydrogen emissions etc. arise from using electric fleets. This can put drivers, depot workers and the general public at risk.
Mitigation: These risks can be managed through the implementation of safety precautions including providing isolation between both sides of the circuit, preventing contact with live parts etc.
Risk: The increased numbers of EVs on the road will significantly reduce direct carbon emissions and air pollutants associated with exhaust emissions. However, these benefits are partially offset by the additional emissions associated with the production of the additional electricity required, where the energy supply is from fossil fuel use.
Mitigation: To realise the greater environmental benefits of EVs, a country or region can couple adoption of EVs with appropriate investment in, and transition to, renewable energy sources.
Implementation: Société de transport de Laval (STL) procured 10 fully electric, 40-foot long buses.
Cost: Procurement of the buses was possible due to CAD 9.6 million in financial assistance from the governments of Canada and Québec, through the federal Gas Tax Fund and the public transit capital acquisitions assistance program of the SOFIL.
Timeframe: Quebec sought to establish its first line of entirely electric buses by the year 2020.
Example: Paris RATP And IDFM Electric Bus Plan
Implementation: Major ecological transition from 2014, that will make RATP the world leader in green technology with a fleet of 4,700 clean buses planned by 2025.
Cost: Hybrid buses were used in the interim period before EVs, generating fuel saving of 20-30%, compared to diesel buses.
Timeframe: Testing began in the 2015-17 period. The transition is expected to be completed by 2024-25.
Example: Luxembourg Heliox Fast Charging Stations
Implementation: One of the first examples of a multi-standard charging station, that allows dual manufacturer electric buses to charge with different interfaces.
Cost: The inverted pantograph enables the use of a low-cost and low weight interface on the roof of the bus.
Timeframe: The implementation of this project was less than 2.5 months.