Electric taxis and urban fleets can speed decarbonisation - Here's how

A woman holds a cable to charge up a Renault Kangoo ZE electric utility vehicle at a Renault automobile dealership in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, October 22, 2020. Picture taken October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - RC2UUJ9H9VY9

A woman holds a cable to charge up a Renault Kangoo in France. Image: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - RC2UUJ9H9VY9

Mónica Vidal
Public Policy and Climate Governance Director, ECODES
Francisco Ferreira
President of the Board, ZERO
Olivier Blond
Director, Respire
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  • Electrification of high-mileage vehicles can speed decarbonisation.
  • City-focused public-private dialogues can identify unique cross-sector solutions.
  • Commitments from recent ZEUF Network meetings show how cities such as Madrid, Paris and Lisbon are creating joint action for high-mileage electrification.

High-mileage fleets, such as taxis and hire cars, have an outsized influence on emissions. They drive 4 times more miles than the average car, so the quicker they switch to electric, the better it will be for the planet. Electrifying these fleets should therefore be a priority.

Many companies have already laid out strategies for achieving 50% electrification by 2025, and 100% by 2030. However, urban incentives and regulations will determine whether urban fleet operators can achieve their potential.

The Zero Emissions Urban Fleets Network (ZEUF), provides a platform for city-specific and public-private efforts to support decarbonisation. The platform has held a series of meetings in cities such as Madrid, Paris and Lisbon. Recently we brought together policy makers and business leaders to find solutions for high-mileage electrification. The commitments these leaders made show the many ways resources and capabilities will need to be pooled, shared and integrated across sectors to overcome electrification barriers.


How is the World Economic Forum helping to scale vehicle electrification?


Challenge: Because of an insufficient charging infrastructure and lack of resources, Madrid lags behind many European capitals in terms of electrification of private hire vehicles and the taxi sector. In fact, the ratio of electric vehicles (EVs) per charger in Madrid is one of the widest in the major European metropolitan regions. Fixing this issue is vital to increasing the electric fleet of private hire vehicles and taxis.

Solution: Understanding that the range for many high-mileage vehicles requires frequent charging, Madrid City Hall recently committed to increasing grants for fleet renovation and charging infrastructure installation at a recent ZEUF Network dialogue. To ensure those charging points are deployed at the most effective locations possible, startup Share Now committed to sharing its data to help improve charging infrastructure, making the most of limited resources.

"We are convinced that the future of car sharing and urban mobility is electric,” said Olivier Reppert, Share Now’s CEO. “Only if all actors work together and play their part will we be able to electrify urban fleets and decarbonize mobility."

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Challenge: The transport sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Portugal, accounting for about 25% of the country's carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2018. High-mileage sectors such as the taxi industry have been slow to transition to electrification and maximize existing incentives for EV ownership (like the Portuguese Government’s Environmental Fund's recent €4,000,000 in funding in 2020 to boost ownership by individuals and companies).

As Paulo Castro, ZERO policy explained at a recent ZEUF dialogue: “The taxi industry, finds it difficult to adapt to new technological challenges," thanks to its long-term reliance on combustion engine cars and lack of capacity to understand the need for change. Additionally, taxi drivers tend to be older drivers working at very small companies that are quite reluctant to make new investments

Solution: To prompt new behaviours, policymakers at a recent ZEUF dialogue explained that while committing to the implementation, upgrading and expansion of low-emission areas and no-vehicle areas is important, it is just as key to collaborate with and educate taxi associations and their drivers.

Engaging small taxi enterprises through information sessions about the overall costs of acquisition, maintenance, and environmental benefit of an EV can build capacity and help move the needle towards electrification.

These efforts, plus measures for making charging more accessible and affordable, can help increase EV adoption in the taxi community and pull this sector closer to what the ride hailing companies have accomplished so far.

Transport & Environment
Image: Transport & Environment


Challenge: Charging infrastructure is pivotal but must fit in with both the inner city and the suburbs. And it must meet the varying needs of mobility service providers, taxis, individuals or freight. With space in cities scarce, deployment can be difficult and legal issues challenging.

Solution: To optimize equipment in the public space, the involvement of local authorities is crucial. To that end, the French State has just passed a law that helps build local electrification “masterplans”, gathers stakeholders and collects data from mobility, car usage, housing, urbanism and electrical networks at the local level in order to identify, predict and map every zone’s specific needs in the years to come.

Encouraging or subsidizing the installation of charging stations will also be key, not only in the public space but also in the private space - in private lots (including underground), at workplaces, at supermarkets, and at service stations. The French Advenir program - discussed as a viable solution by ZEUF participants - includes subsidies for public charging points, where companies and public entities can receive up to 40% of the costs for the supply and installation of a charging point (to a maximum of €1,860). The initiative complements the 30% tax credit on the acquisition of charging systems for individuals, creating incentives for new behaviors.


Overarching issues

Although these three cities vary in layout, culture, and governance, a few similar themes emerged, including the need for regulatory environments that give priority to urban fleet electrification; the need for greater vehicle variety and the need for more seamless operations through easy access to charging, loading zones and parking.

Of course these dialogues are just a snapshot of some of the solutions that leaders will need to develop together. To make true progress, more cities will need to host their own dialogues. While the ZEUF Network is always ready to collaborate, leaders with an interest to engage can come together on their own to create the solutions that make sense for their needs.

Transport & Environment
Image: Transport & Environment

Leaders are already recognizing this need for greater collaboration. “To achieve a sustainable future, it is important that organizations around the globe take an active role in a cross-industry collaborative effort to enable the massive shift to fleet electrification,” said Lawrence Lee, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing and Operations, ChargePoint.

Urska Skrt, Mobility Manager, at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, agreed: “To support this transition further, we need to strengthen collaboration between policymakers and key sectors such as transport, energy and real estate”.

Added Skrt: “Together we can unlock the business case for efficient connected EV fleets and viable charging infrastructure.”

The Zero Emissions Urban Fleets (ZEUF) is a network of stakeholders for accelerating urban fleets electrification, targeting 100% by 2030. Initiated by the World Economic Forum’s Global New Mobility Coalition in partnership with Uber, T&E, Free Now, LeasePlan, Door2Door, Lime, Blot, Voi, AEDIVE, Polis, EuroCities, The Climate Group, Race to Zero, WBCSD, Renault, DHL, ABB, Mercedes-Benz and others, ZEUF is an open network that convenes periodically to facilitate informal know-how exchange and efforts coordination.

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