Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Sustainable Transport’ Category

UK rides the wave of micromobility by embracing e-scooters

The Guardian, 25/08/20

Lime launches service in Milton Keynes with other schemes set for Northampton and Cambridge

The UK’s journey to legally embrace e-scooters has taken another zip forward with the start of a full-scale ride-sharing service in Milton Keynes, and further schemes announced for Northampton, Norwich and Cambridge.

More cities around the country are expected to follow suit with year-long trials, as potential operators unveiled new technology in the race to tap into Britain’s new micromobility market.

Lime, which operates the e-bike sharing scheme in Milton Keynes, will from Wednesday provide up to 500 e-scooters on the same app, and claims it will be the first UK service on a par with other cities worldwide.

The government amended the law in summer, with the first pilot scheme starting in Teesside last month – to be extended this week – after measures to address initial misuse that included two teenage riders stopped by police on the A19 dual carriageway.

Alan Clarke, the director of UK policy at Lime, said the scale would allow people to have confidence in scooters as a genuine transport mode when planning their journey: “In some of the smaller schemes, it’s a novelty thing and that’s what we want to avoid.”

Apart from designated local trials, e-scooters remain illegal on public streets, despite their apparent widespread use. Britain has tighter laws than most countries on scooters, which it classes as motorised vehicles, and only those hired on a rental scheme can be used on roads in the trial zones.

Coronavirus has accelerated demand for reform in the UK, but also deterred people from using shared schemes. In the early stages of lockdown, Lime and Bird closed down scooter operations in cities around Europe and North America.

Lime, and the Swedish firm Voi, which will run the Northampton and Cambridge schemes starting in September, say every scooter will be disinfected on a daily basis, while Voi is covering its handlebars with antiviral copper tape.

Firms vaunt the technology’s green credentials and appear to be going the extra mile to cut emissions, as well as addressing concerns over the lifespan of scooters. The European startups Voi and Tier have pledged to use electric cargo bikes rather than vans in the daily servicing of the networks – redistributing scooters, charging batteries, doing repairs and disinfecting.

Tier, a German firm yet to launch operations in the UK, but bidding to land at least one of the bigger city schemes, hopes to go further. It has introduced swappable batteries in around 90% of its fleets in Europe, reducing the need to transport entire scooters for charging. It says it will not employ gig economy workers – but also hopes to incentivise users to help themselves, via charging hubs that can be placed in stores and public buildings. Users can earn a free ride by taking out the depleted battery and swapping it for a recharged one.

This system is to be the first, and imminently launched in Tampere, Finland, but could it work here? In a London launch on Tuesday, Tier’s chief executive and co-founder, Lawrence Leuschner, unveiled a further pièce de résistance – a bespoke foldable helmet, stored in a box on the scooter frame, and surely destined for pillaging in the UK. Leuschner admits he is aware of the fate of Mobike, the Chinese bikeshare that retreated from Manchester after pulling battered bikes from canals.

But, he says: “It’s important that we drive innovation and educate people – and if we do it in a sustainable and responsible way, rather than flooding the market with lots of different vehicles in lots of colours all over the pavements, I hope people will treat them responsibly.” He adds there is always an element of trouble, “not just in the UK”.

Geofencing has improved to the point where firms say they can pinpoint the e-scooters’ location within a couple of metres, allowing them to know whether they are returned to specified bays where cities demand. Lime’s scheme will allow users to park at night almost anywhere within Milton Keynes, but they must take a picture to show it has been left appropriately, without blocking pavements.

Electric scooters to get green light to go on Britain’s public roads

 Read more

At £1 to unlock the scooter and 20p per minute, a prolonged ride quickly goes beyond bus fare territory, but Lime is hoping to entice riders with initial discounts and free rides for key workers. Clarke says the e-bike has already proved financially sustainable and scooters could be a bigger hit: “We believe there is going to be really high demand … We’re in for the long haul.”

Lime and others hope to have learned from teething problems abroad – as well as running potentially more highly regulated services in the UK. “How you engage with the city, police and community – disability organisations, residents and environmental groups – is really important.”

London remains a prize target – although its authorities, scarred by the experience with Uber, are perhaps more reluctant to embrace firms promising technology solutions at the possible expense of existing systems. Transport for Londonsays it is open to “safe and sustainable” solutions but wants a coordinated trial across the capital, designed with all its communities and infrastructure in mind, adding its “viability and any geographical scope is yet to be determined”.

The firms vying to get Britain scooting

Lime: A Silicon Valley startup that was notionally valued at $1bn within a year of launching in 2017, backed by Chinese capital. Started in bikes – bought out Uber’s Jump – and operates across US, Europe and Asia.

Bird: Californian close rival, founded by ex-Uber executives and another “unicorn”. Operates in more than 100 cities in the US and Europe. Ran first UK scheme, in private land in Stratford’s Olympic park.

Voi: Fast-growing Swedish startup, pioneering Europe’s dockless scooters in Stockholm in 2018 and now operating in 11 countries.

Tier: European rival, growing from Berlin to 70 cities in nine countries.

Beryl: London-based bike share firm, established 2012, now set to operate the first bike, e-bike and e-scooter multimodal trial in Norwich from September.

Ginger: UK startup running the Teesside trials.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2020/aug/25/uk-rides-the-wave-of-micromobility-by-embracing-e-scooters#:~:text=Lime%2C%20which%20operates%20the%20e,par%20with%20other%20cities%20worldwide.

Population panic lets rich people off the hook for the climate crisis they are fuelling

Rising consumption by the affluent has a far greater environmental impact than the birth rate in poorer nations

The Guardian, 26/08/20

When a major study was published last month, showing that the global population is likely to peak then crash much sooner than most scientists had assumed, I naively imagined that people in rich nations would at last stop blaming all the world’s environmental problems on population growth. I was wrong. If anything, it appears to have got worse.

Next week the BirthStrike movement – founded by women who, by announcing their decision not to have children, seek to focus our minds on the horror of environmental collapse – will dissolve itself, because its cause has been hijacked so virulently and persistently by population obsessives. The founders explain that they had “underestimated the power of ‘overpopulation’ as a growing form of climate breakdown denial”.

It is true that, in some parts of the world, population growth is a major driver of particular kinds of ecological damage, such as the expansion of small-scale agriculture into rainforests, the bushmeat trade and local pressure on water and land for housing. But its global impact is much smaller than many people claim.

The formula for calculating people’s environmental footprint is simple, but widely misunderstood: Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology (I = PAT). The global rate of consumption growth, before the pandemic, was 3% a year. Population growth is 1%. Some people assume this means that the rise in population bears one-third of the responsibility for increased consumption. But population growth is overwhelmingly concentrated among the world’s poorest people, who have scarcely any A or T to multiply their P. The extra resource use and greenhouse gas emissions caused by a rising human population are a tiny fraction of the impact of consumption growth.

Yet it is widely used as a blanket explanation of environmental breakdown. Panic about population growth enables the people most responsible for the impacts of rising consumption (the affluent) to blame those who are least responsible.

At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, who is a patron of the charity Population Matters, told the assembled pollutocrats, some of whom have ecological footprints thousands of times greater than the global average: “All these things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of population that there was 500 years ago.”I doubt that any of those who nodded and clapped were thinking, “yes, I urgently need to disappear”.

In 2019, Goodall appeared in an advertisement for British Airways, whose customers produce more greenhouse gas emissions on one flight than many of the world’s people generate in a year. If we had the global population of 500 years ago (around 500 million), and if it were composed of average UK plane passengers, our environmental impact would probably be greater than that of the 7.8 billion alive today.

She proposed no mechanism by which her dream might come true. This could be the attraction. The very impotence of her call is reassuring to those who don’t want change. If the answer to environmental crisis is to wish other people away, we might as well give up and carry on consuming.

The excessive emphasis on population growth has a grim history. Since the clergymen Joseph Townsend and Thomas Malthus wrote their tracts in the 18th century, poverty and hunger have been blamed not on starvation wages, war, misrule and wealth extraction by the rich, but on the reproduction rates of the poor. Winston Churchill blamed the Bengal famine of 1943, that he helped to cause through the mass export of India’s rice, on the Indians “breeding like rabbits”. In 2013 Sir David Attenborough, also a patron of Population Matters, wrongly blamed famines in Ethiopia on “too many people for too little land”, and suggested that sending food aid was counter-productive.

Another of the charity’s patrons, Paul Ehrlich, whose incorrect predictions about mass famine helped to provoke the current population panic, once argued that the US should “coerce” India into “sterilising all Indian males with three or more children”, by making food aid conditional on this policy. This proposal was similar to the brutal programme that Indira Gandhi later introduced, with financial support from the UN and the World Bank. Foreign aid from the UK was funding crude and dangerous sterilisation in India as recently as 2011, on the grounds that this policy was helping to “fight climate change”. Some of the victims of this programme allege that they were forced to participate. At the same time, the UK government was pouring billions of pounds of aid into developing coal, gas and oil plants, in India and other nations. It blamed the poor for the crisis it was helping to cause.

Malthusianism slides easily into racism. Most of the world’s population growth is happening in the poorest countries, where most people are black or brown. The colonial powers justified their atrocities by fomenting a moral panic about “barbaric”, “degenerate” people “outbreeding” the “superior races”. These claims have been revived today by the far right, who promote conspiracy theories about “white replacement” and “white genocide”. When affluent white people wrongly transfer the blame for their environmental impacts on to the birthrate of much poorer brown and black people, their finger-pointing reinforces these narratives. It is inherently racist.

The far right now uses the population argument to contest immigration into the US and the UK. This too has a grisly heritage: the pioneering conservationist Madison Grant promoted, alongside his environmental work, the idea that the “Nordic master race” was being “overtaken” in the US by “worthless race types”. As president of the Immigration Restriction League, he helped to engineer the vicious 1924 Immigration Act.

But, as there are some genuine ecological impacts of population growth, how do we distinguish proportionate concerns about these harms from deflection and racism? Well, we know that the strongest determinant of falling birth rates is female emancipation and education. The major obstacle to female empowerment is extreme poverty. Its effect is felt disproportionately by women.

So a good way of deciding whether someone’s population concerns are genuine is to look at their record of campaigning against structural poverty. Have they contested the impossible debts poor nations are required to pay? Have they argued against corporate tax avoidance, or extractive industries that drain wealth from poorer countries, leaving almost nothing behind, or the financial sector in Britain’s processing of money stolen abroad? Or have they simply sat and watched as people remain locked in poverty, then complained about their fertility?

Before long, this reproductive panic will disappear. Nations will soon be fighting over immigrants: not to exclude them, but to attract them, as the demographic transition leaves their ageing populations with a shrinking tax base and a dearth of key workers. Until then, we should resist attempts by the rich to demonise the poor.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/26/panic-overpopulation-climate-crisis-consumption-environment

Next-generation Acela trainsets take shape

Railway Gazette 14 June 2019

USA: Alstom invited guests to its Hornell factory in New York state on June 12 to showcase the progress it is making in producing the next generation of Acela high speed trainsets for Amtrak.

Amtrak says that ‘significant progress’ is being made in production of the fleet, which is expected to enter traffic on the 735 km Washington – New York – Boston Northeast Corridor route in 2021. 

Designed for operation at up to 300 km/h, the 28 trainsets will initially enter service at up to 255 km/h. They will incorporate Alstom’s Tiltronix anticipatory tilting technology, and a crash energy management system meeting the latest Federal Railroad Administration crashworthiness guidelines.

Ordered in 2016, the trains will offer around 30% more capacity than the 20 Acela Express trainsets that they will replace. The expanded fleet will enable Amtrak to increase frequencies, operating half-hourly between Washington and New York at peak times, and hourly between New York and Boston.

Branded Avelia Liberty by Alstom, the trains will be formed of two compact power cars and nine articulated passenger coaches, with an option of adding up to three more vehicles if demand grows further.

https://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/next-generation-acela-trainsets-take-shape.html L

UK public transport rolls out ‘chat day’

The Guardian 13 June 2019

There will be ‘chat carriages’ on Friday as part of BBC scheme to get strangers talking

Buses, coaches, trams and trains will be a bit chattier than usual on Friday as a day-long experiment to encourage travellers to talk to strangers is rolled out on Britain’s transport network.

Commuters on West Coast Virgin trains will find every coach C is designated a “chat carriage”, while bus company Arriva is placing “conversation starter” cards on vehicles servicing their UK network.

Transport for London, Greater Anglia and the Go Ahead Group are also all taking part, with posters at three London tube stations encouraging people to talk to staff. Counsellors trained by the charity Relate will ply London buses as part of an initiative with Greener Journeys, encouraging passengers to open up.

National Express said it would invite people to take part in “some stimulating activities” on Birmingham’s number 11 route, the longest urban bus route in Europe.

The series of initiatives, orchestrated by a BBC team focused on solutions journalism, is designed to combat two of the most toxic issues of the age: polarisation and isolation.

Emily Kasriel, a BBC editor behind the project, said the aim was “to encourage people who are up for it to get out of their comfort zone and emerge from their screens to interact with the adult sitting next to them”.

“Many people are reluctant to talk to strangers, but perhaps someone is battling loneliness and an exchange could provide a meaningful moment that changes their day,” said Kasriel, the head of the BBC’s Crossing Divides season, which seeks to combat antagonism through conversation.

“Everyone has an interesting story to tell. These chance encounters can provoke a new way of looking at the world, and an opportunity to understand someone else’s story.”

Though typical commuter behaviour these days might involve inserting earbuds and avoiding all and any interaction with fellow travellers, research indicates that those who do open up to strangers tend to feel happier as a result.

In a 2014 study led by Nicholas Epley at the University of Chicago, the authors wrote: “Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other.”

In a blogpost for the BBC, Epley wrote that one reason why a sudden conversation might improve a day is that “the experience of talking with others and hearing a stranger’s voice makes us realise they have a rich inner life of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences, just like us”.

He added: “These brief connections with strangers are not likely to turn a life of misery into one of bliss. However, they can change unpleasant moments – like the grind of a daily commute – into something more pleasant.”

Not everyone agrees. Last month, Uber started trialling a “quiet driver” mode to prevent drivers from striking up conversations on journeys.

India Offers $360 Million Subsidy For 5,000 Electric Buses

Cleantechnica 8 June 2019

The Indian government plans to incentivize cities to include electric buses to their public transport fleet through financial subsidies.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) document to invite proposals from states, government departments, transportation departments, and municipal bodies for procurement of electric buses across 40 cities. The subsidy will be provided under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in India or the FAME-II scheme.

The central government will offer subsidies worth Rs 2,500 crore (US$360 million) for the deployment of 5,000 electric buses. Under the current exercise, a total of 40 cities shall be selected where a subsidy will be distributed for deployment of electric buses based on population.

Cities with a population of more than 4 million must deploy a minimum of 300 electric buses each, those with more than 1 million population must deploy at least 100 electric buses each. 50 electric buses each shall be deployed in cities under other categories. In order to be eligible for the subsidy, cities must guarantee that each bus slot will run for at least five lakhs km during its contract period and also inform about the number of buses they plan to deploy.

Eligibility for this subsidy scheme will be limited to states with a separate electric vehicles policy and other incentives to promote use of electric vehicles. State transportation units will be required to submit competitive bids to access the financial subsidy.

Among other conditions for disbursement of the subsidy is that the manufacturer of the electric buses must be an Indian company with a manufacturing facility in the country. The subsidy shall be disbursed in a phased manner with 20% issued at the time of signing the supply order for the buses, 40% at the time of delivery of the buses, and the balance 40% after six months of successful commercial operation of the buses.

The timeline set for the complete delivery of all buses has been set at just over 18 months from now. 

The FAME-II scheme has been designed by the Indian government to support electrification of public and shared transportation. The total budgetary allocation for this scheme is Rs 10,000 crore (US$1.4 billion). Around 35% of this allocation has been set aside to facilitate deployment of 7,000 electric buses across various cities in the country.

A number of state transportation agencies have already announced plans to induct electric buses to their fleet. These include agencies in the cities of Mumbai and Bengaluru. The state of Kerala recently issued a tender to lease 1,500 electric buses for a period of 10 years.

The Indian government is pushing for a widespread electrification of the transportation system. It has first targeted the public and shared transportation system. We recently reported that the government may ban sale of three-wheelers using internal combustion engines by March 2023 and all two-wheelers using internal combustion engines with less than 150 cc by March 2025, and that cab aggregators like Uber and Ola Cabs may be required to have at least 40% electric vehicles in their fleet by 2026.

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/06/08/india-offers-360-million-subsidy-for-5000-electric-buses/

The big questions about electric cars

News.com.au 9 April 2019

Fears have been raised Australians will lose their beloved SUVs, utes and vans and be forced to drive electric cars. So are they that bad?

Will Australians lose the SUVs, utes and vans they love — to accommodate the rise of the electric car?

Fears have been raised that people’s cars will be taken away from them after Labor unveiled an ambitious policy to support the take-up of electric vehicles.

It wants 50 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia to be electric by 2030 and also plans to introduce a carbon emissions target for new cars.

The plans have raised a number of concerns about electric cars and whether people will still be able to buy the vehicles they love.

So what’s the deal with electric cars and Labor’s new emissions targets?

HOW LONG DO THEY TAKE TO CHARGE?

A lot of figures have been thrown up about how long it takes to charge an electric car, and it all comes down to how big the car is and what type of charger you use.

When Labor leader Bill Shorten was asked how long it would take to “charge it up” on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show last week, he said eight to 10 minutes.

“It depends on what your original charge is, but it can take … eight to 10 minutes depend on your charge, it can take longer,” he said.

Crucially, he added: “It depends how flat your battery is”.

If you are only topping up your car’s battery at a superfast charging station, it may only take eight to 10 minutes if all you’re wanting to do is drive the 15 minutes home.

But charging an empty battery to full power takes longer.

It depends on how big your battery is and what type of charger you are using.

According to UK electric vehicle charging provider Pod Point, a small car such as the Nissan LEAF, which has a 40kWh battery, can be fully charged in one hour using a fast charger. This will allow it to travel up to 230km.

But if you are charging at home, it takes up to six hours using a special converter or about 11 hours using just your normal household power point.

The Tesla Model S Long Range, which can travel up to 480km, is able to use a special supercharger to power up its much bigger 100kWh battery, also in one hour.

But it can take between six to 27 hours to charge at home, depending on whether you have a normal power point or are using a special adaptor.

On Sunday, Wiebe Wakker arrived in Sydney in an electric car he drove from his home in the Netherlands.

Mr Wakker’s car had a small 37kWh battery that only allowed him to drive a maximum of 200km. But he made it across Europe and through Turkey, Iran, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and across the Nullarbor to Sydney.

His car, an older model produced in 2009, had a slow charging rate, and so it took him up to 15 hours to recharge using normal domestic power points in Australia.

But at commercial charging stations, he was able to fill up in about 20 minutes.

Mr Wakker said he only ran out of charge four times on his world trip and these all occurred in Australia.

“To make it more convenient for long-distance travelling, infrastructure needs to step up,” he said news.com.au.

However, he noted that most electric cars sold in Australia could now travel distances of up to 450km, and this was enough to get by.

“I estimated that if you have a battery with a minimum range of about 300km, Australia is really easy to travel through. You can even turn on the airconditioning and not worry about the energy used.”

Mr Wakker was able to find places to charge his car on plugshare.com but says this often involved using normal power points, which take longer.

“At some point, to really be convenient, you need to put into place fast chargers,” he said.

HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT?

The cost of charging an electric vehicle varies depending on where you live and how expensive your power is — but it’s a lot cheaper than filling your tank with petrol.

According to the blog My Electric Car, the average price for electricity in Australia is $. 025 per kilowatt hour, and it takes about 18kWh to travel 100km. So it costs about $4.50 in electricity to travel 100km.

In comparison, it costs about $16.65 to travel 100km if petrol is $1.50 a litre. This is based on the average petrol car using 11.1 litres of fuel to travel 100km.

At the moment, electric cars are more expensive to buy. There are only four models available in Australia priced at less than $60,000.

However, it’s expected that EVs will become cheaper and will be the same price as petrol cars by about 2025 — that’s just six years away.

ARE THEY WORSE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Critics of electric cars point out that their carbon emissions can be worse than some petrol cars.

This is because 63 per cent of the electricity in Australia in 2016-17 is still being sourced from coal-fired power stations.

However, once more renewable energy is added, emissions will improve.

In his review of the national electricity market, Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel noted the uptake of electric vehicles — combined with a decarbonised electricity grid — could help to achieve significant emissions reductions in the transport sector, which accounted for about 18 per cent of Australia’s emissions in 2015.

The CSIRO Energy Roadmap has estimated electric vehicles could reduce carbon emissions by about 15-25 million tonnes by 2030.

Despite its criticism of Labor’s electric car policy, the Coalition’s own climate change policy was projecting electric cars would make up between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.

Environment Department officials on Thursday confirmed to Labor senator Kristina Keneally the Government had been eyeballing a similar electric vehicle target to Labor’s.

CAN THE POWER GRID HANDLE IT?

Electric vehicles will place more demand on the power grid, but experts have suggested this can be managed.

Labor has set a target that 50 per cent of new cars be electric by 2030 and it seems this ambitious goal will require careful management of the grid.

A report done by Evenergi and Australian Renewable Energy Agency, looked specifically at South Australia, but was also intended to inform policy around Australia.

It noted that it was difficult to predict the impact of electric cars but did not predict any significant problem for the grid up to 2025.

However, even without Labor’s target, the report pointed out the EV market would grow rapidly from 2025 and the network needed to be ready for it.

“This will require appropriate management of load and therefore a consciously crafted network architecture — with the ability for demand side control,” the report said.

It said the greatest risk to grid stability was “hotspots” of public charging stations in carparks, highways or in places were lots of vehicles gathered, such as bus fleet carparks. In residential areas a higher than expected number of fast home chargers located close together could also create issues.

The report said “demand management” could address hotspot issues. This could involve incentives being offered for people to charge their cars at certain times when excess power is being produced.

It was also crucial that networks were informed of plans for new chargers and these should also be registered once active.

Grattan energy program director Tony Wood said the biggest problem was if everyone installed a fast charger at home and plugged their cars in at the same time when they got home from work.

“It would be the equivalent of several airconditioning units all being turned on at once,” he told news.com.au.

Mr Wood said there needed to be integrated planning to prevent problems like the blackouts that had occurred in South Australia for example, with the rise of renewables.

“There are issues that need to be addressed, but there’s no reason why they can’t be managed,” he said.

Meanwhile, a potential benefit for the grid, which has not yet been commercially proven, is for electric cars to provide energy back to the grid during peak times. In this way the car could function as a large battery.

WILL WE LOSE OUR BELOVED CARS?

The Coalition is going hard on Labor’s policy, with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the party had declared “war on the weekend” and were stopping Aussies from buying vehicles “with a bit of grunt”.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor also tweeted a photo of an electric car plugged into a generator to mock Labor’s policy.

Despite the fearmongering, Labor’s target for 50 per cent of new cars to be electric doesn’t mean people will be forced into buying electric cars.

However, the types of petrol cars that are available in Australia could change because of Labor’s plan to introduce a vehicle emissions standard.

Emissions of new cars would be restricted to less than 105g of carbon per kilometre. This is the same as the US standard but higher than the European standard.

Mr Taylor told Chris Kenny on Sky News most vehicles in Australia didn’t reach those standards.

And it’s true Australians love heavier vehicles such as SUVs, utes and vans.

Unfortunately, these vehicles use more fuel and are more carbon intensive because they have larger engines.

According to an information paper released by the National Transport Commission last year, the average emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia was 181.7g/km in 2017.

And the top three highest-selling car models in Australia were the Toyota HiLux ute, the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota Corolla.

Ninety-two per cent of all new cars sold in 2017 were one of 15 makes, and none of these had emissions low enough to be considered a “green” model (with emissions lower than 120g/km).

This is partly because Australia is one of the only developed nations in the world without a carbon emissions standard for cars.

But it can’t hold progress back forever.

Interestingly, carmaker Toyota is one of a number of manufacturers already developing electric and lower emission vehicles. It has a zero emissions target by 2050 for its sites and vehicles.

A Toyota spokeswoman told news.com.au it welcomed Labor’s announcement on the emissions target and supported, in principle, initiatives that helped to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Last year Toyota vice-president of national operations Sean Hanley even went as far as calling for politicians to introduce emissions targets but said this should be done at the same time as introducing tougher fuel quality requirements.

“Australia must harmonise its emissions standards with leading overseas markets,” Mr Hanley reportedly said during the launch of Toyota’s new Corolla.

But the car industry has warned it would be unable to meet Labor’s new emissions target using the petrol currently available in Australia. They are pushing for new sulphur standards but Australia’s fuel refineries say this would force them out of business, according to The Australian.

Environment Minister Melissa Price recently postponed fuel standard improvements until July 1, 2027.

Mr Hanley also dismissed reports emissions targets would kill off the rugged diesel vehicles that Toyota was known for but said targets should distinguish between passenger cars and work-orientated commercials and certain 4x4s.

He said Toyota had a responsibility to “take a stand” and was not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted in Australia.

“We can assure you, Toyota is not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted,” Mr Hanley said.

“We recognise all car makers must reduce the environmental impact of their vehicles. The impact of mass-market hybrids is vital, and no-one knows hybrid better than Toyota.”

According to caradvice.com.au, about 40 per cent of Camrys sold in Australia have been hybrid drivetrains, and a new RAV4 SUV will also be available as a hybrid for the first time.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which has been calling for an achievable emissions target for some time, also welcomed Labor’s policy announcement.

“The key is to implement achievable emissions targets, designed in consultation with industry, as part of the transport sector’s contribution to lower overall emissions.,” FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said in a statement.

“It’s well known that Australians love their sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and light commercial vehicles (LCVs). Our market is made up of approximately two thirds SUVs and LCVs and one third passenger vehicles (PVs).

“We need to have a realistic and stepped approach to the implementation of emissions targets.”

https://www.news.com.au/national/federal-election/the-big-questions-about-electric-cars/news-story/ce8761992652d6e454a51f7395c45d84

20-minute suburbs: Australia’s walking-friendly cities

Government news, 25 March 2019

A league of experts is calling for targeted investment in walking infrastructure as Melbourne tests the 20-minute neighbourhood.

The 20-minute neighbourhood is based on the concept of ‘living locally’ by giving residents the opportunity to access all the services they need with a 20 minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.

The term, first coined by the state government in its five-year Plan Melbourne bid for a more liveable city, was explored at the MAV Smart Urban Futures event on Friday, where Duane Burtt from Victoria Walks joined a panel to discuss the program’s pilot project.

The program has the potential to transform resident behaviour while also improving perceptions of the local area, he says.

“I think it’s a new way of thinking about planning and economic development, for the state government in particular but also to an extent local government, and it does offer the potential to see stronger local communities from a number of dimensions –economically but also socially and in terms of health,” he told Government News.

The project is part of a broader bid to create a sustainable, less congested city as Melbourne’s population grows by 125,000 year-on-year.

On the back of the movement is a growing push for walking-friendly infrastructure to support healthier, less congested spaces.

Investment in walking infrastructure has the potential to generate substantial returns, Dr Francesca McClean, a consultant for city economics and planning at independent engineering firm Arup told the conference, with a benefit cost ratio of $13 for every $1 invested.

“Walking infrastructure has really exciting potential to create healthier, safer and more equitable communities if we invest in it properly,” she said.

But she says the economic value of walking has been overlooked in some of Melbourne’s biggest transport plans despite inactivity costing the economy in excess of $13.8 billion each year.

“We’ve seen some major public transport business cases not take into account walking benefit streams,” she said.

Walking is aptly known as the “invisible mode” she says, and is often overlooked by urban-planners as a recognised transport mode when key infrastructure decisions are made.

Walking stimulates local economies

Infrastructure that encourages walking can boost local economies, Dr McClean argued, potentially reeling in thousands to local areas, as well as creating cities that are healthier and less congested and polluted.

Promoting just 30 minutes of walking a day can also help alleviate the costs associated with physical inactivity.

“Improved walkability can improve retail spend and the economic development of areas – some walking interventions can increase the number of people entering shops by 40 per cent and significantly increase the economic value of the grid,” she said.

Property prices spike in walkable areas

Cities with more walking infrastructure also have substantially higher property values, the conference was told.

Jodie Walker, a researcher at the Secret Agent, a property management company, told the event that walkable neighbourhoods are in high demand.

Ms Walker, who has been conducting research on the Melbourne property market for more than five years, said research from the Secret Agent found walkability accounted for as much as 60 per cent of price difference.

Walkability has a “protective effect” on property prices, she said, with the price of property increasing substantially in line with the walkability score of suburbs.

The same correlation applies for suburbs with a significant amount of greenery, Ms Walker told the event.

“Walkable regions will continue to grow individual economies and that will continue to push up property prices in these areas and also rents in these areas,” she said.

Case study: Change to Walking

The Change to Walking program in action at a Melbourne school and train station.
An innovative program in Melbourne is exploring the use of ‘nudges’ to encourage walking by train commuters and local school students.

The program, which was presented at the event by director of independent consulting practice Active City, Alice Woodruff, initiated a huge shift in locals’ perceptions of the desirability of walking, and in some areas, the uptake of walking.

The first project, which involved the erection of campaign signs at the train station to prompt people to walk, saw a five per cent lift in the number of people walking at a local station, Ringwood, and a five per cent increase in the rate at which regular walkers were walking to the station.

There was also a dramatic shift in perceptions, with 31 per cent of locals who usually drive considering walking as a result of the campaign.

Another program at a local primary school sought to encourage students to walk to school by incentivising walking through a series of rewards including giving students stickers or a badge at the end of the day and erecting a school wall chart.

The project saw more students walking to school, with 84 per cent of students who were previously walking, walking more and 45 per cent of students who usually drove walking to school.

20-minute suburbs: Australia’s walking-friendly cities

Free public transport is an attractive idea. But would it solve our traffic woes?

ABC, 18 March, 2019

The promise of free public transport is an enticing one: fewer cars, less congestion, less pollution.

And a greater sense of community, says Judith Dellheim from Berlin’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. “It could make the cities more human and more attractive,” she says. Dr Dellheim sees free public transport as a human right, not just a public good. “This is a valid democratic issue because public transport brings people of very different social groups together, it improves the social climate,” she says.

But do the promises stack up? And would free fares really persuade people to embrace public transport?

All eyes on Luxembourg

While most cities offer various concessions for public transport, no major urban centre has opted to do away with ticketing. The exception is Luxembourg, which will abolish all fares from next month.

The European city-state is tiny, with just over 600,000 residents, but its decision has drawn huge international interest.

“It’s possibly the first example of an entire region, in this case a city-state, making public transport universally free,” says public transport advocate Tony Morton. “There have been experiments in the past where various cities have introduced free public transport in their central areas. They’ve introduced systems where maybe the city buses are free, but the trains aren’t. “Or they’ve made public transport free for registered residents, but not necessarily for visitors. Luxembourg is the first example at scale.”

The Estonian experience

How successful the policy change will be won’t be known for at least a couple of years, but it is possible to make an assessment based on the experience of others.

In 2013, the Estonian capital Tallinn opted to abolish transport fares for all registered city inhabitants, but not for tourists and other non-residents. The move was politically popular but the results were mixed, according to Oded Cats from the Delft University of Technology.

Dr Cats, who spent several years evaluating the initiative, says there was only a moderate lift in public transport patronage, with no corresponding decrease in car use or traffic congestion. “People that already used public transport used it more frequently, as well as people shifting from walking and cycling to using public transport for short trips, which is, of course, not a desirable effect,” he says.

While the policy has been socially beneficial for the unemployed and people on low incomes, Dr Cats says the same level of assistance could have been provided through targeted concessions. And he predicts Luxembourg’s transport authorities will have a hard time persuading people to give up their private vehicles. “About half the people working in Luxembourg commute from neighbouring countries. Many people will have to still use legs of a trip which extend beyond Luxembourg, meaning that the trip is not completely free,” he says. Existing workplace incentives, like employer-guaranteed parking spaces, will also make eliminating private vehicle use difficult, he says.

Service trumps price for transport users

Mr Morton, who is the president of Melbourne’s Public Transport Users Association, is also sceptical about the Luxembourg experiment, and about the broader notion that ticket pricing is the main barrier to increased public transport usage.

“We’ve tended to argue that public transport needs to be cheap, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be free,” he says.He says scrapping fares won’t persuade people to embrace a service which they experience as deficient or poorly run. “We haven’t really made public transport a viable, attractive mode of travel for people living in the suburbs of our capital cities,” he says. “The question of how much it costs to get on the bus or on the train is not even relevant because that bus or train service doesn’t exist where they are.”

Transport economist Ansgar Wohlschlegel warns the introduction of free public transport could have perverse results if it isn’t paired with complementary measures aimed at driving down car ownership.”Once people start moving from car driving to using public transport, then the roads get less congested, therefore car driving becomes more attractive again, and therefore new people may start using the car to drive into the city because now the roads are clearer,” he says.

And that, says Dr Wohlschlegel, could ultimately result in the worst of all outcomes: increased public transport demand, coupled with an eventual increase in car traffic.

Dr Cats agrees. What’s most important, he says, is making car use more expensive during those parts of the day associated with congestion. “That has to do with parking fees; in city centres it has to do with congestion charging, with fuel taxes — unpopular measures, of course, but those are the most effective measures for reducing congestion,” he explains. “Secondly, improving the quality of public transport, specifically at those times of the day in those areas, and building very strong, high-capacity urban rail systems.”

Adjusting for the peaks and spreading demand

For international transport consultant Jarrett Walker, demand-responsive pricing is fundamental to the efficient movement of commuters in already congested cities. “Public transport agencies need to encourage people to travel outside rush hour if they can, because service at rush hour is very expensive, and outside of rush hour you have surplus capacity,” he says.

Fares, he says, are a simple and effective means of limiting rush-hour movements. But he argues for greater flexibility in non-peak times. Mr Walker says making travel free during those periods could help spread demand more evenly and have a positive social impact, particularly for those on low incomes. “They are more likely to be travelling all over the clock, and they are least likely to be travelling into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon,” he says. “It’s the difference between having a job in a bank and having a job at Hungry Jack’s or at McDonald’s, or something like that, where you are coming and going all over the clock.”

When a technology ‘cure’ becomes part of the problem

Mr Walker is also sceptical about the role ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft can play in dealing with urban congestion. App-based car-hire companies often market themselves as an answer to traffic congestion and as a complement to public transport. But Mr Walker says the full picture is far less optimistic. “If a new ride-sharing solution gets two or three people in a little vehicle, that’s better than those three people driving cars. But it’s worse than those three people riding the bus or train.”

And new research from the University of Kentucky suggests a correlation between the rise of ride-hailing services and a decline in public transport patronage in the United States.

Transport engineer Gregory Erhardt surveyed publicly available transport data in 22 metropolitan areas. “There have been theoretical arguments saying that Uber and Lyft bring people to and from the rail stations,” he says.
“That perhaps they are concentrated at night, bringing people home from bars when transit doesn’t operate, and so forth. “What we found is that that’s not the case. In fact, they are operating often in the peak periods, they are operating in places where they are concentrated in the city centres, in the exact same places where public transit is viable.”

He estimates the effect on public transit has been significant. Over a six-year period, companies like Lyft and Uber, he says, can reduce heavy rail ridership in a city by as much as 7.5 per cent, and bus ridership by almost 10 per cent. And that means more, rather than less traffic. “But there is a clear benefit to the person in the car: they have this door-to-door experience that you don’t get in public transit,” Mr Erhardt adds.

Looking forward, Mr Morton argues we need a more realistic conversation about the cost of investing in better public transport, balanced against the enormous amounts of public money spent enlarging and extending road networks. “The stated motivation for not wanting to expand public transport and to boost its use is that public transport is a drain on public funds, whereas it is thought that roads somehow pay for themselves,” he says. “Now, roads do not pay for themselves. There’s actually quite a substantial public subsidy for the road transport system as well.”

For Dr Dellheim it all comes back to one thing. “When the whole of society is fixed on cars, then of course the whole life of the society, the whole economy of the society, is oriented on the car industry and car use,” she says. “So, it means that it’s necessary to rebuild the whole life of the society, to show the people that there are different possibilities, and then you see that there is a real desire to change the mode of life of the society.”

But whether free public transport is one way of doing that remains an arguable point.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-18/free-public-transport-do-promises-stack-up/10893288

Newcastle light-rail service in Australia begins operations

Railway technology, 20 February 20, 2019

The Newcastle light-rail service in the Australian state of New South Wales has started commercial operations.
The service is being operated by Keolis’ Australian subsidiary Keolis Downer on behalf of Transport for New South Wales.

Comprising six stations, the 2.7km-long tram network runs between Wickham and Pacific Park.
The service, which commenced a month ahead of schedule, will offer connectivity with the existing bus and ferry services.

Additionally, the line is catenary-free, involving no overhead wire installations across the route.

Before launching the light-rail service, Keolis Downer trained 14 drivers over four months in the testing phase to ensure smooth operations.

Six CAF-built trams exhibiting a fully accessible low floor design will run on the light-rail network. Each vehicle is designed to accommodate up to 270 passengers.

In December 2016, Keolis Downer received a multimodal transport contract in Newcastle. The scope of the contract included operations and maintenance of the entire transport network comprising light-rail, buses and ferries for ten years. Keolis Downer started operating the bus and ferry services from July 2017.

Keolis Group International CEO Bernard Tabary said: “We redesigned the bus and ferry network with efficient interchange hubs for light rail to encourage more people to use public transport.
“Thanks to light-rail, Newcastle’s transport network is truly multimodal and will make residents’ and visitors’ lives easier and the city even more enjoyable.”

Located north of Sydney, Newcastle has more than 360,000 residents.

Keolis is responsible for 25 tram networks across the world, including three networks that are to be launched soon.

Newcastle light-rail service in Australia begins operations

‘What about the plug?’ Australia’s electric car infrastructure stalled by policy paralysis

The Guardian, 4 February 2019

Why has it taken so long just to move past the bare minimum needed to support what is now an expanding sector?

Most electric car owners will charge at home or at work but one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. Last September, Sylvia Wilson became the second person in the country to drive around Australia in an electric car. The entire 20,396 kilometre trip took the 70-year-old 110 days in her Tesla S75 and cost just $150.90.

Her success served as an answer to critics who have long argued “range anxiety” – the worry about whether an electric car’s battery will die out of reach of a charging station – is a factor stopping more people buying electric cars. “The reality is that if you can see the lights on or that the kettle works, then you can charge. Even in the remotest places, you can still charge the car. In a way there are more places to charge an EV [electric vehicle] than there are a fossil-fuel car,” Wilson told Guardian Australia at the time.

While Wilson showed what’s possible with existing infrastructure, industry insiders and engineers have been left wondering why it’s taken so long for Australia just to move past the bare minimum needed to support an expanding electric car sector.

Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, says the failure to so far provide this infrastructure – from charging stations and uniform standards for components, to the tools needed to maintain each vehicle – is a symptom of political paralysis that has taken hold in Canberra. “Let’s be clear here, these aren’t electric vehicle problems, they’re Australian policy problems,” says Jafari. “In the absence of that, companies are left wondering, well what the hell do we do?”

According to modelling commissioned by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, most electric car owners will charge at home or at their place of work but roughly one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. With just 783 charging stations around the country in 2018, compared with 6,400 petrol stations, building the infrastructure to support the widespread take-up of electric vehicles will cost $1.7bn.

Tim Washington is a director of Jetcharge and a cofounder of Chargefox, one of the biggest companies in Australia which supplies and installs charging stations across the country.

Washington says most of the infrastructure needed to support the mass uptake of electric cars is already in place, because most people living in a city only drive up to 30 kilometres a day. “Public charging stations are a visual signal to the public that you are now able to charge the car. People are very used to seeing petrol stations and they have confidence in buying a petrol car because they have a petrol station,” says Washington. “People immediately think service station-style charging stations. That’s just not the case. A lot of the charging infrastructure is invisible infrastructure. It’s not apparent to the public eye to where the vast majority of charging stations are. “They’re in homes, in basements, in commercial building car parks, in public car parks – in all the places where you don’t see a traditional fuel source – and that’s all that required for a healthy uptake of electric vehicles.”

The problem for companies like his, Washington says, is that the infant nature of the industry and the way people will use the technology makes it a risky investment. “One of the troubles for public infrastructure providers is that you invest all this money to encourage people to come to electric, but once you invest this money, people will charge at home,” Washington says. “It’s classic market failure.”

To get around this, state and local governments have so far been eager to support the building of new charging stations, but often the support they can provide is limited by their resources and their authority.
Instead, help must come from Canberra which for the last few years has been slow to respond to the growth of the new industry – despite some recognition of its potential. Indeed, one of the recommendations in the select committee report on electric vehicles released this week is that the federal government work with “operators in the charging infrastructure industry to develop a comprehensive plan for the rollout of a national public charging network”.

Last October the federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, announced $6m to support Chargefox in building a network of ultra-fast charging stations along the highways that link Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, and four around Perth. These stations have the ability to take recharge times from eight hours down to 15 minutes in some cases.

While it was a welcome announcement, the government has so far failed to address other infrastructure issues that aren’t the most obvious – or headline grabbing. An early example involved the humble plug. With no clear standard in Australia, global manufacturers had no guide for how to build their cars for the local market. In some ways it risked repeating what happened at federation when each state mandated its own rail gauges, making it impossible to take a train across state lines in one continuous trip.

“It had been an understood issue for quite a number of years before but then there hadn’t been any action,” says Jafari. Instead, industry players themselves had to organise to decide on a voluntary standard that was later communicated in a technical document released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. While it was a good news story for the industry, it should never have been left to get that far.

Now researchers such as Professor Iftekhar Ahmad from Edith Cowan University are looking ahead to stop future problems before they happen. “Electric cars will increase what’s called high peak-to-average demand. When the owners go home and plug in, we’ll see high peak demand during those hours,” says Ahmad. “The current distribution network is not designed for high peak. When you think about putting so much load on the network, the infrastructure lifetime can be shortened and also it can put too much stress on transformers.”

While several fixes have been proposed, Ahmad says the problem can be overcome with proper planning.
“It has to be well planned,” he says. “It’s not currently happening in a coordinated fashion and the perspective from the government [and] the utilities is that there’s not enough cars in the market to think about it.
“It will happen, there is no stopping it. If you go to Beijing or Europe, you will see them everywhere and if enough planning can be done, electric cars have a huge potential to complement our renewable energy system.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/04/what-about-the-plug-australias-electric-car-infrastructure-stalled-by-policy-paralysis

css.php