ELVITEN promotes innovation, sustainability and urban mobility in Europe through demonstrating the usefulness of electrified L-category vehicles (EL-Vs) for urban transportation in six pilot cities: Bari, Berlin, Genoa, Malaga, Rome and Trikala. It aims to achieve a mind shift among users and will propose replicable usage schemes to address the issues surrounding the market deployment of EL-Vs.
To better understand the project and the challenges that emerged during the years, ELVITEN decided to interview its partner cities. In fact, the Demonstration Cities, differ in specific features (existing EL-V fleets, infrastructure, mobility problems, policies) but they all involve existing EL-Vs fleets and charging infrastructure.
Malaga was the pilot city with the most users registered, how do you explain that?
Fortunately, we have found in Malaga a very good disposition on the part of the citizenry to be a user of light electric vehicles and a lot of interest in knowing them and knowing what their benefits are.
Malaga, being a coastal city, is quite long shaped, which frequently means that the average distances travelled on regular routes are longer than in cities with a similar population. This fact makes users appreciate the advantages that this type of vehicle presents.
How has COVID-19 affected mobility in the city of Malaga?
At first, a hard confinement was decreed throughout the country of Spain and this caused all operations to halt drastically. Subsequently, upon reopening, we were able to verify that the number of trips per vehicle increased. In addition, other studies on mobility have been able to verify that the use of vehicles such as bicycles and other light electric vehicles (including light electric vehicles) have increased in use, mainly due to the fact that they present more safety against COVID-19 than public transport.
Why did COVID-19 not have a big impact in the Berlin demontrations?
During the COVID-19 lockdown the number of trips remained constant since the users preferred using the scooters instead of public transport. Since the eScooters were used more prominently for private trips, for a duration of 3 weeks there was no fear of contracting the virus; at the same time bicycles are seen as a better alternatives to using the public transport.
What was the user experience like for the Berlin demonstrations?
Since the Berlin pilot city was a station based sharing system for the eScooters, there was the possibility for more interaction with the users and collection responses first hand. The responses were very positive, since for many users it was the first time they adopted a form of eMobility; the experience show that many of the users decided to buy an eScooter.
Trikala was the pilot city with the most users, with over 9844 trips, how do you explain that?
Trikala is a medium-sized provincial city and the capital of the Trikala regional unit in the middle of Greece. It hosts a population of approximately 61,653 inhabitants (81,355 including the suburbs and nearby villages). Due to the small size of the urban district, only around 1/3 of the inhabitants travel within the city by bus. Citizens prefer to walk, cycle or drive, rather than use public transport, and two-wheelers are a dominant means of transport as the city is flat and the weather is mostly good throughout the year. Citizens were keen on the idea of freely using EL-Vs, since it is the best alternative to using a car and, at the same time allows them to travel longer distances. Being part of a city that also had the first autonomous driverless electric bus in Greece, they wanted to try these new vehicles.
Trikala is the pilot city with the smallest population among the ELVITEN demonstration cities, while recording the highest number of trips, what do these figures mean regarding the behaviour, wants and needs of Trikala’s citizens?
Traffic congestion is considered as one of the main problems in the city centre. The city’s topography and morphological characteristics (i.e. the river and its bridges), the mixed land uses (i.e. the commercial, residential, entertainment and institutional activities gathered in the city centre), as well as the high rates of car ownership, conjointly with the citizens’ preference to use private cars even when it is not necessary, cause severe traffic in the city centre. Therefore, many citizens want to find an alternate way of moving within the city, and EL-Vs provided this solution. It was also evident from the data that plenty of trips were made by the professional drivers, as they quickly adopted the vehicles for their trips.
How was the ELVITEN pilot project in Rome? How did you manage a small pilot in a such big city?
Rome is one of the biggest city in Europe. We implemented the ELVITEN project in one of the districts of Rome – Municipality IX EUR – which is as big as the city of Milan. It was the first time for a Roman district to manage such a complex project on its own without external local support while challenging the internal staff in complex and transversal tasks across different departments.
In the face of a considerable expenditure of energy that has involved sacrifices in relation to other administrative activities, the results have compensated our administration above all for the considerable skills acquired thanks to the implementation of the project.
However, the pilot project was a success in Rome as a crucial part of the policy for the sustainable mobility implemented by the Municipality during the 5 years administration by involving more than 10 bodies present in our territory in the use of the e-bikes thanks to bi-lateral agreements signed for the long-term sharing: more than 8,000 trips made for over 38,000 km travelled.
Did you encounter any problem in implementing the project?
We did encounter many issues. Behind the management complexity for the internal staff, difficulties occurred in putting the vehicles on the road. The Le1a vehicles were matriculated for the first time in Italy thanks to the ELVITEN project, in the Cities of Rome and Bari. This turned out to be a great achievement but at the same time a puzzle with the bureaucracy as happens for the start of procedures implemented for the first time. Furthermore, e-bikes are registered as 50 Cc mopeds and thus need insurance, use of helmet and holding a driving license. On the other hand, no problem was found on the part of users regarding traffic safety during the pilot, no accidents registered. Some of the aspects reported hinder the implementation of a large-scale city bike-sharing while they can encourage a corporate bike-sharing, managed by the individual companies concerned. However, this solution would contribute to the change of transport modes from the use of ICE vehicles to sustainable vehicles, lightening traffic and decreasing air pollution, which is an important goal of the ELVITEN project.
Since Italy was the first European country hit with a high number of COVID-19 cases, how did the behaviour of users in Bari, Rome and Genoa change post-lockdown?
During the lockdown months (March, April and first days of May) due to COVID-19 pandemic, the use of the EL-Vs decreased significantly. However, in the months of May and June, on reopening after the lockdown, the usage rate improved considerably.
More in detail, from 5th of March, all the schools and the didactic activities in Italy, including universities, were suspended. Hence, most of the professors and students of POLIBA, that used the e-bikes, stayed at home and only a few trips have been registered. Additionally, many public offices and authorities in Puglia region were closed by the Italian government to limit the spread of the virus. Smart working was imposed for all possible work and the Italian population that was forced to stay at home. These restrictions, imposed, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, affected negatively the number of trips in Bari with very low data for the months of March, April and for the first days of May.
After the lockdown, as mitigation actions and in order to increase the number of trips, several e-bikes were assigned to delivery companies as pizza-restaurants and bars, and to users very interested and motivated to use the e-bikes; considering also that the public transport system was not considered so safe for the virus containment, the usage of the e-bikes has become one of the main means of transport and it allowed a significant increase of the number of trips.
In Rome, immediately after the lockdown, we registered a consistent decrease in the number of trips, as a consequence of the initial fear of any type of travel. Immediately after however, since the end of April 2020 the possibility of using a safe vehicle for health as a e-bike, in compliance with social distancing criteria set by our Central Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, brought users back to bicycles, recording a very significant increase in their use, until the end of the pilot in June 2020. The e-bikes turned out to be significantly useful to avoid infections.