Definitely, we must make the leap from combustion engines to sustainable means of transport. In recent years we have seen governments take drastic measures to curb air pollution in cities. Speed, parking, circulation restrictions or directly the prohibition of accessing the center with vehicles that use fossil fuels. Citizens are also increasingly aware of the need to improve mobility and contribute to curbing climate change. Despite this, this new paradigm is still far from becoming a reality.
On December 22, the Court of Justice of the European Union condemned Spain for exceeding the pollution limits allowed for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) –mainly caused by combustion vehicles– in the areas of Madrid, Barcelona and Vallès -Baix Llobregat. The contamination limit was exceeded “continuously and systematically” between 2010 and 2018. Barcelona also closed 2021 with levels of environmental dirt three times above those set by the World Health Organization (WHO). . It is evident that the policies of governments and town halls are insufficient and that the citizen, despite his awareness, continues to be unconvinced by this scenario.
European justice has condemned Spain for exceeding the pollution limits allowed for nitrogen dioxide
To analyze the importance and delve into the broad implications of the new mobility model, La Vanguardia organized, with the collaboration of CaixaBank, a debate with experts. The meeting was attended by Manel Ferri, a mobility technician at the Canvi Climàtic Technical Office of the Barcelona Provincial Council and member of the Sustainable Mobility Foundation; Joaquim Ramis, who leads the Automotive Innovation Lab initiative; Eduard Castañeda, Director of Innovation and co-founder of Wallbox; and Xavier Oms, Director of Mobility and Equipment at CaixaBank.
“We are at a time when the citizen is increasingly aware and wants to make their personal mobility compatible with respect for the environment,” started Ramis. “But there are still reluctance towards this new way of moving around”, Ferri added. The main axes on which the experts emphasized were the replacement of means of locomotion that depend on gasoline with other non-polluting ones, such as the bicycle or the electric scooter, the provision of a good public transport system, shared vehicles and , obviously, the impulse of the electric car.
In the sale of automobiles it is observed that the change is not being as fast as it should. The percentage of plug-in vehicles that are being sold in our country does not reach 3%. In other places, this figure rises to 10 or 15%.
Barcelona has some levels of dirt
environment three times above the
set by the WHO
“Several studies that we have carried out confirm that drivers continue to prefer hybrid cars over electric ones”, explains the director of the Automotive Innovation Lab. There are “several barriers” that are stopping the population from deciding on electric mobility.
The first of these is the high investment involved in acquiring these cars. “The average price is between 35,000 and 40,000 euros, a barrier for many consumers,” said Castañeda. To describe the current situation of citizens, Xavier Oms presented his theory of the three c’s: “Citizens are ecologically conscious, seek their convenience in new forms of mobility and focus, above all, on cost”.
“Electric mobility is not yet stabilized and an ecosystem must be created among all the actors that generates confidence in the consumer to make the definitive change,” said Oms. The individual does not want to run the risk of buying a vehicle and that in a few years another with more autonomy or better features appears. For this reason, “we must see the investment as a short-term acquisition,” said the financial expert, “and that is where renting comes in, offering the flexibility that consumers are looking for.”
Be that as it may, the combustion car will stop being manufactured in Europe from 2035. “If we want to get there, we will have to step on the accelerator,” Castañeda declared. “In Spain we have some 180,000 electric vehicles, and the challenge for 2030 is to have five million,” he added.
The firms are working to find ways to make these vehicles “more affordable” while ensuring the industry is “more competitive.” “In China, aid has been granted to the sector to lower the price of cars and encourage their purchase. On the other hand, in Europe we have sought to increase benefits, but the price has remained constant”, stated Castañeda. To accelerate market growth, the experts raised the need to offer more incentives to citizens, as well as streamline bureaucratic procedures to access aid from the Moves plans (as the Incentive Program for Efficient and Sustainable Mobility is known). .
The sale of plug-in vehicles in Spain
does not reach 3%, compared to 15% in other countries
Regarding the public charging infrastructure, the experts agreed that there is still little coverage of the territory and stressed the importance of creating fast charging systems. In this sense, it should be noted that all national gas stations that sell more than ten million liters of gasoline and diesel will have the obligation to install a recharging point before February of this year, although “it is still insufficient.” To solve the problem, Ferri also stressed that “it is necessary to involve companies so that they offer chargers in the workplace, as well as the neighboring communities.”
The co-founder of Wallbox, the smart charging systems company, recalled that “Barcelona has been a pioneer in charging points compared to other European cities” and emphasized the innovations that have been made in the sector.
“Vehicle batteries can become a source of energy to supply a home for more than four days,” Castañeda explained. And he added that bidirectional chargers “allow electric power to be used as an alternative during the hours when the price of electricity is higher.”
Experts call for more incentives to
consumer and expedite the procedures to access aid
The paradigm of a vehicle for each person must be rethought. At present we are already seeing how new forms of displacement appear in the cities.
“Mobility must be shared, so we have to guarantee access to the car through alternative routes to the property,” said Ferri. According to the technician, cities should work to promote sharing, vehicle sharing platforms. However, “I think it is essential that we make profitable models, if not, there will be no operators willing to exploit them,” said Oms. Therefore, it is essential to have “the complicity of the institutions.”
The car with combustion engine will stop being manufactured in Europe from 2035
The key to these initiatives is hourly usage. “The same car can be driven by four or five people a day,” said Ferri. In addition, she assured that “for each car sharing vehicle, the number of cars owned is reduced by ten.” Some EU studies also confirm that this practice represents a reduction of 1,900 kilometers traveled per person per year. Does this mean putting an end to the private vehicle? “Not at all, it is simply an intermediate point between public transportation and the tenure model,” Ferri asserted. However, “these types of alternatives must be promoted without forcing citizens, but thinking that each one has different needs and we must provide solutions for all”, stressed Ramis.
The replacement of means of transport by other non-polluting ones, such as bicycles or electric scooters, has led to other problems. “The main drawback is that there are no routes that make it possible to access Barcelona with these means,” they reasoned. “The road infrastructure already exists, the solution is to manage it in a different way,” said Ferri. The pacification of some roads would make it possible to redistribute the space and create the cycling corridors that many citizens demand. It is an investment “with a much lower cost than others that are being carried out,” said Ramis, and that would offer a real alternative in favor of sustainability.
Car sharing means traveling 1,900 km less per person per year
When measures to promote a less polluting way of getting around the city are not combined with a radical improvement in public transport, another obstacle is created that prevents progress towards sustainability. We must think of “people with mobility difficulties, children and the elderly, as well as those who live outside the city,” they agreed.
For his part, Ferri pointed out that “we have to understand mobility in cities, not in isolation, but thinking about their environment.” In the case of Barcelona, he explained, “the bases for offering alternatives in public transport are being established”, although he emphasized that it “lacks” a good connection with the rest of the metropolitan areas, as well as “there is a shortage of public-private initiatives”. .
The main gas stations must install an electric charging point before February, although experts agree that it will be completely insufficient
On the other hand, Ramis recalled that, in relation to the transport of goods, movement restrictions should also prevail, in some way, on these vehicles. “We cannot empty the city of cars to fill it with vans”, he ironized. One of the ways to mitigate this issue would be to apply a tax to delivery people, as some European cities have done, known as the Amazon tax. Other initiatives were also proposed, such as the creation of a platform that “covers various types of transport and facilitates the mobility of people,” he added.
Another issue on which Ferri emphasized, and on which the rest of the participants agreed, was the coordination and collaboration of all the agents involved, to “establish synergies between private companies and public institutions”. In this sense, Oms was convinced that “the different actors have to align ourselves to provide solutions to citizens.” And he concluded: “Only if we have your complicity, we will be able to complete this transition towards a more sustainable mobility.”
Manel Ferri, technician from the Canvi Climàtic Office
of the Barcelona Provincial Council: “Mobility must be
shared, so we have to guarantee access to the car through alternative routes to ownership”.
Joaquim Ramis, director of the Automotive Innovation Lab:
“Citizens are increasingly aware and want to
make their personal mobility compatible with respect for the
Eduard Castañeda, Director of Innovation and co-founder of Wallbox: “The average price of a plug-in car is between 35,000 and 40,000 euros, a barrier for many consumers.”
Xavier Oms, Director of Mobility and Equipment at CaixaBank: “We must create an ecosystem that generates consumer confidence to make the definitive change.”