EVs and the City

Sameer from my portfolio company, FAE Bikes, a Bangalore headquartered company, that recently launched in several Indian cities, a low-cost, compact, smart IoT-powered Electric Vehicle charging station, challenged me to answer the following:

Should we make the city center EV only?
Should we create low-emission zones (LEZ) and zero-emission zones (ZEZ) in our cities?

Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal

Without being an expert on this matter, I can just express what I am witnessing from my advanced outpost in Europe.

There are no zero-emission zones in force that I am aware of. Prohibiting the circulation of internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles at present when they represent the majority of the cars in circulation, seems to be – as of today – unrealistic and impractical.

There are several low emission zones and ultra-low emissions zones in various European countries, including Belgium. The phase-out and restrictions are gradual and incremental. The enforcement is achieved via fines and monitored by cameras and police. LEZs exist in over 250 cities in Europe, and they are considered as a success case in terms of the environmental and social consequences.

What do you need to create a LEZ or ZEZ?

You can find the answer here. Besides, support from the government and stakeholders, the relevant EV infrastructure needs to be in place before any LEZ or ZEZ is created. Moreover, alternative means of transportation should be available such as walking, cycling, and public transportation.

The experience in Latin America shows that transport electrification at scale is best carried through private-public partnerships. The government is tasked with setting the rules, and sometimes initially subsidizing or providing incentives for the transition from ICE to EVs. The private actors, which generally comprise vehicle manufacturers, utilities, EV charger manufacturers, and other actors from the electro-mobility ecosystem, bring these components and usually finance these types of projects. Some of the most salient examples of successful PPPs are the electric buses in Chile and Costa Rica.

LEZs generally target freight delivery activities due to the high levels of pollution emitted by today’s urban delivery fleets. There are even some LEZ that are implemented solely for goods vehicles or heavy vehicles and not cars. This forces the modernization of the delivery fleet, albeit it punishes the small companies that are unable to keep up with the required investments. Besides, a lot of chargers are needed to allow the efficient circulation of electric trucks and pickups.

A Plethora of Investment Opportunities

The electrification of urban activities – even without the introduction of LEZ or ZEZ – has given me a wide range of investment opportunities. From new manufacturers of utilitarian electric vehicles (I passed), urban electric charger networks such as the one operated by Clem’, pedestrian-friendly electric chargers such as the ‘pop-up’ charging hubs manufactured by Urban Electric, Happy Box for last-mile delivery logistics, among others.

My recent investment in Blissway, a tolling as a service company that enables traffic management at no cost to the cities, is not strictly related to LEZ or ZEZ. Instead, it concerns the creation of smart highways. I am betting that intelligent roads will be cheaper than high-speed trains and hyperloops and will foster the introduction of driverless cars and related technologies.

Low Emission Zones (LEZs) have had a positive impact on air quality in many European cities. They are one of many measures that are implemented in cities to improve air quality. Poor air quality has an impact on our health. Improving air quality improves our health and lets us live longer.

Urban Access Regulations in Europe

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