First of all let me please explain why we call it ‘smart’. Smart is the new and better ‘green’. In the past, many people when thinking about the future shape of transportation or of cities thought ‘green’: ’green mobility’, or ‘green city’. Such statements were indicating that we care about environment. This is very important, but we have to be realistic and think about the investment side of such transformation.
By smart mobility we mean an integrated transportation that is convenient for citizens and city visitors, is reasonably priced for the users, friendly for environment and attractive for someone that makes an investment in such a scheme.
Very important role indeed. Electric vehicles are making less noise (or almost no noise), are easy to drive and what is most important is that they are producing zero emissions, which is crucial for addressing cities’ problems today related to pollution.
The main objection towards electric vehicles is that to produce such car a lot of fossil fuel power has to be used which somewhat mitigates their eco-friendliness. However the main and immediate problem today, is not a total global consumption of energy and CO2 emission, but massive and growing pollution in the cities. Electric vehicles at production stage are producing some pollution, but are 100% zero-emission at usage level. With EVs we can move pollution out of the city.
An easy gain for cities is switching from diesel buses to electric buses. This is not only environmentally-friendly but also producing no noise, which can be a big relief for the citizens.
From user experience there are two major limitations from EV side.
1. Driving range – a big limitation, but thanks to massive focus from vendors’ side on increasing batteries capacity we should expect very quick improvements soon. On the market we do have already vehicles that can go for 500 kilometres.
2. High car price – probably biggest challenge in most of the countries.
However, we shall note that car prices do drop over time (especially if we look at the share of average households’ expenses).
Secondly, it is more and more common to change capex to opex. Leasing and fleet management companies are offering more and more attractive deals for car owners to move big investments into pure monthly cost.
Thirdly, we don’t need to own a car. In many cases (for young people and people that don’t need to use a car on daily basis) it might be enough to use a car from car sharing scheme (in the city), car rental (longer trips) as a mix with other means of transport (buses, trams, metro, bikes, taxi) and pure walking. However, if certain households still require a car then at least the options above may substitute for these households’ second car.
There are many great examples of smart mobility elements’ implementations.
From smaller towns on a small island e.g. Maui (in Hawaii) that has around 150,000 inhabitants, through cities of approximately 500,000 people (Malaga in Spain, Copenhagen in Denmark or Oslo in Norway), big cities (e.g Munich) to mega cities where it much more challenging to implement well-working and integrated ‘smart’ systems (e.g. Tokyo).
Of course. However Skopje shouldn’t target to implement solutions (products or services) that mega cities have. Also, luckily Skopje doesn’t have such big problems.
The benchmark cities for Skopje size-wise would be Oslo (650,000 inhabitants) or Copenhagen (590,000).
Also, important would be to look at what is most important for the city, given financial and other resources’ limitations. Although I am a huge electric vehicle enthusiast, implementing EVs in Skopje is clearly not the very first problem to be addressed. Smart mobility is a process that should be carefully planned step by step.
Smart city in 2025 will be based on three pillars:
1. Multi-modal – we shouldn’t target one mode of perfect transport covering all needs and serving all citizens. Future transport should be a mix of own means of transports (cars, bikes), rented or shared, public transport and walking in a pedestrian-friendly areas.
2. Carbon-free or close to carbon free – gradual switching to EVs and hybrids.
3. Affordable for everyone.